Cleaver Square is a communal open space surrounded by residential housing, and is typical of many of the ‘residential squares’ which proved popular in 17th and 18th Century London. These squares were usually gravelled or paved for walking and separated from the carriageway by posts and rails. During the 19th century they were often planted with trees and enclosed by railings with gates to which only residents had keys.
First laid out in 1789, Cleaver Square was the earliest of these squares to be developed south of the Thames. Until the middle of the 18th century the landscape was hedgerows, fields and meadows cut through by a turnpike road running from the City to Clapham. There were few buildings, mostly scattered farms and taverns, although there was once a palace at Kennington Cross, built in the 14th century by the “Black Prince”, son of King Henry III of England, on land that had been royal property when the Saxons called it keening-tun: “the King’s place”. Widespread development only took place after the building of Westminster Bridge in 1750 and Blackfriars Bridge in 1770, which provided easy access from Westminster and the City, and local building leases were granted by Act of Parliament in 1776.