The London Square Gardens in the Midst of Town Todd Longstaffe-Gowan

Publication date:
15 May 2012
Paul Mellon Centre
348 pages: 279 x 241mm
88 color + 202 b-w illus.
Sales territories:


Modern-day London abounds with a multitude of gardens, enclosed by railings and surrounded by houses, which attest to the English love of nature. These green enclaves, known as squares, are among the most distinctive and admired features of the metropolis and are England's greatest contribution to the development of European town planning and urban form. Traditionally, inhabitants who overlooked these gated communal gardens paid for their maintenance and had special access to them. As such, they have long been synonymous with privilege, elegance, and prosperous metropolitan living. They epitomize the classical notion of rus in urbe, the integration of nature within the urban plan - a concept that continues to shape cities to this day.

Todd Longstaffe-Gowan delves into the history, evolution, and social implications of squares, which have been an important element in the planning and expansion of London since the early 17th century. As an amenity that fosters health and well-being and a connection to the natural world, the square has played a crucial role in the development of the English capital.

More about this title

Selected as a 2012 Book of the Year by The Times Literary Supplement

Read an article by The London Square author Todd Longstaffe-Gowan on Yale's blog

Todd Longstaffe-Gowan is a landscape architect with an international practice based in London. He is gardens adviser to Hampton Court Palace and is currently redesigning the gardens of Kensington Palace in London.

"An enormous and beautifully produced book." Gillian Tindall, Literary Review

"Longstaffe-Gowan’s beautifully illustrated and lovingly researched history is an appropriately impressive celebration of ‘England’s most innovative and most universally admired urban landscape conceit." PD Smith, The Guardian

"Now, the subject has the book length, sumptuously illustrated treatment it deserves…this magnificently illustrated chronological history gives us a warts-and-all exploration of a typology that began in the mid 17th century as a straight copy of the Italian piazza model before mutating by the 18th-century into a peculiarly British phenomenon." Tim Richardson, Country Life

"This handsome and copiously illustrated book is something of a landmark in garden history: an authoritative examination of an urban phenomenon which straddles the realms of architecture, landscape design, town-planning, arboriculture and horticulture, a design typology which has entranced and influenced the rest of the world." Gardens Illustrated

"Todd Longstaffe-Gowan’s absorbing new book The London Square is not an architectural history but an account of their layout and the emergence of leafy central gardens that are their most valued feature. The making of the book is the wonderful series of illustrations, from early prints to wartime photographs." Marcus Binney, The Times

"Todd Longstaffe-Gowan traces the fascinating evolution of these once private urban gardens and explores the social history within their undergrowth. The London Square's angle is thinking outside the box to create a virtuous circle." Jonathan Foyle, Financial Times

"[London Squares] are a uniquely English construction but have made a major contributiojn to Europoean town planning, says Todd Longstaffe-Gowan… most people know nothing about them. His new book, The London Square, the first major analysis of squares in more than a century, aims to put that right." Corinne Julius, Evening Standard

"Todd Longstaffe-Gowan’s new book provides a richly illustrative history of the development of the [London Square]. Longstaffe-Gowan documents the square’s emergence as a ‘hybrid of various antecedents, including cloister gardens, college quadrangles, sheep walks and paddocks through to its wide use across London estates." James Pallister, Architects

"Todd Longstaffe-Gowan delves deeply into the history of the evolution of the London square… Serious students of the development of London’s squares will be well rewarded.” Garden Square News

"A magisterial account of the ups and downs of the London square… Where Longstaffe-Gowan scores is in his superabundant knowledge of the subsequent history of squares…" Charles Saumarez Smith, Spectator

"An engrossing, well-illustrated work…" Philippa Stockley, New Statesman

"The author has done a really wonderful job of tracing the story of London’s squares from the beginnings to the present day." Hazel Conway, House and Garden

"This classy tome is a lively read. The illustrations alone – plans, cartoons, photos, engravings and watercolours – are worth the price of the book." Elizabeth Grice, Oldie

"Longstaffe-Gowan's engrossing oblong book should certainly interest any architect, politician or planner charged with creating new city streets." Jonathan Glancey, Building Design

"Longstaffe-Gowan's lively history is the first to be published on the subject in over a century, and his perceptive narrative charts the evolution of these elegant and often unseen public spaces, which mostly remain under lock and key." Apollo Magazine
“This is a glorious book, and its celebratory tone is more than justified when one thinks of the human richness, architectural ingenuity and horticultural beauty of the London square since the time of Charles I. Having watched so much townscape insensitively spoilt in the past fifty years, we have now come to cherish our heritage all the more. This lavish, even extravagant, production – a lovely piece of bookmanship – is a symptom of a corner turned, a dawn brightening.” A.N. Wilson, Times Literary Supplement

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