[By James Hobbs in London] Think of a square in London, and it will probably be Trafalgar Square or Leicester Square, perhaps Parliament or Sloane. Among the paved piazzas are hundreds of garden squares, providing greenery and tranquility in the centre of the city. With the arrival of spring, they are probably at their best. They can fill with workers, students, dog walkers and tourists at the mere hint of sunshine. But more than just havens, these squares usually reveal insights into London’s history. There’s usually a board by the entrance that tells its story.
Cavendish Square (top image): situated behind the John Lewis department store on Oxford Street, this is a place to recover from the crowds and the consumerist onslaught. The plinth at its centre has been empty since the equestrian statue of the reviled Duke of Cumberland was removed 150 years ago.
Tavistock Square: Bloomsbury, south of the British Library and east of the British Museum, is rich with squares. This one includes a cherry tree, currently blossoming, which was planted in memory of those who lost their lives in the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
Hoxton Square: one of London’s oldest – it was laid out in the 1680s. Rundown and overlooked until not so long ago, it is now surrounded by bars and restaurants frequented by men with trendy beards.
Lincoln’s Inn Fields: London’s largest square includes tennis courts, a bandstand and the unmissable Sir John Soane’s Museum facing its north side. You will never be far from a lawyer in this square: London’s inns of court, professional associations for barristers, are nearby.
Canonbury Square: the writer Evelyn Waugh lived here, and George Orwell started writing Nineteen Eighty-Four in a flat visible through the trees. Although the A1 road into the city effectively cuts it in two, it is still a relaxing place. It is a short cycle home for me from this square.