London Unveiled

great places to visit off the beaten path.

Brown Hart Gardens ~ an oasis of calm off Oxford Street

Brown Hart Gardens

Brown Hart Gardens

While thousands of shoppers and tourists troll the shops of Oxford Street, just a few steps to the south is an oasis of calm where those in the know can escape the noise, enjoy a coffee or bite to eat, or just relax.  You will wonder where everyone went.  With its recent redevelopment, the newly reopened roof-top Brown Hart Gardens is well worth a visit when you are in this area.  In addition as a Grade II listed site, it is a unique building with an interesting past.

The Grade II Listed Structure

Don’t Walk Past It! Walk Up It. The Grade II Listed Structure

History:  In the late 19th Century the area south of Oxford Street and east of Marble Arch was redeveloped to improve the available housing in the area.  As part of this redevelopment the small houses from the 18th Century along Brown and Hart Streets were demolished and new larger building were erected, along with a communal garden in the middle.  This garden was originally designed with a drinking fountain, a urinal, shelter, trees and a coffee house (though this never materialized in its day the vision has finally been realized).  In 1902 this community garden was leased by the 2nd Duke of Westminster to the Westminster Electrical Supply Co.  Between 1903 and 1905 the gardens were removed and an electrical substation was built here within a baroque Portland stone building.  The Duke insisted that gardens be restored to the community despite the development and they were placed atop the 10,000 square foot roof of the building.  In 1906 they reopened as the ‘Italianate Gardens’.

During WWII the gardens avoided damage but in the years following slowing fell into a state of disrepair.  By 1977 the gardens had become a place to be avoided and were closed.  However, in 1987 the architectural significance of this disguised sunken electric power substation was recognized through a Grade II listing.

In the early years of the 21st Century, the Grosvenor Estate commissioned a study of the estate and its open spaces.  As a result of this study actions were taken to rehabilitate the open space on the roof and it was reopened to the public in 2007.  The use of the space continues to be revisited and improved upon.

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The Garden Cafe

Today:  In 2012 the garden was closed again for further improvements.  At a cost of £3.2m the latest renovations have been completed and in June 2013 the space was shortlisted for the award of best new public space in the London Planning Awards (to be granted in February 2014).  When it reopened a new glass fronted cafe managed by Benugo’s now adds to the functionality and appeal of this space.  In addition there are plenty of outdoor seating, potted trees and art installations.

Benugo's Garden Cafe interior

Benugo’s Garden Cafe interior

Legal Oddities:  While officially a Westminster Park, the space falls within The Grosvenor Estate and as such adheres to a unique set of byelaws specific to that estate.  These include ‘no idle or disorderly person is allowed in the garden’, ‘No bath chair or perambulator or vehicle of any kind is admitted’ and ‘brawling, quarrelling, gambling, playing cards or dice, singing, and practicing gymnastics’ are all prohibited.  So leave your cards at home!

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Hours:  The garden is open Mon-Sat 8-8, and Sun 10-8.  Benugo’s Garden Cafe is open Mon-Fri 8-5, Sat 9-5, Sun 10-5.

Located at:  Brown Hart Gardens / Duke St (just north of Grosvenor Square and south of Oxford Street), London W1k 6TD

Closest Tube:  Bond Street.

18 comments on “Brown Hart Gardens ~ an oasis of calm off Oxford Street

  1. fingknitcoolgal
    November 7, 2013

    Thank you for a very useful information! What a rare find. I shall definitely take advantage of it soon (^=^)

  2. traceygooch
    November 7, 2013

    Looks great – I might even head there tomorrow!

  3. Maison Bentley Style
    November 7, 2013

    Oooh..I’ll be heading there! thank you! x

  4. jennypellett
    November 7, 2013

    Well, I’ definitely going to check this out next time I’m in John Lewis!

  5. inspiringcity
    November 8, 2013

    I walked past this a couple of months ago and thought it looked unusual. Looks like I’m going back 🙂

    • LondonUnveiled.com
      November 8, 2013

      I think many people walk past it wondering what it is! all the best, Ian

  6. CongestionZone.wordpress.com
    November 10, 2013

    You must have just gone recently because that wild boar only just showed up!! I kind of love him 🙂

  7. CongestionZone.wordpress.com
    November 10, 2013

    You must have just been recently because that wild boar only just showed up. I kind of love him!!

    • LondonUnveiled.com
      November 11, 2013

      Wow… you are observant 🙂 I do like the wild boar… and yes, I’ve been just recently… Hope all is well. Ian

      • Noelle
        November 12, 2013

        I just happen to go there quite often. It’s my favourite place to show people. But it is starting to become more known now. Good and bad 😉

  8. CongestionZone.wordpress.com
    November 12, 2013

    I just happen to go there quite frequently. He is moving around the place a lot as well. He’s in a different place in your shot from where he was when I was there last week and he moved again this Sunday. I wonder what he gets up to at night 😉 Hope you’re well too!

  9. Young Naija Woman
    November 13, 2013

    Wow…who knew! Will be popping by next time I’m around Oxford circus.

    • LondonUnveiled.com
      November 13, 2013

      Glad you’ve found something new to explore. Thanks for commenting, Ian.

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This entry was posted on November 7, 2013 by in Free Activities, Gardens, Historic Buildings, Westminster and tagged , , , , .
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