Former burial ground of the parish of St. George's, Hanover Square
Mount Street Gardens was first laid out as a public garden in 1889-90 on the site of a former burial ground belonging to the parish of St. George Hanover Square. Mount Street takes its name from Mount Field, which included Oliver's Mount, the remains of fortifications erected during the English Civil War.
Building development began in Mount Street when Sir Richard Grosvenor started to lease plots of land for houses in 1720. He sold the land for the burial ground in 1723 to the Commissioners for Fifty New Churches who were building the church of St. George Hanover Square, which is in St. George Street W1. The Grosvenor Chapel on South Audley Street beside the burial ground was also planned in 1723, but not built until 1730. Located on the north side of the burial ground (on the site of the present 103 Mount Street) was the parish workhouse where poor people were set to work in return for their board and lodging. The workhouse was built in 1725-6 and enlarged in the 1780s to include room for the parish
office and a watch-house for the parish watchmen.
The burial ground was closed in 1854 following an Act of Parliament prohibiting burials in central London because of health risks. The other burial ground for the parish, on Bayswater Road, W2, also closed shortly afterwards and new land for burials was acquired at Hanwell Cemetery
in west London.
By 1871 it was decided to acquire a new site for the parish workhouse because it was so overcrowded and there were plans to widen Mount Street. Land was sold in Buckingham Palace Road, SW1, by the Duke of Westminster fora new workhouse in 1883. Paupers were also taken to St. George's other workhouse at Little Chelsea, Fulham Road, in south west London.
Mount Street workhouse was demolished in 1886 and part of the site was used for new parish offices. Charles Street (now Carlos Place) was extended south of Mount Street across the site of the old workhouse chapel to improve access to the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street. The church, built in 1844-9, was designed by J.J. Scoles in a fine decorated gothic style with a high altar by A.W.N Pugin and is now a Grade II* listed building. The new road which was planned to go through the disused burial ground was never built. None of the original houses in Mount Street remain; they were all rebuilt between 1880 and 1900.
The nearby St. George's (Mayfair) Library at 25 South Audley Street was built in 1893-5 and St. George's Primary School to the south side on South Street was built in 1897-8. The pattern of the footpaths which were created in the gardens in 1889 has not been changed. The bronze drinking fountain of a rearing horse was designed by Sir Ernest George and Harold Peto in 1891
for Henry Loftus, an estate agent. Sir Ernest George was also designer of 104-111 Mount Street. Gravestones removed from the burial ground were stored in the tool shed of Mount Street Gardens. The shed was demolished to make way for the Mayfair telephone exchange which backs on to the Gardens from Farm Street. The City Engineer's office made a copy of the inscriptions on the gravestones in 1931. This, together with other parish records relating to burials in the Mount Street ground, can be seen at the City of Westminster Archives Centre, St. Ann's Street, London SW1.
The garden features a number of majestic London Plane trees (Platanus x hispanica), which are the predominant tree in Central London having originally been planted to withstand pollution when air quality was not as good as it is today. In recent years some other small trees have been planted. Because the garden is sheltered and central London is slightly warmer than elsewhere, a Mimosa (Acacia dealbata) from Australia continues to thrive and the Canary Island Palm (Phoenix canariensis) survives the winter unchecked. A group of three Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) from S E China are planted on the lawns by the Mimosa together with Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa' from N China, a Willow with strangely twisted and contorted shoots and leaves. The only truly hardy Palm to this country, the Chusan Palm (Trachycarpus
fortunei) grows in the gardens. A selection of shrubs tolerant of dry shade grow under the trees. Perhaps the two most successful shrubs for this situation are varieties of Laurel (Aucuba japonica) and Holly (Ilex aquifolium and other Ilex species). There are a number of Camellias (Camellia japonica) from China and Japan and a Fatsia japonica, also from Japan, growing in the gardens. The garden also provides a home for wildlife and a family of great tits and robins live in the garden, magpies nest in the trees and blackbirds and other birds frequent the garden from time to time. For further information about the gardens, contact the Parks Manager.