Addington Square is a Georgian and Regency garden square which was named after Henry Addington, prime minister in the early 19th century.
Addington Square is unusually well-preserved, and a conservation area with the houses that make up the east, south and west sides of the square listed Grade II. The north side is newly refurbished tennis courts.
Because three sides of the square back onto Burgess Park
and there is no through traffic, it is a peaceful space popular with lunchtime office workers. This controlled access, period buildings and proximity to central London also make it popular with film crews.
The buildings were constructed between the later 18th century and early 19th century. The square is not composed entirely of terraced properties neither are all the buildings of similar height or architectural treatment.
In the 1960s the square was notorious as the base of the Richardson Gang, a south London rival to the Kray twins. They ran a private drinking club from the square, which had “Mad” Frankie Fraser and two dancing bears in residence. According to the gang’s Old Bailey trial in 1967, the club was used to kangaroo court and torture rivals. The bears escaped onto Camberwell Road
In more genteel times, one of the founders of the National Trust, Robert Hunter was born in the square in 1844, and it was also the home of Liberal politician Charles Masterman.
Construction of the square in the early 1800s came with the Grand Surrey Canal which terminated at Camberwell Wharf lying on the north side of the square. The first house in the square (now number 48) was completed by 1810 and owned by Nathaniel Simmons who was the engineer to the Grand Surrey Canal Company. Most of the rest of the square was built by 1827, and the square was complete by 1844. The 1851 census shows 32 houses with 179 residents and 33 servants, an occupancy rate of 6.2 persons per house. Nikolaus Pevsner points out in his The Buildings of England that as the construction was completed over a period of time (unlike most North London squares) "uniformity was abandoned" leading to "the pleasant irregular early 19th century houses and terraces around Addington Square."
There were also public baths and a swimming pool on the north side until the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, and a scandal involving a parson in bathhouse activities is commemorated in a rare satirical poem found in the library of Cornell University. In the late 1930s the King George’s Fields Foundation gave a grant of £1,000 towards the cost of £5,363 of acquiring the former swimming pool and turning it into a public garden.