Prior to being bought by the University the quiet site was formerly the rear gardens of Nos. 2 – 20 Gower Street, a terrace built around 1780 as part of the Bedford Estate. Owners of houses on the street included Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett, pioneer of women’s suffrage and Lady Ottoline Morrell, literary hostess and patron of the arts.
The gardens originally had wrought-iron railing stubs on the walls, to keep access exclusive to the residents. However, the original railings were removed during WWII to assist the war effort. However, there are rumours the materials never were transformed into the weapons they were intended to be. Some say the drive for those in England to produce scrap iron may have been a morale booster, as many of the materials were simply discarded in the Thames.