This is a newish garden square surrounded by housing in central London that was built on the site of the old Middlesex Hospital.

The hospital was built in 1755-57 on what was still fields on the edge of London but was swiftly surrounded by the expanding city, so much so that at one time a quarter of all admissions were due to injuries on the local construction site.

The old hospital buildings were pretty dilapidated by the turn of the 20th century, and between 1928-35, the whole site was rebuilt on stages without ever needing to close to patients.

The hospital finally closed in 2005 — 70 years after it had completed its rebuilding and the site was cleared for redevelopment in 2008. However, development was stalled, leaving an empty building site in the centre of London until revised planning permission was granted in 2012 for the development that’s there now.

That does mean that apart from the farmer who owned the land before, there have only ever been two properties on this bit of London – the hospital and now the houses.

The space is very modern in style, with almost as much paving as greenery and a lot of hedging to create low walls dividing the public space from the residential flats.

One of the nicer areas is a cluster of tall box hedges with small walkways through and some stone seating to give privacy to people,

The other main area is a raised grass lawn with a stone seating recess and wraps around the only surviving part of the old hospital, the Fitzrovia Chapel. The name of the space incidentally, Pearson Square, comes from the gothic revival architect John Loughborough Pearson, who built the chapel as a place of prayer in the hospital.

But — the lawn uses artificial grass, which is a heinous crime.

The space is also notable for some monumental works of public art.

In the centre is a massive piece of naturally eroded granite which has been inscribed by the artist Peter Randall-Page with text in a range of languages from ancient Mesopotamia to modern. The artwork, a modern interpretation of the Rosetta Stone, is called The One and the Many, and there’s a lot more about it here.

The long line of corten steel beams are giant pot plants — or were originally as all the plants seem to have died. The original idea was to encourage the plants to spread between the poles on the wires that join them, creating a green curtain hanging around the square, but evidently something went wrong, and the plants died a few years after they were planted.

Candidly, the steel uprights now look like some form of modern art, and if you hadn’t been there in 2018, you’d have no idea they’re plant pots.

As a space, it does feel a bit more like a square to pass through than to linger in, and has had a reputation for being a bit heavy handed with security, although in my wanderings through, I’ve never noticed anything personally, and it does appear to have calmed down in recent years.


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