About Us
About Friends of Crescent Garden
About Friends of Crescent Garden
The Friends of Crescent Garden work hard to preserve the historic character of this evocative small Regency Garden and to keep the garden at the centre of the local community. To ensure the sustainability of the Garden’s Regency character, only plants introduced before 1850 are used. The maintenance of the garden is carried out in partnership with Gosport Borough Council and the Friends of Crescent Garden, who share the labour and the funding as a team effort.

The Friends of Crescent Garden is a thriving community group of members. There is an annual Garden Party, a plant sale, and an AGM attended by the mayor. The Friends also arrange regular visits to other gardens of interest.

In recent years the Friends of Crescent Garden have worked hard to achieve annual Green Flag Awards and Green Heritage Awards, as a historic garden.

The Friends of Crescent Garden have three main ambitions for the future:
To maintain Crescent Garden to the highest possible standards in partnership with Gosport Borough Council.
To keep Crescent Garden in its place at the heart of the community it serves, as a welcoming, historic, and refreshing community.
To concentrate on the sustainability of the enterprise. This requires the active good will of not only the Community and Council, but particularly the volunteers, whose recruitment and management are of the utmost importance.

If the Garden remains volunteer-friendly and environmentally friendly, there is every hope it will continue to flourish.
A History of a Regency Garden
Alverstoke Crescent Garden for “Anglesey Ville”
Alverstoke Crescent garden of 1.36 acres was part of the design by 21-year-old architect Thomas Ellis Owen (1804-1862) for “Anglesey Ville” in 1826. Owen was commissioned by Robert Cruickshank, a notable Gosport entrepreneur (1785-1853) who wanted to create a fashionable new watering place like Brighton.

This Ornamental Garden was laid out for a double Crescent but only the first half was built. Its raised Terrace Walk commanded views of the Isle of Wight and kept out the cattle that grazed between the Garden and the sea. 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, often medically prescribed in those days.
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Robert Cruickshank’s vision for “Anglesey Ville”, illustrating the Bath Houses

The water, supplied by the Pump House still to be seen in St. Marks Road, was drawn from Haslar Creek. Residents of Crescent Road rented keys for their use of the Garden, which paid for the gardener, Henry Cooper, who lived under the Reading Room. (Census, 1841 and 1851). The fixed rent of thirty shillings was not enough to meet the rise in labour costs after WW I: in WW II, the iron railings were taken as scrap metal, to make munitions.
By 1949, the Garden had become a wilderness, and Cruickshank’s great granddaughter Pauline handed over its control to the Borough Council, as an open space for the enjoyment of the people of Gosport. (News. 22/6/49) The Reading Room and Bath houses were demolished in 1950.

Crescent Gardens Restoration
In 1989, the Borough Council, working with the Hampshire Garden Trust, and with funding from English Heritage and Hampshire County Council through the Re-Generation of Older Areas Programme, began to reclaim the Garden. The Anthemion-headed railings were re-made and paths were restored and gravelled and the site of the vanished Reading Room and Bath houses.

In 1991 residents formed the Friends of Crescent Garden and Wendy Osborne devised a central planting plan based on a villa garden in the picturesque style by J C Loudon, in the Suburban Gardener and Villa Companion, 1838; Gosport Borough Council then supported this plan. The Friends grew in number and encouraged by the Hampshire Garden Trust and the Garden History Society. The Friends decided that the Garden’s Regency character should be restored with no plants used that were not in this country by 1850.
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A Regency style seat in Crescent Garden

The Friends began planting in December 1992 and all plants for the garden were carefully researched before planting. Informal curving beds flowed round the shape of the Reading Room, making grassy bays arid inlets. Repton iron baskets at each end of the garden were reminders of the vertical columns that once echoed the pillars of the Crescent building. Seats of an early 19th century design and colour recalled the social relaxation of the Reading Room and were placed around the Bath house area and other parts of the garden. Hampshire County Council gave the larger seats to the garden when the Friends were first founded.

The Garden’s Period Character
The Friends work hard to preserve the historic character of this evocative small Regency Garden, partly because it reflects that of the Crescent opposite, but also because examples of Regency Gardens are comparatively rare – and this pre-Victorian style has a natural informality that has wide appeal to people today.

The Garden is designed to be strolled through and enjoyed at a leisurely pace. The layout of the paths, the placing of the benches, is as it was in the earliest maps of the site. Plants have been carefully researched to ensure that everything you see - trees, flowers, shrubs, and old roses, could have been growing here by 1850. A fountain has been placed in the centre of the Bath House site where patrons used to bathe in sea water baths.

Captain Charles Austen of the Royal Navy, Jane Austen’s younger brother, lived at number 2 Crescent Road and he would certainly have strolled in the Garden with his visiting sister Cassandra. In October 1827 he gave an after-dinner speech at the Anglesey Arms Hotel, in honour of Robert Cruickshank, in which he said: “It is no small gratification to me, to leave those who are dear to me in a neighbourhood where so much good and generous feeling exists”. The goodwill and helpfulness shown by all concerned in the maintenance of this small but significant Regency Garden shows that it still exists today.

Crescent Garden: Regency Character
A natural look is the aim of the garden; this is not a rigorously formal Garden, like the later regimented Victorian Parks where a leaf out of place was a blot on an impeccable landscape, and where an imposed order was imperative for any garden of quality. Leafy scenes, drifts of one colour into another, flowing curves and trailing climbers that imitated glades in New Forest landscapes, were the gardeners’ delight before the young Queen Victoria came to the throne, and Prince Albert made such a virtue of order.
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Crescent Garden with the fountain.

A Regency Garden flowed into the surrounding countryside seemingly part of nature itself: while the Victorian parterre garden was unnaturally regimented to impress, contrived in the teeth of Nature. As well as being an ornamental Garden for the double Crescent originally planned, it was a place where convalescents, the elderly and the young could take exercise and the sea air, sheltered from rigours they would face on the seashore itself.

The Reading Room gave the whole a social dimension, now echoed in the larger benches on its site, given by Hampshire County Council when the Friends were founded. It is satisfying to consider how the intention of the architect (Thomas Ellis Owen) has been revived and the same sections of the community benefit from his design today, though on a wider scale.

Acknowledgement: This text is an abridged version of an article by Wendy Osborne on the history of Alverstoke Crescent Garden.
Rules of Anglesey Crescent Gardens

Poster Defining rules of use of Anglesey Crescent Gardens, c1930.
© 2023 Hampshire Cultural Trust.

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Crescent Garden, Crescent Road, Alverstoke, Gosport, Hampshire PO12 2BB