Drummond Place was built on land which had been part of the Bellevue estate, the City Council having previously acquired that estate from the Marchioness of Titchfield. The central area (now the Garden) included the former mansion house of Bellevue, which the Council sold to HM Commissioners of Customs in 1808. By 1823 the houses in Drummond Place had been completed and occupied. The central area, except for a semi-circular segment extending 60 yards in from the London Street end and containing the Customs House (the former mansion), was then transferred to the proprietors of houses in Drummond Place. That transfer was effected by a Charter dated 26 April 1823. When the Customs House was demolished, to make way for a railway tunnel, the proprietors paid £1,200 for that segment to be incorporated into the Garden. This transaction is recorded in a second Charter, dated 17 March 1846. (Should the reader wonder why the house had to be demolished, the reason is that the tunnel was constructed by digging a huge trench, building a stone arch at the bottom of it and then filling it in.)
For more information on the tunnel go to Abandoned Scotland
Thus by way of these two Charters ownership of the garden was transferred from the Council to the owners of most of the houses in Drummond Place and some of the flats in the “corner pavilions”. (A small number of owners at the time of the charter chose not to become Proprietors. The charter lists in detail the specific properties included and excluded.) The garden is an inescapable burden on the properties specified in the Charter. The proprietors are required to maintain the garden, to hold an annual general meeting, to elect a committee of management and to appoint a secretary. They are also empowered to issue additional keys to persons who are not proprietors.
History of access
The proprietors decided long ago that the number of additional keys issued should not exceed one third of their own number. Not surprisingly, the number of applicants for additional keys has always been far greater than the number of keys available. Until recently, the Committee was expected to register all applications, regardless of the applicant’s address, and to maintain a waiting list. Also not surprisingly, the waiting list grew to be unmanageable and the secretary was continually being harassed by people wanting to know how much longer they would have to wait. A few years ago, the proprietors agreed to a change of policy whereby applications would be accepted only from within a defined catchment area.
Given the limitation on the number of additional keys, it was clear that the catchment area could not be extensive. What was agreed was that it should include flats reached by the first common stair on each street leading into Drummond Place and any flats lying below those. (Given the complexity of the corner pavilions and the two cases where there are no corners, no simpler definition was possible.)
As a result of this change in policy, we are now in a transitional phase. Pre-existing additional keyholders who live outside the catchment area cannot be summarily excluded, so there will for some years be a diminishing number of them who have access to the garden.