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HRH The Princess Royal opens two London Squares

Following a £1.46m restoration project Gordon and Woburn Squares, in the heart of London, have had a complete transformation thanks to a successful partnership involving the University of London, English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Wolfson Foundation, who jointly raised £1.46 million for the restoration project.

The two squares, in the heart of London’s Bloomsbury area and owned by the University of London, were today officially re-opened by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal. Both Squares have now been further opened up to members of the public.

Sir Graeme Davies, Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, shared his delight in seeing the Squares restored to their original glory. He said: “It’s tremendous to see these historic Squares taking a central place in the community once again. The further opening up of the Squares to the public is indeed wonderful news for local schools, residents and those people working in the area, as well as for historians and conservationists alike.”

Sir Graeme said he also hoped the Squares will continue to provide inspiration for future artists, as the area has in the past inspired renowned names like Virginia Woolf and George Bernard Shaw.”

These open spaces, dating back to the 17th century, ‘make London unique’, said Drew Bennellick from English Heritage’s London Region.

“A communal space surrounded by high density development is a model that has endured for over 300 years and which developers continue to use today. These spaces provide lungs for the city, havens for wildlife and open space for Londoners,” explained Mr Bennellick.

He added: “Since the Second World War, such spaces have suffered decline. Following an English Heritage Campaign to restore these spaces throughout the capital, the restoration of Gordon and Woburn Squares is illustrative of how such spaces can be transformed into beautiful areas to help retain London’s unique character.”

Sue Bowers, Heritage Lottery Fund Manager in London commented; “London’s open spaces have such an important role as havens from the bustle of daily life, and the restored Gordon and Woburn Square Gardens will provide a wonderfully tranquil spot in central London for anyone walking past.”

The restoration works have taken more than a year to complete, although the entire project – involving extensive community consultation during the planning stages – has been spread over seven years.

Both Gordon and Woburn Squares are now enclosed with railings based on the original design. Further improvements include the planting of new trees, shrubs and rose beds, and a new pedestrian crossing linking the two Squares to encourage further use.

Other new features include:

New children’s play equipment in Woburn Square Conversion of the gardener’s building in Gordon Square into a refreshments kiosk for members of the public
Refurbishment of the summerhouse in Woburn Square into a brighter and less concealed covered space
A bronze sculpture by Lydia Karpinska entitled “The Green Man” – is the artist’s impression of a descriptive passage in the Virginia Woolf poem-like novel ‘The Waves’ and has been offered to the University of London on long-term loan by Allied London Ltd
The removal of some parking bays around Woburn Square to make the Square more attractive to pedestrians.

The restoration project also includes new signage and information boards depicting the history of each Square; the production of a Bloomsbury Heritage trail leaflet and a school learning resource pack for primary and secondary school pupils for use in Gordon and Woburn Squares.

Gordon and Woburn Squares are owned by the University of London. The £1.46m restoration project has taken seven years to complete from planning to implementation stage. Funding has come from the following organisations: The Heritage Lottery Fund – grant funding of just under £1m; the Wolfson Foundation – grant funding for Gordon Square of £200,000; English Heritage – grant funding of £50,000; the Gordon Square Garden Committee – £45,000; and the University of London’s Bloomsbury colleges – contributions totalling £35,000.

Additional contributors are: the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association; Jubilee Walkway Trust; Allied London Limited; the London Borough of Camden; and the Field Studies Council, the Nuffield Foundation and the Institute of Education for producing the learning resource packs to be used by both primary and secondary schools.

· English Heritage’s Campaign for London Squares was founded in 2000 with the aim of driving forward a co-ordinated programme of enhancement for London’s squares and improving public access to them.

For more details email london.squares@english-heritage.org.uk or visit www.english-heritage.org.uk. English Heritage supports the annual Open Garden Squares Weekend as a focus for the promotion of these important public spaces www.opensquares.org

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