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History of Parliament Square Garden

The origins of the area can be traced back to the end of the tenth century, when there was a small monastery on Thorney Island, near the site of the current Abbey.

The area that now forms Parliament Square Garden was formerly the churchyard and streets adjoining St Margaret's Church. In the early 1780s the buildings were demolished, the churchyard cleared and a lawn was sown. In 1834 a fire virtually destroyed the medieval Westminster Palace.

Following the fire, Sir Charles Barry won a competition to design the new palace (now known as the Houses of Parliament), which was expanded to include eight acres along the Thames. The resulting neo-Gothic buildings were completed in 1852, followed by the Clock Tower, which houses Big Ben, in 1858.  Following his death in1860 the works were continued by Barry’s son Edward.

Parliament Square Garden was included within Barry's designs and was laid out in 1868, after clearance of the buildings on the site, with the aim of providing the new Houses of Parliament with a better setting.

During the Second World War, the Westminster area suffered significant bomb damage. In 1948 the architect Grey Wornum was commissioned to redesign the square as one central garden island for the then Ministry of Transport. The design now comprises a square lawn, paved walkways and formal paths, with seats on the northern and western edges.

The Palace of Westminster (more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament) and Westminster Abbey including St Margaret's Church were inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Site in 1987, in recognition of the outstanding universal architectural, historic and symbolic significance of this group of buildings and spaces. They are recognised internationally both as a group of buildings of outstanding architectural importance, and as a symbol of spiritual and democratic ideals throughout the world.

In 1987 it was designated as the Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square Conservation Area.  Parliament Square Garden was listed in 1996 and is an English Heritage Grade II Registered Garden of Special Historic Interest.

Parliament Square Garden has played an important part in our heritage as a place of ceremonies and significant historic events. This role continues today, as Parliament Square Garden is still a key part of the ceremonial route between Westminster Abbey and Westminster Hall.

The GLA has been responsible since 2002 for Parliament Square Garden, which is located within an area that encompasses the heart of contemporary British politics and forms part of Westminster; an area of significant historic and symbolic value to the British people and many others worldwide.

 

A sculpture of Nelson Mandela by the late Ian Walters was formally unveiled, in the presence of Mr Mandela, on 29 August 2007.

The prominent position of the nine foot bronze statue, facing the Houses of Parliament, honours Nelson Mandela as one of the greatest fighters for freedom in the 20th century. It is also a permanent statement of London's abhorrence of apartheid and every other form of racism.

Other statues

David Lloyd George

This bronze statue, on a granite pedestal, stands to the north, between the statues of Smuts and Churchill. It was unveiled in autumn 2007.

Date of monument: 2007
Materials: Granite and bronze
Statutory status: Not listed

Viscount Palmerston

This bronze statue, by H Young, stands on a granite pedestal in the north-west of the square.

Date of monument: 1859
Materials: Granite and bronze
Statutory status: Grade II

Field Marshal Jan Christian Smuts

By the sculptor Jacob Epstein, this bronze statue stands on a granite pedestal to the centre of the north of the square.

Date of monument: 1956
Materials: Granite and bronze
Statutory status: Grade II

Sir Winston Churchill

This bronze statue, by Ivor Roberts-Jones, stands on a granite pedestal to the north-east of the square.

Date of monument: 1973
Materials: Granite and bronze
Statutory status: Listed 2008, Grade II

Sir Robert Peel

Situated in the south-west corner of the square, this bronze statue by sculptor Matthew Noble stands on a granite pedestal.

Date of monument: 1876
Materials: Granite and bronze
Statutory status: Grade II

Edward Stanley – Earl of Derby

The bronze statue by the sculptor Matthew Noble which is on a granite pedestal stands to the west elevation of the square.

Date of monument: 1874
Materials: Granite and bronze
Statutory status: Grade II

  Benjamin Disraeli – Earl of Beaconsfield

The bronze statue, by sculptor Mario Raggi, on a granite pedestal stands to the west elevation of the square.

Date of monument: 1883
Materials: Granite and bronze
Statutory status: Grade II

All images courtesy of Grace Everett