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Latest news from Warwick Square and the local area...

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Against the grain

Many thanks (not) to the person who forcibly rearranged our garden furniture. We are searching our CCTV footage so look out, buster!

An invitation to join the Chorus at St Gabriel’s

Ralph Allwood writes:

Please come and sing Choral Evensong with the Pimlico Chorus. We will sing Evensong at St Gabriel’s, Pimlico on Sunday 26th May at 6pm.

– Introit: Love Divine, arr. Herbert Howells

Responses: Richard Ayleward
Psalm: 104 vv 1-10, Chant H. G. Ley
Canticles: George Dyson in FAnthem: Author of Love Divine (SAB), Cecilia McDowall

Weekly rehearsals begin this Wednesday 17th April, 7-8pm in St Gabriel’s, Pimlico. Singers of all voice parts and confidence levels are welcome to join us, either by simply turning up on the day or by signing up in advance on the Pimlico Musical Foundation website.

Our prize-winning garden

Westminster After Dark Scheme

Westminster Council would like to hear your views on the Westminster After Dark Scheme, which is in the early stages of development. They would like to hear women’s concerns about feeling unsafe especially when walking on unlit streets.

Click here to participate

Magnificent Magnolia

The houses of Warwick Square present a splendid vista of cream-painted stucco, especially when viewed through the trees from within our award-winning garden. This pattern of finely dressed, evenly coloured house fronts became fashionable in large areas of central London during the late 18th century and continues to be the motif of the Thomas Cubitt terraces and squares of Belgravia and Pimlico.

In Warwick Square the various blocks of houses tend to be repainted on the outside every seven years or so and it is important that a standard colour is used to maintain the glorious uniformity. For the information of block directors, and all residents, this colour is Magnolia BS08B15. The recommended masonry paint is Daccrete 59 WB Gloss Finish. https://dacrylate.co.uk/products/product-range/daccrete-59wb/.

Read more…

Gold of gold for our garden

STOP PRESS: Our superb Warwick Square garden has won the London Garden Squares Society’s Gold Medal for the first time. This is the most prestigious award in the world of London gardens and an enormous tribute to the hard work and knowledge of Head Gardener Sarah Syborn and her team.

“This is the big one,” said Colin Sheaf, chairman of the Warwick Square Co Ltd. “We have never won that before. I couldn’t be more proud and delighted. Many congratulations to Sarah and everyone concerned in the work of the garden.”

Another golden year for our garden

Our historic Warwick Square Garden has struck gold again in the 2023 London in Bloom awards for small parks and gardens. The garden scored a total of 90 out of a possible 100 points in the six categories. Giving a gold award, the judge complimented the tranquillity and the“exuberant” planting, with many special specimens. There was praise for the creation of “a real oasis” for wildlife. It was difficult to suggest any improvements, the judge said, because the garden was being looked after so well.

Head gardener Sarah Syborn was complimented by Colin Sheaf, chairman of the Warwick Square Co Ltd, who said: “I’m really thrilled that we have yet again scored well within the maximum points required to win a gold medal.” He said it was “fantastic” that Sarah and her team scored 10 out of 10 for appropriateness and sustainability of planting and for maintenance of the hard landscape features.

Sarah said: “I’m pleased as I think I’ve got shade, partial shade and dry soil cracked now. It takes a long time to make an all-season garden with the layers of planting, soil improvement and tree works.”

David Bowie was a Square kinda guy

Did you know that David Bowie once rocked up in Warwick Square? Well, you probably wouldn’t unless you had lived here in the 1960s and even then you might not have glimpsed him nipping in and out of Number 79A. That’s where Bowie was sharing a flat with music promotor Kenny Bell. Only he wasn’t David Bowie just yet: his real name was prosaic David Jones. Read more…

Our glorious garden wins gold again

The historic Warwick Square garden has beaten all competition to win the prestigious Small Park of the Year award, plus another gold medal, in the 2022 London in Bloom contest. There was special praise for our head gardener, Sarah Syborn, who was presented with a special bowl (see below). “Under her very capable hands,” the judge says, the square “has been planted to offer all year-round interest… from the vast array of plants.” The report adds: “Key holders are fortunate to enjoy a square of this quality and serenity.”

Colin Sheaf, Chairman of the Warwick Square Company, comments: “It is a very special compliment to our gardening team, headed by Sarah, that the gardeners should win this coveted London-wide Award after several years of very difficult circumstances keeping a garden in top condition, most recently the drought. It’s particularly rewarding that the judges were impressed by our efforts to maintain exceptional levels of sustainability and plant variety, ensuring that Warwick Square remains very much a garden and not a park.”

Small Park of the Year trophy presented to Sarah Syborn

Our garden is a star

Here is a selection of the many lovely tributes from visitors to Warwick Square Garden during Open Squares Day. Congratulations to Head Gardener Sarah Syborn and her team.

“We have really enjoyed spending time in this beautiful interesting garden.”

“Beautiful gardens, well looked after and loved. I especially loved the roses.”

“Fantastic garden perfect for wildlife. Perfect foraging habitat for bats and birds. As an ecologist this garden is absolutely wonderful. It is the perfect balance between an aesthetic garden as well as for wildlife.”

“It was so lovely to see all the plants in the garden – some of them rare and exotic. The roses are particularly good this year.”

“The best square we have seen all day. We saved the best til last. Lots of variety and interest. Thank you.”

“Fascinating with the landscape design melting with the architecture of the square.”

“Amazing garden obviously lots of hard walk has gone in to maintaining them and keeping them in such good order – well done.”

“Walking around the garden was a wonderful experience. Love all the roses and poppies. Your trees are impressive in height.”

“Beautiful garden – one of our favourites – we visited some years ago and are delighted to return.”

“A wonderful experience sharing your hard work and talent. Thank you so much for making our day so special.”

If you smell something a bit “off” in our garden, it might be this…

This spectacular plant is a member of the arum family, also known as dragon lily or vampire lily. It’s a native of the Balkans, Greece and Crete and is perfect for the Square as the growing conditions for the plant are partial shade and soil that dries out in the summer.

To attract the flies and beetles that pollinate it it releases a “scent” of rotting meat. Happily, along with the flower, the smell doesn’t last very long.  The plant becomes dormant after flowering. In some countries the seeds and tubers are used as an anti-inflammatory to treat rheumatism and haemorrhoids!

Sarah Syborn, Head Gardener

The dragon lily or vampire lily

Dog napping tale with a happy ending

A pretty amazing thing happened to me this week, and friends have asked me to share the story to highlight the power of social media.

I set out for a walk in Hyde Park with my daughter and our two dachshunds, Jura and Islay, entering at the Knightsbridge Gates. Islay did her usual thing, spotted a squirrel and tore off. Within minutes, although perhaps only 50 yards away at the top of a slope, we looked round and she had disappeared.

Click here to continue reading the full story…

Our Colourful Square

Sarah Syborn, Warwick Square head gardener, presents a selection of stunning new photographs of Warwick Square’s award-winning garden.

These photos were all taken by Sarah on New Year’s Day 2022.

Click here to see the full gallery…

Grey in tooth and claw

Can a foreigner feel xenophobia towards something born
in the lush of a native urban garden?
Yes, I say,
when he sees a grey leaping creature arcing its tail
to heaven, here I am, catch me if you can!
But he is an intruder, a reverse coloniser,
who took over the tree trunks and exiled,
a relative who is smaller, more delicate, more appealing,
deep ginger coated, heart rending, the real Celt
bringing colour and smiles even in mid-winter.
Hurray for the red squirrels of Britannia!

Sandor P Vaci

And did Spinoza sit in Warwick Square…?

The magic of life is the way the day progresses relentlessly from the first light to darkness, each hour governed by what we need to accomplish, have we failed in our tasks, can they be put off to the next day, but always assuming dawn will follow night. We exist without a moment’s hesitation that another day will come. Those who die though dawn is a forlorn hope. Such thoughts come to mind as I sit in the magic of Warwick Square Garden at the west end where the sight of St Gabriel’s spire promises a gate to eternity for those who have lived an unblemished life[1]. Rain leaves its footprint in pearls clinging to the guillotined blades of grass in tiny bright sparks once the sun pokes out from behind the clouds. My favoured spot is by the ancient cherry tree that arouses such contemplation, for as dusk descends it is transformed from a living organism into an abstract silhouette. There is magic in this Garden, but we also need to find it in ourselves. To read on, click here…

Blooming marvellous

Head gardeners Sarah Syborn (Warwick Square) and Pavel Votapek (Eccleston) at the Guildhall to received top awards in the 2021 London Gardens Society competition. Warwick repeated last year’s success to win bronze. There was a record number of entries, with Eccleston and Pembridge Squares taking the first and second places. Warwick Square won gold in this year’s London in Bloom competition.

Identity theft in Warwick Square. Help to stop it!

A number of Warwick Square residents have recently been the victims of identity theft. Intruders have gained access to lobbies on at least two occasions and either taken or copied mail and attempted to commit various frauds in the names of stolen identities.

Do not buzz in anyone to your building unless they have a legitimate reason to enter your building. Check that they really are delivering something or are carrying out a requested service. 

A man was encountered in one building sorting through the mail racks. When challenged by a resident, he fled, but may already have obtained names of residents and is attempting to use them fraudulently.

It is recommended that all blocks review their security and mail reception and urgently take steps to prevent bogus entry by thieves.

Let Slip the Dogs of Warwick Square

An extraordinary gathering took place in the garden on Tuesday evening (June 8, 2021) to inaugurate a very special new bench commemorating the dogs of Warwick Square. The bench, with brass name plaques of beloved pets, has been commissioned by Annie Sheaf. Read more…

Homage to the garden in Warwick Square

by Sandor P Vaci RIBArt.
An architect’s artistic tribute to Warwick Square garden. 

Now that I have completed some fifty sketches of the Garden and its flora it is only fitting that I write an introduction of what brought it on and some thoughts on the connection between the actual and the perceived.

Drawing is part our training of becoming architects, the essential means of conveying designs to our clients which once approved are turned into technical information for construction. Even now, when everything is done on computers, the challenge of seeing or imagining the vision onto paper remains… read more

Colours to Cheer Us All Up

Camellia japonica
Camellia japonica

Sarah Syborn, Warwick Square head gardener, presents a selection of stunning new photographs of Warwick Square’s award-winning garden. Goodness knows we all need cheering up in this bleak Covid winter. Click here

Pimlico Plan. Major Report on the Past and Future for our “Village”

Pimlico Neighbourhood Forum has produced a superb, detailed plan for the future of the area, seeking to preserve and enhance its unique village atmosphere. The lavishly illustrated document relates Pimlico’s development from a swampy wilderness to Thomas Cubitt’s stucco masterpiece that is still largely today’s Pimlico. It looks at ways to preserve local shops and markets in the face of online retail domination and to protect residents from excessive traffic.

Click here to see this fascinating report in full.

An introduction to Warwick Square

Click here to read an introduction to Warwick Square from Colin Sheaf, both a resident and Honorary Chairman of the Warwick Square Company.

Sarah’s a Winner

The Square’s head gardener, Sarah Syborn, has won two first prizes and several other awards at the 2019 International Camellia Society show at Chiswick House. “I was rather bullied into entering the show by a friend,” said Sarah, “but I’m delighted.”

Colin Sheaf, chairman of the Warwick Square Co Ltd, commented: “Wonderful result of being bullied. My warmest congratulations.”

Our great garden wins a fourth gold award

THE historic Warwick Square Garden has won gold in the prestigious London in Bloom competition for the fourth time. Head Gardener Sarah Syborn (pictured) proudly collected the award at a ceremony in London in September 2018. The judges said: “The Warwick Square Garden is a gem.”

Colin Sheaf, Hon. Chairman of the Warwick Square Company Ltd, comments:

“The Warwick Square Company Board directors, and we are sure all our garden users, congratulate Head Gardener Sarah Syborn and her highly-committed colleagues Mandy, Craig and Mike for retaining this major award, and thank them very much for maintaining the high quality of planting and maintenance in our historic Grade 2 garden, admired not merely by our fob holders lucky enough to enjoy it, but nationally by some of Britain leading horticultural experts.”

Click here for the full story.

The carpenter who helped to build Pimlico. A fascinating history.

A book review by Peter Hill, a Warwick Square resident 

History seldom tells us about ordinary people and it was fascinating to read the autobiography of William Symons Julian, a Cornish farm boy who learned a carpenter’s trade and came to London in the 1860s and helped to build Pimlico. William’s memoir was discovered in an attic by his descendants… read more.

What is this rare historic object?

What is this rare historic object adorning railings outside a house in Pimlico? Click here to find out.

Join ‘The Thorney Island Society’!

Interested in local Westminster history and the built environment, ranging from prehistoric wetlands until the 20th century? Concerned about the challenges our historic neighbour faces today from ill-considered local development? Please join ‘The Thorney Island Society’… read more

Glories of our Garden

If you were away over Christmas I hope these photos will entice you to take a walk around the Square and enjoy some of the glories of the garden. To counter the myth that nothing grows in gardens in winter I’ve planted many plants and shrubs that flower during the winter months especially those with highly scented flowers. These flowers tend to be rather insignificant to protect themselves against the elements but to attract the few insects around at this time of year they have strong scents.  It’s possible to catch a waft of the most gloriously exotic scent and not actually see any flowers.

CLICK HERE to read the full story.

Best wishes

Sarah Syborn,
Head gardener

img_1398Our garden team win gold and silver – again!

Every year, two specialist English gardening organisations make awards for outstanding gardens, parks and community green areas within Greater London. We only began to compete a couple of years ago, and to our delight in 2015 we won Silver for the ‘Large Private Square category’ in the London Squares Garden Competition, and Gold for ‘Small Park of the Year’ awarded by London in Bloom.

I’m delighted to be able to tell you that our head gardener Sarah Syborn (pictured in the attached image receiving her award) and her three colleagues Mandy, Craig and Mick have excelled themselves even further this year, by retaining their Gold award (just announced) for London in Bloom, and raising the level of their award to Silver-Gilt in the London Squares Garden Competition. There are hundreds of applicants for these awards, so it is a major achievement to win either of the top ones once, much less twice over two years.

Please join the Company Board and me in congratulating our gardening team, preferably when you meet them in the garden! It is very encouraging that a small focused team like them, working with an entirely voluntary group of Board directors and Garden Committee members, can maintain the classic features of an historic, listed Grade 2 Victorian garden; while simultaneously adapting it into a Gold-medal winning garden, particularly admired by the judges for its deliberately environmentally-friendly aspects in a 21st-century context.

Colin Sheaf
Hon Chairman
The Warwick Square Company Ltd