Berkeley Square and Mount Street

Berkeley Square can be reached from Piccadilly, by going northwards up Berkeley Street, which is midway between Piccadilly Circus and Green Park tube station.

Fountain in Berkeley Square, by Munro.

Berkeley Square contains one statue, but an important one. It is a semi-draped nymph carrying a vase from which water pours to form a fountain. The statue is by Alexander Munro, a Pre-Raphaelite sculptor, and was made in 1858. It is of fine Carrara marble, somewhat weathered, but the overall effect is most elegant and delicate, and it is a good example of understated human-scale sculpture. There are various classical-style flower pots nearby and at the far end of the Square.

This square was the site of another of those unfortunate equestrian statues of London that seemed destined to suffer in one way or another. In 1772 a statue of George III on horseback was set up in the square - it was either by Joseph Wilton or by the French sculptor Beaupre - different reference sources make different claims. Unfortunately, the group was of lead rather than bronze, and over time, the legs of the horse buckled under the weight of the rider on top. By 1827 the statue had to be removed. To fill the empty space, the natural focus of the paths in the square, an ornamental pump house was eventually put up; this still survives, a strange, slight affair with an ornamental cup on top.

The plane trees in Berkeley Square are supposed to be among the oldest of their kind in central London, having been planted by Edward Bouverie, who lived in a house fronting the Square, in 1789. Their lower trunks are indeed remarkably thick, and several of them split into two trunks only a little way up, perhaps reflecting a different method of cultivation from Victorian times.

Berkeley Square is a good place to start an exploration of Mount Street, which leads off to the west, from the northern end of the square. This street has long ranges of buildings dating from the 1880s through to about 1900, with ornate pink terracotta facades, and is one of the best places in London to see this style of architecture. There are figural and floral motifs on some of these buildings, and statue heads above one door. There are various posh galleries in the street, with oriental and European art in the window displays; a chance to see some remarkable museum-quality pieces. A junction with a side street a little way along has a modern figural sculpture - a curled up nude by Emilio Greco (1973), the gift of the Italian President in 1987. It is not bad, but somewhat squashed looking. On the opposite side of the road is an entrance to Mount Street Gardens, a quiet open space with a modest fountain bearing a tiny bronze horse by Ernest George (1892).

Mount Street, late Victorian terra cotta.

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