The basic form of London’s squares – rows of similar houses around a regular open space – is neither unique nor original, but their sheer profusion is quite unparalleled elsewhere. Together with circuses, crescents and associated streets and mews, the quadrilateral urban unit constitutes London’s most distinctive and pleasing architectural phenomenon.
While the uniformity of the enclosing terraces provides much of the delight, equally engaging are the subtle differences between one house and its neighbours, or between one whole side and another. Many of the 'squares' on this walk have ‘palace fronts’, terraces which were planned as if they were a single, very grand building.
Most of the pioneering squares in the West End have been much rebuilt, but the examples we see on this walk are almost entirely intact. They are also of high architectural quality, and in an excellent state of preservation – an outcome of the archaic system of ownership on aristocratic estates. Economics, aesthetics and noblesse oblige aligned to achieve residential cityscape as fine as anywhere in the world.
The itinerary is a study of the final, triumphant phase from late Georgian to late Victorian. This was a period of unprecedented stylistic diversity, and designs range from austere classicism to witty eclecticism. Not the least appealing feature is the planting in the middle of the squares which form well-tended landscaped gardens.
Start and finish
Start: 9.45am, Chapel Street SW1 (nearest underground stations: Hyde Park Corner and Victoria). Finish: c. 5.30pm, Collingham Gardens SW5 (nearest stations: Gloucester Road, Earl's Court).
£190. This includes morning refreshments and a good lunch (for convenience and speed the afternoon break is independent).
10 to 18 participants.
The distance covered is c. 5½ miles, but you are on your feet for most of the day while looking and listening. Our rule of thumb is that you should be able to walk at about 3 mph for at least an hour at a time.
We will return the full amount if you notify us 22 or more days before the event. We will retain 50% if cancellation is made within three weeks and 100% if within three days. Please put your cancellation in writing to email@example.com. We advise taking out insurance in case of cancellation and recommend that overseas clients are also covered for possible medical and repatriation costs.
'Martin Randall was brilliant! What a privilege to be taught about London architecture by such a passionate, well-informed and curious expert. I learnt so much. Thank you for a fascinating day!'
'As I hoped, I came away knowing a lot more about my city than I did at the start of the day.'
'A really enjoyable and informative walk which showed me buildings and landscapes in London which I did not know well.'
'I was very much impressed by the lecturer's comprehensive knowledge of the history, geography, social background, construction and architecture of the different squares we saw, and by the highly efficient way he directed the tour.'