The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/05/2013
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/openspaces
Site on English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, for Register Entry see http://list.english-heritage.org.uk
The site of Finsbury Circus Garden was once part of Finsbury Manor Estate. Until 1527 there was a moor here, which was then drained and gravelled walks laid out across open fields. By the mid C17th the southern part known as Moor Fields was laid out with more formal walks dividing quartered lawns edged by lines of trees and fencing. Bethlehem Royal Hospital, founded in 1247, moved in 1675/6 to the southern end of Moor Field along the line of the City Wall. After the Bethlehem Hospital was demolished in 1815, the Moorfields estate was redeveloped although George Dance the Younger had conceived the idea of an oval 'amphitheatre' here as early as 1802. The gardens were laid out in 1815-17 to his designs by the City Surveyor William Montague. Initially a committee of leaseholders of the surrounding residential terraced houses maintained the gardens.
In 1864 the Metropolitan Railway Company cut a tunnel through the site and contributed an annual £100 to the upkeep of the gardens. By the 1890s the residential nature of the area had been superseded by commercial interests and in 1898 the Comptroller of the City Lands Committee recommended in a report that an Act of Parliament be obtained to ensure that the gardens were kept as public open space. As a result the garden was acquired by the City Corporation for public use in 1900 although it was not until 1909 that new facilities and planting were undertaken. Some of the layout of the early C19th remains, including the perimeter walk and serpentine paths leading off the outer walk. Until the 1920s mulberries were still harvested here.
The Bowling Green was constructed in 1925, and remains the only bowling green in the City; it was enlarged in 1968 when a new pavilion was built to replace the early C20th bowling hut, greenhouse and tool shed. In 1928 the gardens were described as 'surrounded by thick shrubberies and attractively laid out with bowling green, flower beds and shrubberies'. During WWII a barrage balloon was anchored on the gardens. To the west of the bowling green, the bandstand with railed seating area was erected in 1955, restored in the 1990s, which prior to the early C20th was the site of shrubbery.
North of the bowling green is a pink granite drinking fountain dating from 1902, designed by John Whitehead & Son of Westminster, with a shelter based on a design of a well by Philip Webb for William Morris's Red House (q.v.) in Bexleyheath. The original entrances to the gardens were via gates in the north-west, north-east, south-west and south-east corners but this was altered in the early C20th to the current entrances on north, south, west and east sides.
The gardens have bedding displays, shrub borders with camellias, bamboos and Japanese aralia, and among the trees are mature London plane trees and a pagoda tree. At present c.two-thirds of the gardens are inaccessible as part of the construction site for the Crossrail project, and the estimated date of completion of these works is 2017, when the gardens will be re-instated.
EH Register: 'Finsbury Circus Gardens' Report by Mr Comptroller, July 1898; London Squares Preservation Act 1931, Appendix III; N Pevsner and B Cherry, 'London I' 3rd ed (revised) 1973; Dorothy Stroud 'George Dance', 1971; Report by Elain Harwood, English Heritage, December 1990. F E Cleary, 'The Flowering City', The City Press, 1969; B Plummer and D Shewan, 'City Gardens', London, 1992; Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928.