Berkeley Square is a town square in the West End of London in the City of Westminster, originally laid out in the mid 18th century by architect William Kent. The square features a statue by Alexander Munro, a Pre-Raphaelite sculptor, made in 1858. The surrounding London Plane trees are among the oldest in central London, planted in 1789. 50 Berkeley Square is the most infamous haunted house in London. The house is currently occupied by Maggs Brothers Antiquarian Booksellers.
Several years after the Restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, the English Royalist soldier John Berkeley of Stratton purchased a stretch of land north of Piccadilly in the up and coming Mayfair district, and promptly erected the magnificent Berkeley House. The residence was later sold to the Duke of Devonshire in 1696 under the condition that Berkeley would refrain from building on the surrounding gardens, hence preserving the Duke’s view and protecting the space that would later become the prestigious square known and treasured to this day.
Berkeley House was demolished through a fire in 1733, after which a series of grandiose residents were constructed by carpenters Edward Cock and Francis Hillyard along the square’s western flank. The south side belonged to the gardens of Lansdowne House, designed by Robert Adam and finished in the late 18th century, whilst the north underwent further development in the early 1900s. The enclosed space was rescued from its somewhat dishevelled appearance in 1767, through a group elected to create and maintain an appealing public locale. A scattering of plane trees planted in 1789 still remain, regarded as some of the oldest specimens in central London.
Berkeley Square witnessed additional renovation during the 1900s, particularly during the 30s, as properties on the eastern border were rebuilt and utilised as offices, and a portion of Lansdowne House was demolished to make way for a new road. Since then, affluent businesses and private clubs have all but taken over the square, with only one residential building left standing. Even though homeowners nowadays are rare, plenty of famous figures have enjoyed the pleasures of life overlooking Berkeley Square over the centuries. Art historian and writer Horace Walpole lived at number 11 until his death in 1797, Winston Churchill spent his childhood at number 48 and the British Prime Minister George Canning resided at number 50, which has been long regarded as the most haunted house in the capital.
With its rich history, aristocratic air and deluxe dwellings, this elegant setting has revelled in its fair share of fame, encapsulated both on screen and in song. Vera Lynn’s wartime classic ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’ has been reproduced by a number of artists, including Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra. A 1933 eponymous film and a 1998 BBC mini-series brought the square to an even wider audience, reflecting its impact on modern society. Currently hosting a series of fashionable offices, upmarket car dealers and a collection of elite boutiques and eateries, Berkeley Square has preserved its status as one of London’s most exclusive addresses.
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