|HCC Site ID:||1746||Parish:||Alverstoke|
|Designations:||The Crescent LB II*||Area:||0.55 ha|
|Access:||Public Access||Ownership:||Gosport Borough Council|
Location and site
Crescent Gardens is a small narrow crescent-shaped park of approximately 0.55 ha. in Alverstoke, Gosport. It is situated on the south side of Crescent Road and was created in the late 1820s to complement the crescent of houses on the north side, only the western half of which was built. Originally with marine views over the Solent to the Isle of Wight in the south-west, today the park is bordered by the garden fences of houses along Fort Road built in the early C20.
The Crescent and its accompanying gardens were the brainchild of Robert Cruikshank (1787-1853), a Gosport entrepreneur, who, encouraged by the popularity of the spas and sea bathing at Brighton and Weymouth, aimed to create a similar development at Anglesey near the eastern end of Alverstoke, which he called Anglesey Ville, in honour of the Marquis of Anglesey. This new area was to contain a racecourse, chapel, baths and pumphouse, genteel gardens, a hotel, and fine townhouses emulating the grand Georgian crescents of the day.
The Portsmouth architect Thomas Ellis Owen (1804-1862) – later known for his development of Southsea – was employed as the architect to design the crescent of houses and the gardens. Described by Pevsner as“…a piece of grand urban planning of the early nineteenth century … unsurpassed in Hampshire”, the western section of the crescent, originally called ‘Anglesey Villas’, was completed in 1830 and is a fine row of Regency-styled houses with the Anglesey Arms Hotel at its eastern corner. The eastern section of the crescent was never built.
Crescent Gardens was designed to complement the houses and included a terrace walk with marine views, ornamental shrubberies, lawns and trees. At its centre was a small Neoclassical building: a curved reading room with bath houses on each side, where warm and cold sea water baths could be taken. The raised terrace walk commanded views of the Isle of Wight and kept out the cattle that grazed between the gardens and the sea. An annual payment of £1.10 shillings was levied from residents for the maintenance and use of the pleasure garden, discontinued by 1926. Original trees included black pine, monkey puzzle, tulip tree and Atlantic cedar.
However, by 1931 buildings had appeared on the eastern side of the crescent, as well as to the south-west of the gardens, thus impeding the view to the sea, and in World War II the iron railings around the park were taken as scrap metal to make munitions. By 1949, the Gardens had become a wilderness, and Cruickshank’s great grand – daughter Pauline handed over control to the Borough Council as an open space for the enjoyment of the people of Gosport. The reading room and bath houses were demolished in 1950, and the area became increasingly overgrown, with brambles, overgrown bay trees, weeds and dumped rubbish filling Terrace Walk and the central area.
In 1987, as part of its urban regeneration scheme, Gosport BC initiated consultation between the Hampshire Gardens Trust, Hampshire County Council, English Heritage and local residents to discuss the future of the Gardens. A Landscape Design Report was commissioned which recommended the restoration of the garden “to create a quiet, sheltered garden with much visual variety and interest within its small area in the ‘gardenesque’ tradition”, and to afford the visitor a complex sequence of views within the garden and without to the Crescent.
Following the decision to restore the garden’s basic structure, in 1989 paths were cleared, together with the original site of the reading room and all laid with bredon gravel. The railings with the original Anthemion (palmette) Capitals were replaced.
Local residents were encouraged to express their views and invited to take an active part in the re-creation of a garden on the restored site. In 1991 an Association of Friends of Crescent Gardens was formed by Wendy Osborne, one of the residents of the Crescent, and by 2019 was over 300 strong. Wendy Osborne devised a central planting based on a design by JC Loudon from the period, with no plants being used that were not in this country by 1850.
Since the restoration and with the help and co-operation of the HGT, HCC, and GBC the Friends have planted and maintained the gardens.
In 2020 Crescent Gardens are a delightful place to visit and while away an hour or two. In the spirit of a Regency garden, the park invites visitors to stroll around well-kept gravel paths or rest awhile on a wrought-iron bench, admiring the scent of the flowers and exploring new views and vistas on their walk. The front of the gardens is laid to lawn interspersed with beds of roses, low shrubs and perennials and specimen trees, Regency-style benches and Repton baskets filled with roses. Old specimen trees include a fine cedar of Lebanon and a tulip tree, and there are two umbrella pines, yews, a weeping pear, a copper beech, a Japanese maple, and flowering trees such as cherry and amelanchier.
A young Monkey Puzzle tree has taken over from one recently lost, and a holly ‘Golden Queen’ has replaced one planted for Queen Victoria’s Coronation (1838). Opposite is a black mulberry tree planted for the 50th anniversary of D-Day (1994). Located at the heart of the gardens, where the reading room and bath house were located, is a small Dolphin Fountain with water falling into a pool of Portland Stone, installed in 2002.
At the eastern end, a winding path leads into a small secluded woodland garden where spring flowers include bluebells, foxgloves, violets and primroses. Here there is also a colony of stag-beetles and sometimes pipistrelle bats. The Gardens have been awarded Green Flag status since 2004 as well as other awards recognising the quality of the gardens.
Summary and Significance
A small well-maintained public garden, companion to the adjacent Regency terrace, one of the finest in Hampshire. Extensively restored in the Regency tradition, it offers a focus for community life and a respite from the pressures of its urban surroundings.
HGT Research: August 2020
Hugo Watson Associates Landscape Architects, ‘Alverstoke Crescent Garden, Gosport, Proposed Regency Theme Garden, Preliminary Landscape Design Report’, Winchester 1987
Crescent Gardens leaflet produced by Friends of Crescent Gardens
https://www.gosport.gov.uk/crescentgardens – accessed April 2020
National Library of Scotland – Map Images https://maps.nls.uk/ – accessed various dates 2020
Click here to visit Friends of Crescent Garden site.