Spring Gardens, SW1A

The word ’Spring’ in this sense meant a plantation of young trees, especially one used for rearing game. The Spring Garden was shown on the Agas map as a little copse enclosed with a fence, and there are later references to pheasants and other “wild fowl” being preserved there.

In 1580 the garden was extended with a bowling green, a birdhouse, a bathing pool and the planting of orange trees. Before the end of James I’s reign, the garden had become a semi-public pleasure ground.

In 1631 a Simon Osbaldeston was appointed to keep “the Springe Garden and of the Bowling Greene there.”

There was at least one house in Spring Garden as early as 1635 and more house building occurred over the next forty years. Towards the close of the 17th century, part of the Spring Garden had become a refuge for debtors. One of the most notorious was Sir Edward Hungerford and the Board of Greencloth finally to allow creditors to serve processes on persons living there.

In 1669, a house was let to Sir Robert Southwell who had returned from a diplomatic mission to Portugal. In 1702, his title passed to his son Sir Edward Southwell.

In time, the younger Southwell was in possession of most of the Spring Garden and begun to plan for its redevelopment. Development was for a time delayed on account of the strip of ground in the possession of the descendants of Sir Edward Nicholas but in 1752 the Southwells bought up the lease of this ground from a nephew. New Street was then extended westward to the park. Plots on New Street were granted to builder John Lambert, who was also responsible about this time for the development of Northumberland Street, Charing Cross.

New Street became Spring Gardens and it became a fashionable quarter for politicians and civil servants.

By the middle of the 19th century the Admiralty Office needed to expand. From 1853 onward more of the Spring Garden houses were acquired for Admiralty purposes.

The Public Offices Site Act of 1882 authorised the acquisition of practically the whole Spring Garden site by the Commissioners of Works for the purpose of erecting new Admiralty Offices. Most of the site was cleared in 1885. The Admiralty new building was completed in 1891, and a further block, which included the Admiralty Arch, was opened in 1910.

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