It was named after the gardens which were previously on the site, which featured a trick fountain in the time of Elizabeth I. This fountain, or "spring" was set in motion by passers-by treading on some hidden machinery, which puzzled many newcomers. Several of the Victorian buildings were built on Spring Gardens.
It formerly housed the headquarters of the Metropolitan Board of Works after it moved from the London Guildhall, and the London County Council, until it moved to County Hall. This building has since been demolished.
It was the home of an open-air market for milk, the Milk Fair from the formation of the Mall, until it was closed before the First World War.
Currently, the buildings in Spring Gardens include the Trafalgar Hotel, as well as the Headquarters of the British Council, and the London offices of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence since 2013.