Brunswick Square Gardens were laid out in 1796 as part of the Foundling Hospital Estate. The main building of the hospital for children who could not be brought up by their natural parents had been built in 1745 on the site of modern-day Coram's Fields; it was the first children's charity in London. At the time, the site was on the urban fringe, with only fields separating London from what were then the villages of Hampstead and Highgate. The hospital's designers wished to retain a sense of openness around the development and created Brunswick Square to the west and Mecklenburgh Square (not open to the public) to the east of the main hospital buildings. The square was named after Queen Caroline of Brunswick, wife of the Prince of Wales. later King George IV. James Burton (1761-1837) was responsible for building the original Georgian terraces from 1792 to 1802 and for laying out the garden.
The original layout of the garden was very simple, with the majority of the area being grass with planting beds, surrounded by a perimeter path and enclosed by cast iron palisades five feet high, on a stone kerb. At the time, great emphasis was not placed on the design of the garden but more on the creation of an open green space around the hospital development. The space did not even merit the title 'Gardens' until later. In the mid-19th
century it was still referred to as 'Brunswick Square enclosure'. The significance of such a green space in London at a time when it was rapidly expanding into the surrounding countryside was illustrated by Isabella. a fictional character in Jane Austen's Emma. who praised Brunswick Square saying, 'our part of London is so very superior to most others... we are so very airy'.
In 1926, most of the Foundling Hospital buildings were demolished and the hospital moved out of London. In 1939 the north terrace of Brunswick Square was demolished to make way for the School of Pharmacy. Although only five houses were damaged beyond repair by World War II bombs, the historic garden railings were removed and melted down for munitions. Redevelopment in the 1960s saw the remaining Georgian houses in the west and south terraces replaced by the Brunswick Centre and International Hall, respectively.
Nevertheless. Brunswick Square. together with Coram's Fields and Mecklenburgh Square are listed by English Heritage as being of Grade II importance in their Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.
Following years of gradual degradation. Brunswick Square Gardens were restored in 2002-3. Although the buildings have changed greatly, the layout of the gardens has returned to its 18' century appearance so that today the gardens still primarily provide, as originally intended, a vital open
space for city dwellers.