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Wednesday, 14 February 2018

St James's Park in Regency London

View across the water in St James's Park to Buckingham Palace (2014)
View across the water in St James's Park to Buckingham Palace
The history of St James’s Park

St James’s Park is the oldest royal park in London, with St James’s Palace to the north and Buckingham Palace to the west.

The Picture of London for 1810 said:
St James’s Palace and Park are situated near the western extremity of the town, on the side next the river, from which, at a small distance, it is separated by Parliament-street, and the site of Whitehall Palace.1
Rocque's Map of London of 1741-5 showing St James's Park  in London in the Eighteenth Century by Sir Walter Besant (1902)
Rocque's Map of London of 1741-5 showing St James's Park
in London in the Eighteenth Century by Sir Walter Besant (1902)
It was originally a swampy meadow belonging to the lepers’ hospital which previously stood on the site of St James’s Palace. Henry VIII acquired the land in 1531, built St James’s Palace, and enclosed the meadow, turning it into a deer park.

After the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II redesigned the park. The Picture of London for 1810 wrote:
King Charles II … planted the avenues, made the Canal and the Aviary adjacent to the Bird-cage Walk, which took its name from the cages hung in the trees; but the present fine effect of the small spot of ground within the railing is the fruit of the genius of the celebrated Mr Brown.2
The Mall

Old and New London wrote:
St James's Park must have been a rural and pleasant enclosure in the reign of Charles II, when the avenues of trees were first planted along the northern side of the park, where now is the gravel walk known as ‘The Mall’, under the direction of Le Notre, the French landscape gardener, who was also commissioned to lay out and improve the whole.3
Royal Palace of St James's next the park from The story of the London Parks by J Larwood (1874)
Royal Palace of St James's next the park
from The story of the London Parks by J Larwood (1874)
Charles II created courts to play the new game of ‘Pele Mele’ after which Pall Mall and The Mall are named:
Under date of April 2, 1661, there is an entry in Pepys' ‘Diary’ which implies that the ‘Pell Mell’ was then newly finished: “To St James's Park, where I saw the Duke of York playing at Pellmell, the first time that ever I saw the sport.”4
Playing at Pall Mall from a contemporary print from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Playing at Pall Mall from a contemporary print
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
The milk fair
At the end of the Mall, in the shade of the tall trees, near the Spring Gardens entrance, is an ‘institution’ – if we may so call it – of considerable date, and a proof of the former rural character of the spot, which has flourished here perhaps almost since the formation of the Mall. It is known as ‘Milk Fair’, and is held by a privilege granted form royalty to the gatekeepers.5
Milk fair, St James's Park  from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Milk fair, St James's Park
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
The canal

The canal stretched the whole length of St James’s Park. The Microcosm of London wrote that St James’s Park:
… was very much improved by Charles II who added to it several fields, planted it with rows of lime trees, laid out the Mall (which is a vista nearly half a mile in length), and formed the canal, which is 100 feet broad and 2,800 feet long.6
The Picture of London for 1810 said:
In time of frost, the Canal in St James's park, and the Serpentine River in Hyde-park, are covered with skaiters; here a stranger will find much amusement.7
The duck decoy and Duck Island

According to the Royal Parks website, there have been pelicans living in St James’s Park since the time of Charles II, who was given some pelicans as a gift from the Russian Ambassador.

The pelicans in St James's Park
The pelicans in St James's Park
Old and New London wrote:
Close by, at the west end of the water, which was in those days straight, and generally known as the ‘Canal’, was a small decoy and an island, called ‘Duck Island’.
The ‘decoy’ … consisted of five or six straight pieces of water all running parallel to each other and to the canal itself, with which they communicated by narrow openings.8
By 1790, Charles II’s Duck Island had disappeared.

Birdcage Walk

Old and New London wrote:
The birds, which were among the most innocent toys and amusements of the ‘merry monarch’, were kept in aviaries ranged in order along the road which bounds the south side of the Park, and extends to Buckingham Palace, and which is still known by the significative name of ‘Birdcage Walk’.9
Rosamond’s Pond
In the south-west corner, near Birdcage Walk, and opposite to James Street and Buckingham Gate, was formerly a small sheet of water, known as ‘Rosamond's Pond’, to which reference is constantly made in the comedies of the time as a place of assignation for married ladies with fashionable roués … It was filled up in 1770, soon after the purchase of Buckingham House.10
Rosamond's Pond, St James's Park, in 1758  from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Rosamond's Pond, St James's Park, in 1758
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Horse Guards Parade

The Horse Guards was built at the eastern extremity of St James’s Park. The Microcosm of London wrote:
The building of the Horse Guards began in the year 1751, and was very expeditiously completed. It is certainly a neat and compact piece of architecture, and appears to the greatest advantage when viewed at a distance, from the park.
The noble edifice of the Horse Guards stands upon part of the site of the vast palace of Whitehall, occupying that spot which was formerly the Tilt-yard; a place set apart by Henry VIII and afterwards by Elizabeth, for military exercises.
In the center is an arched way into St James's Park, the building over which has a pediment, with the king's arms in bass-relief.
That part of St James's Park immediately behind the building, is the parade, and is so called from being the place where the reliefs for the different guards about the palace are every morning paraded and inspected.11
Crosby wrote in A View of London (1802-3) that in April and May:
Every morning, about ten o’clock, a pleasing military spectacle is to be seen in the parade, in the rear of the Horse Guards, St James’s Park, in the change of the guard. A detachment proceeds from thence, in military pomp, to the square of St James’s Palace, where the guard is changed, and a stranger will be entertained with a charming concert of martial music.12
Mounting guard, St James's Park  from The Microcosm of London by R Ackermann and W Combe (1808-10)
Mounting guard, St James's Park from The Microcosm of London 
 by R Ackermann and W Combe (1808-10)
The Picture of London for 1810 wrote:
On the north side of the parade is placed a Turkish piece of Ordnance of uncommon length, which was brought from Alexandria in Egypt, by the British army. It is mounted on a carriage of English construction, and is ornamented with several appropriate Egyptian devices, executed with great taste.13
During the Gordon Riots of 1780, the park was used as a military base:
The park, in 1780, was occupied as a camp by several regiments of militia, during the alarm and panic caused by the Gordon riots.14
In 1852, the extensive funeral procession for the Duke of Wellington formed on Horse Guards Parade:
Upon the Parade was marshalled the state funeral procession of the great Duke of Wellington, on the 18th of November, 1852. The body was removed from Chelsea Hospital on the previous midnight, and deposited in the audience-chamber at the Horse Guards. Beneath a tent erected on the parade-ground was stationed the funeral car, whereon the coffin being placed, and the command given, the cortége, in a slow and solemn manner, moved down the Mall, past Buckingham Palace, whence the procession was seen by Her Majesty and the Royal Family, before it made its way to St Paul's.15
Wellington's funeral coach, Stratfield Saye
Wellington's funeral coach, Stratfield Saye
St James’s Park in the Regency

The Picture of London for 1813 wrote:
The whole of the northern side of St James’s Park, and the western extremity, are very pleasing to the eye; it is of an oblong form, and nearly two miles in circuit. The eastern extremity is occupied by the Horse-guards, the Treasury, and other edifices, that do not produce an ill effect. But the south side, in which is the Bird-cage Walk, is deplorable in its appearance. There is a species of barracks in that quarter, and a general air of misery and meanness, that should be removed, or obscured by planting. One nuisance disgraces the queen’s palace; it is the small guard-room, lately erected on the south side of the house, near Buckingham-gate.16
Queen's Palace  from The Microcosm of London by R Ackermann and W Combe (1808-10)
Queen's Palace from The Microcosm of London
by R Ackermann and W Combe (1808-10)
Phillips wrote in Modern London (1804):
In summer, the avenues on the northern side of St James’s park form a favourite promenade for the inhabitants of the metropolis; which, in fine weather, on Sundays in the afternoon and evening, is always extremely crowded with well-dressed company. But, though a favourite, this is not a very fashionable walk, people of rank preferring Kensington gardens and the Green-park.17
Promenade in St James's Park  from Modern London by R Phillips (1804)
Promenade in St James's Park
from Modern London by R Phillips (1804)
The 1814 peace celebrations

On 1 August 1814, there were huge celebrations in London to celebrate 100 years of the Hanoverian Succession and peace (albeit temporary) with France. A grand Chinese bridge was built across the canal in St James’s Park, topped with a magnificent pagoda, covered with fireworks for a grand firework display. Old and New London wrote that:
… an official programme was issued, in which the public were informed that a beautiful Chinese bridge had been thrown over the canal, upon the centre of which had been constructed an elegant and lofty pagoda, consisting of seven pyramidal storeys. ‘The pagoda to be illuminated with gas lights; and brilliant fireworks, both fixed and missile, to be displayed from every division of the lofty Chinese structure.’18
Unfortunately, the pagoda caught fire and was destroyed, but the Chinese bridge survived until 1825. According to Orme's An Historical Memento:
At length, about midnight, while the last discharges of artillery were firing, and many hundreds of persons were leaving the Parks, their attention was arrested by a lamentable accident. The pagoda exhibited an appearance that excited much doubt. Its upper towers seemed enveloped in flame; and it was soon learned, that it had actually caught fire by some accident in the management of the machinery. The fire increased rapidly. Several engines were procured, and played upon it; but it continued burning, till, in a short time, the five upper towers were destroyed, or fell over the eastern side of the bridge: the lower ones were in a state little better, and some part of the substructure was much deteriorated. There was a kind of awful magnificence during the progress of the flames, that exceeded the former appearance of the edifice; but, at last, it presented only the melancholy remains of temporary splendour.19

Chinese Bridge, St James's Park, in 1814  from An Historical Memento by E Orme (1814)
Chinese Bridge and Pagoda, St James's Park, in 1814
from An Historical Memento by E Orme (1814)
Chinese Bridge and Pagoda illuminated, St James's Park,   on 1 August 1814 from An Historical Memento by E Orme (1814)
Chinese Bridge and Pagoda illuminated, St James's Park,
on 1 August 1814 from An Historical Memento by E Orme (1814)
George IV’s park improvements

During the 1820s, George IV commissioned John Nash to remodel St James’s Park. Nash transformed the canal into a more natural looking lake, created a processional route down the Mall, and built a huge marble arch at the entrance to Buckingham Palace. Old and New London wrote:
The most beautiful parts of St James's Park are the walks beside the Ornamental Water, which is still called ‘the canal’, in memory of its former unsightly shape. The water is alive with waterfowl, for whose comfort and protection a quiet and secluded island, with the Swiss cottage of the Ornithological Society, is reserved, at the southeastern extremity, nearly on the site of the old ‘decoy’.20
According to Old and New London, the ‘Swiss cottage’ was erected in 1841. The Marble Arch was moved to the intersection of Oxford Street and Park Lane in 1851.

Buckingham Palace and St James's Park  from Illustrated London by WI Bicknell (1847)
Buckingham Palace and St James's Park
from Illustrated London by WI Bicknell (1847)
St James’s Park today

St James’s Park is open to the public every day, from 5 am to midnight.

St James's Park today
St James's Park today
Notes
(1) Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810).
(2) Ibid.
(3) Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878, London) Vol 5.
(4) Ibid.
(5) Ibid.
(6) Ackermann, Rudolph and Pyne, William Henry, The Microcosm of London or London in miniature Volume 2 (Rudolph Ackermann 1808-1810, reprinted 1904).
(7) Feltham op cit.
(8) Walford op cit.
(9) Walford op cit.
(10) Walford op cit.
(11) Ackermann and Pyne op cit.
(12) Crosby, B, A View of London; or the Stranger's Guide through the British Metropolis (Printed for B Crosby, London, 1803-4).
(13) Feltham op cit.
(14) Walford op cit.
(15) Walford op cit.
(16) Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1813 (1813).
(17) Phillips, Richard, Modern London; being the history and present state of the British Metropolis (1804).
(18) Walford op cit.
(19) Orme, Edward (ed), An Historical Memento (1814).
(20) Walford op cit.

Sources used include:
Ackermann, Rudolph and Pyne, William Henry, The Microcosm of London or London in miniature Volume 2 (Rudolph Ackermann 1808-1810, reprinted 1904)
Bicknell, WI, Illustrated London, or, a series of views in the British metropolis and its vicinity engraved by Albert Henry Payne, from original drawings volume 1 (1847)
Crosby, B, A View of London; or the Stranger's Guide through the British Metropolis (Printed for B Crosby, London, 1803-4)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1813 (1813)
Larwood, Jacob, The story of the London parks (1874)
Orme, Edward (ed), An Historical Memento representing the different scenes of public rejoicing, which took place the first of August, in St James's and Hyde Parks, London, in celebration of the Glorious Peace of 1814, and of the Centenary of the Accession of the Illustrious House of Brunswick (1814)
Phillips, Richard, Modern London; being the history and present state of the British Metropolis (1804)
Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878, London) Vol 5

Photos © regencyhistory.net

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Kensington Gardens in Regency London

View of Kensington Palace from Kensington Gardens
View of Kensington Palace from Kensington Gardens
The history of Kensington Gardens

Kensington Gardens were originally part of Hyde Park. They were created when, in 1689, William and Mary bought Nottingham House and made it their London residence, renaming it Kensington Palace. The palace gardens were formed out of the western edge of Hyde Park and consisted of a mere 26 acres which Mary planted with formal flower beds and ‘closely-cropped yews, and prim holly hedges’.1

Queen Anne enlarged the gardens by another 30 acres and created an English garden. She also added the orangery and built a hermitage in the gardens.

Map of Kensington Gardens in 1764  from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Map of Kensington Gardens in 1764
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
In 1728, Queen Caroline, wife of George II, took another 200 acres out of Hyde Park to further enlarge Kensington Gardens. She employed Charles Bridgeman to redesign the gardens. He dug the Round Pond in front of Kensington Palace and dammed the River Westbourne to create the Serpentine, which spanned both Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. The part of the Serpentine in Kensington Gardens became known as the Long Water.

The round pond, Kensington Gardens  from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
The round pond, Kensington Gardens
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
 Queen Caroline’s Temple was built in the gardens, not far from the Long Water.

Queen Caroline's Temple, Kensington Gardens
Queen Caroline's Temple, Kensington Gardens
Kensington Gardens were separated from Hyde Park by a long ditch, known as a ha-ha, which divided the two parks without interrupting the view of the landscape with a high wall or fence. Ha-has were widely copied around the country. 

According to Old and New London, ‘the principal embellishments were entrusted to Mr Kent, and subsequently carried out by a gentleman well known by the familiar appellation of "Capability" Brown.’2

Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens  from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
In his Views in Kensington Gardens (1831), John Sargeant wrote:
These grounds appear to have been a favourite resort of the high-born and fair, as far back as the reign of George II. though they were then only open to the public on Saturdays, when the court was at Richmond.3
Queen Caroline’s gardens were opened to the public on Saturdays when the king and his court were at Richmond, but presumably only those of the highest classes of society came, as visitors were required to wear full dress.

Flower walks, Kensington Gardens  from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Flower walks, Kensington Gardens
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Kensington Gardens in the reign of George III

An article in the Monthly Register for September 1802 remarked:
All the views from the south and east facades of the edifice suffer from the absurdity of the early inspectors of these grounds. The three vistas opening from the latter, without a single wave in the outline, without a clump or a few insulated trees to soften the glare of the champagne, or diminish the oppressive weight of the incumbent grove, are among the greatest deformities. The most exquisite view in the Gardens is near the north-east angle; at the ingress of the Serpentine river, which takes an easy wind towards the park, and is ornamented on either side by sloping banks, with scenery of a different character. To the left the wood presses boldly on the water, whose polished bosom seems timidly to recede from the dark intruder; to the right, a few truant foresters interrupt the uniformity of the parent grove, which rises at some distance on the more elevated part of the shore; and through the boles of the trees are discovered minute tracts of landscape, in which the eye of taste can observe sufficient variety of light and shade of vegetable and animal life to gratify the imagination, and disappoint the torpor, which the more sombre scenery to the east is accustomed to invite.4
Kensington Gardens  from Views in Kensington Gardens by J Sargeant (1831)
Kensington Gardens
from Views in Kensington Gardens by J Sargeant (1831)
The Picture of London for 1810 stated:
These gardens join the western extremity of Hyde Park, to which they give a very fine effect; as the park on that side appears, from the noble foliage of the gardens, to terminate in an extensive wood. The disposition of the grounds, though far from the present refinement in gardening, abounds too much with strait walks and lines, yet it possesses great beauty and grandeur. These gardens were improved by the celebrated Brown.
Near the palace, within the pleasure-grounds, is a very noble green-house, and adjoining are excellent kitchen and fruit gardens.5
Kensington Palace from Kensington Gardens  from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Kensington Palace from Kensington Gardens
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
In his Views in Kensington Gardens (1831), John Sargeant wrote:
Few spots have attained so universal, and deserved a reputation as these delightful grounds. Their convenient situation, immediately on the western border of the metropolis, united to the beauty and sequestered nature of the scenery, have made them the favourite promenade, and resort, during favourable weather, of the high born and fair, as well as the more humble classes of our ‘modern Babylon’. Thus, affording so pleasing, and healthful a source of recreation to the inhabitants of a great capital, we can scarcely regret that the palace has so long been abandoned by the court.6
The fashionable promenade

Kensington Gardens  from Views in Kensington Gardens by J Sargeant (1831)
Kensington Gardens
from Views in Kensington Gardens by J Sargeant (1831)
Kensington Gardens were a very fashionable place to walk, especially on Sunday afternoons, between two and five o’clock. Many people followed a path across Hyde Park from Hyde Park Corner to reach Kensington Gardens, and at times, this path became extremely crowded. The Picture of London for 1813 wrote:
A noble walk, stretching from north to south, in Kensington Gardens, at the eastern boundary, with its gay company, completes this interesting scene. Numbers of people of fashion, mingled with a great multitude of well-dressed persons of various ranks, crowd the walk for many ours together.7
Kensington Gardens  from Views in Kensington Gardens by J Sargeant (1831)
Kensington Gardens
from Views in Kensington Gardens by J Sargeant (1831)
In his Historical and Literary Tour of a Foreigner in England and Scotland (1825), Amédée Pichot wrote:
At Kensington-gardens you are obliged to leave your horse or carriage standing at the gate. Walking through its shady alleys I observed with pleasure that the fashionable ladies pay, in regard to dress, a just tribute to our fair countrywomen. Judging from the costumes of the ladies, you might sometimes fancy yourself walking under the chestnut trees of the Tuileries.8
The Picture of London for 1813 stated:
Kensington Gardens are open to the public, only from spring till autumn; and from eight in the morning till eight at night. There are four gates belonging to these gardens: two that open into Hyde Park; one opening into the Uxbridge-road; and another opening into a road belonging to the king, and leading from the palace into Kensington. The last of these gates, called the Avenue-gate, is open till nine at night. No servant in livery, nor women with pattens, nor persons carrying bundles, are admitted into the gardens. Dogs are excluded.9
Kensington Palace from the fashionable walk in Kensington Gardens  from Views in Kensington Gardens by J Sargeant (1831)
Kensington Palace from the fashionable walk in Kensington Gardens
from Views in Kensington Gardens by J Sargeant (1831)
Jane Austen in Kensington Gardens

In a letter to her sister Cassandra dated 25 April 1811, Jane Austen wrote:
I had a pleasant walk in Kensington Gardens on Sunday with Henry, Mr Smith, and Mr Tilson; everything was fresh and beautiful.10
Kensington Gardens  from Views in Kensington Gardens by J Sargeant (1831)
Kensington Gardens from  
Views in Kensington Gardens by J Sargeant (1831)
A warning

The Picture of London for 1810 stated:
It is necessary to apprize strangers, that it is not always safe to be in Hyde Park, or Kensington Gardens, after dark. These places being so extensive, opportunities of robbery, or ill-usage, are easily given; and it is impossible to shut out public robbers, or other ill-disposed persons.11
Kensington Gardens today

When Queen Victoria established her court at Buckingham Palace, Kensington Gardens went out of fashion. The ha-ha was largely filled in and Kensington Gardens were separated from Hyde Park by the West Carriage Drive instead.

Statue of Queen Victoria in Kensington Gardens
Statue of Queen Victoria in Kensington Gardens
The gardens now contains several statues and memorials including:
• A statue of Queen Victoria, sculpted by her daughter Princess Louise, which was erected outside Kensington Palace to celebrate her golden jubilee.
• The Albert Memorial, in remembrance of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband.
• Peter Pan.
• Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Playground.

Kensington Gardens are open to the public throughout the year, from 6 am to dusk. More information on the Royal Parks website.

View of Kensington Palace from Kensington Gardens
View of Kensington Palace from Kensington Gardens
Notes
(1) Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1873, London) Vol 5.
(2) Ibid.
(3) Sargeant, John, Views in Kensington Gardens (1831).
(4) Walford op cit.
(5) Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810).
(6) Sargeant op cit.
(7) Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1813 (1813).
(8) Pichot, Amédée, Historical and Literary Tour of a Foreigner in England and Scotland (1825) Vol 1
(9) Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1813 (1813).
(10) Austen, Jane, The Letters of Jane Austen selected from the compilation of her great nephew, Edward, Lord Bradbourne ed Sarah Woolsey (1892).
(11) Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810).

Sources
Austen, Jane, The Letters of Jane Austen selected from the compilation of her great nephew, Edward, Lord Bradbourne ed Sarah Woolsey (1892)
Crosby, B, A View of London; or the Stranger's Guide through the British Metropolis (Printed for B Crosby, London, 1803-4)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1813 (1813)
Phillips, Richard, Modern London; being the history and present state of the British Metropolis (1804)
Pichot, Amédée, Historical and Literary Tour of a Foreigner in England and Scotland (1825) Vol 1
Sargeant, John, Views in Kensington Gardens (1831)
Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1873, London) Vol 5

Photos © regencyhistory.net

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Hyde Park in Regency London

The Entrance to Hyde Park on Sunday from Modern London by R Phillips (1804)
Hyde Park on Sunday from Modern London by R Phillips (1804)
The Park

Old and New London described Hyde Park as:
… that most famous of recreation-grounds, and chief of the ‘lungs of London’, which all the world, to this day, persists in calling ‘the Park’, as if we had no other park in our metropolis—no doubt because, in the Stuart times, and even later, it was the only park really open to the people at large.1
Hyde Park Corner in 1750 from Mr Crace's Collection  from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Hyde Park Corner in 1750 from Mr Crace's Collection
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Jane Austen referred to the Park in a letter to her sister Cassandra written in 1814:
Fanny and I went into the Park yesterday & drove about & were very much entertained.2
A showman on Hyde Park corner  from Modern London by R Phillips (1804)
A showman on Hyde Park corner
from Modern London by R Phillips (1804)
The history of Hyde Park

According to Crosby in A View of London (1803-4), Hyde Park was:
… a royal demesne, containing about 395 acres. It is situated at the western extremity of the metropolis, having the road to Oxford on the north, and the road to Hounslow on the south.3
The land on which Hyde Park lies originally belonged to Westminster Abbey and was acquired by Henry VIII at the time of the Reformation. He enclosed the land and stocked it with deer to form a private hunting ground. 

Charles I first opened the park to the public in 1637. He created the Ring where members of the royal court could drive their carriages. During the English Civil War, it was sold off in lots, but the crown reacquired the land after the Restoration. The park was reforested and restocked with deer and enclosed with a brick wall. 

During the Great Plague of 1665, large numbers of poor people who could not escape the city camped out in Hyde Park in an effort to avoid catching the disease.

In 1689, William and Mary bought Kensington Palace, on the western edge of Hyde Park, and made it their London residence. The king created a direct route through Hyde Park to his new palace and lit it with 300 oil lamps. This was known as the King’s Road, and was the first artificially lit roadway in England.
Map of Hyde Park from The Story of the London Parks by J Larwood (1874)
Map of Hyde Park from The Story of the London Parks by J Larwood (1874)
The creation of the Serpentine

During the reign of George II, Hyde Park changed dramatically. Some 200 acres were added to Kensington Gardens and Queen Caroline employed Charles Bridgeman to help redesign the parks. Bridgeman dammed the Westbourne River to form the Serpentine.

The Picture of London for 1813 wrote:
This park is a spot of great natural beauty, heightened by a fine piece of water, called the Serpentine River, formed into a wide canal in 1730, by enlarging the bed of a stream flowing through the park, which, taking its rise at Hampstead, falls into the Thames at Ranelagh.4
The Serpentine, Hyde Park
The Serpentine, Hyde Park
Hyde Park in the Regency

According to The Picture of London for 1813:
Hyde Park is open every day in the year, from six in the morning till nine at night, to all persons. No horseman is excluded; nor any carriage, but hackney-coaches or stage-coaches. There are five gates opening into Hyde Park, the principal of which are, Cumberland-gate, at the western end of Oxford-street; Grosvenor-gate, in Park-lane; the gate at the western extremity of Piccadilly, called Hyde Park Corner; and the gate near the entrance of the village of Kensington.5
Entrance to Grosvenor Street from Hyde Park c1780  from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Entrance to Grosvenor Street from Hyde Park c1780
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
The north-west enclosure

The most beautiful part of the park was judged to be the north-west enclosure. The Picture of London for 1810 wrote:
An inclosure of this park, on the north-west corner is extremely beautiful. This spot is surrounded on three sides, by the park wall, Kensington Gardens and the Serpentine River; and on the remaining side it is divided from the main body of the park, by a fence, to exclude horsemen and carriages. In summer it is stocked with cows and deer. Its verdure seldom fails, and the beauty of its features appears to be greatly enhanced by the small gardens of the keeper’s lodge with which it is skirted on the side of the park, and the noble grounds of Kensington Gardens on the opposite side. Beneath a row of trees, running parallel with the keeper’s garden, are two springs, greatly resorted to; one is a mineral water, and is drunk; the other is used to bathe weak eyes with. At the former in fine weather, sits a woman with a table and chairs, and glasses for the accommodation of visitors. People of fashion often go in their carriages to the entrance of this inclosure, which is more than 100 yards from the first spring, and send their servants with jugs for the water, and sometimes send their children to drink at the spring. The brim of the further spring is frequently surrounded with persons, chiefly of the lower order, bathing their eyes. The water is constantly clear, from the vast quantity the spring casts up, and is continually running off by an outlet from a small square reservoir.
A foot-path runs across this inclosure, from the park to Kensington-gardens.
It is to be observed that no dogs should be taken into the inclosure, in Hyde Park, at the north-west side, which we have already particularly described, and in which deer and cows are kept at certain seasons.6
A group of old trees in Hyde Park  from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
A group of old trees in Hyde Park
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
The fashionable promenade

Hyde Park Corner in 1822 by Cruickshank  from The story of the London Parks by J Larwood (1874)
Hyde Park Corner in 1822 by Cruickshank
from The story of the London Parks by J Larwood (1874)
The Picture of London for 1813 wrote:
One of the most delightful scenes belonging to this great metropolis, and that which most displays its opulence and splendours is formed by the company in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens in fine weather, chiefly on Sundays, from February till June.
Spacious gravel roads, within the park, are, on a fine Sunday, covered with horsemen and carriages, from two till five o'clock in the afternoon. A broad foot-path, that runs from Hyde Park Corner to Kensington Gardens, is frequently so crowded during the same hours, with well-dressed people passing to, or returning from the gardens, that it is difficult to proceed. A noble walk, stretching from north and south, in Kensington Gardens, at the eastern boundary, with its gay company, completes this interesting scene. Numbers of people of fashion, mingled with a great multitude of well-dressed persons of various ranks, crowd the walk for many hours together. Before the stranger enters Kensington Gardens, we recommend him to pause on some spot in Hyde Park, from which his eye can command the entire picture of carriages, horsemen, and foot passengers, in the park, all eager to push forward in various directions, and on the more composed scene of the company sauntering in the gardens. Such a spot will present itself to the attentive observer more than once as he walks through the park; but, perhaps, the best situation for this purpose, is the broad walk at the foot of the bason, as it may be called, of the river, where it falls into a narrower channel.
It has been computed, that 50,000 people have been seen taking the air, at one time, in Hyde Park and the Gardens. Nor is this a modern practice, for this spot has been equally resorted to for two hundred years past.7
Kensington Palace from the East Side of the Basin  from Views in Kensington Gardens by J Sargeant (1831)
Kensington Palace from the East Side of the Basin
from Views in Kensington Gardens by J Sargeant (1831)
Rotten Row

The King’s Old Road or Lamp Road became known as Rotten Row, most probably from a corruption of the French for King’s Road – ‘Route de Roi’. An alternative derivation has been suggested by John Timbs who believed that ‘the name Rotten is traced to rotteran, to muster; a military origin which may refer to the Park during the Civil War.’8

Rotten Row was a fashionable place to ride your horse in London. In the prologue to his play Pizarro (1799), Richard Brinsley Sheridan wrote:
Hors’d in Cheapside, scarce yet the gayer spark
Achieves the Sunday triumph of the Park;
Scarce yet you see him, dreading to be late,
Scour the New Road, and dash thro’ Grosvenor-gate:-
Anxious – yet timorous too! – his steed to show,
The hack Bucephalus of Rotten-row.9
The Cake-house and other buildings

The keeper’s lodge, sometimes called the cake-house, was built around 1637, on the north side of the Serpentine. Here, it was possible to buy refreshments such as milk, syllabub and cheese cakes. The lodge was demolished in 1826.

The Cake House, Hyde Park  from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
The Cake House, Hyde Park
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
According to The Picture of London for 1810, ‘the keeper’s lodge and gardens … offer a picturesque and pleasing scene, especially from the other side.’10

It was not, however, so complimentary about a nearby powder magazine, built in 1805:
Not far from the lodge are a powder magazine and a guard-room, both of brick, the sight of which, if they must be there for the sake of any convenience, ought to be obscured by planting.11
Built in 1768, the Duke of Gloucester’s Riding House was the headquarters of the Westminster Volunteer Cavalry during the Napoleonic wars. It was demolished in 1820.

Military reviews

Hyde Park was often used for military reviews. In its list of amusements for the month of March, The Picture of London for 1813 wrote:
Towards the end of this month, and during most of the spring and summer, are to be seen reviews, and other military spectacles, in Hyde Park, generally two or three mornings in the week. Notice of these may be had at the offices of the Commander-in-Chief, or of the Adjutant-general, at the Horse-guards, Whitehall.12
Visitors were warned, however, that such events did not altogether benefit the park:
Hyde Park is used for the field-days of the horse and foot guards, and other troops, and for some partial reviews; which, however, is not mentioned as an advantage to the beauty of the place, as these exercises destroy the verdure of the park, converting a large portion of it from the refreshing sward, to a beaten and dusty parade.13
A dangerous place

Guidebooks warned visitors that they could not rely on Hyde Park being safe after dark. Horace Walpole wrote of his experience:
One night in the beginning of November, 1749, as I was returning from Holland House by moonlight, about ten at night, I was attacked by two highwaymen in Hyde Park, and the pistol of one of them going off accidentally, razed the skin under my eye, left some marks of shot on my face, and stunned me. The ball went through the top of the chariot, and if I had sat an inch nearer to the left side, must have gone through my head.14
A popular duelling ground

During the 18th century, Hyde Park was one of the most popular venues for settling affairs of honour.
The Park was notorious as a place where footpads prowled, and where duels took place without much danger of observation or interference.15
Probably the most notorious duel was fought on 15 November 1712 between Charles, 4th Baron Mohun, and James, 4th Duke of Hamilton, in which both men were killed. The two seconds, General Macartney and Colonel Hamilton, also fought each other, and Hamilton later accused Macartney of killing the Duke.
Duel between Lord Mohun and the Duke of Hamilton  from The Chronicles of Crime by C Pelham (1841)
Duel between Lord Mohun and the Duke of Hamilton
from The Chronicles of Crime by C Pelham (1841)
On 22 March 1780, the future Prime Minister William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, fought a duel with fellow politician Colonel Fullarton in Hyde Park, in which Lord Shelburne was injured by Fullarton’s second shot.

The Serpentine

The Serpentine drew people from all classes of society, all year round. In summer, people came to bathe; in winter, when the Serpentine often froze, they came to skate. According to Old and New London:
Early in the morning in the summer months the Serpentine is much frequented by bathers; and 12,000 have been known to indulge in the luxury of a bath in one summer day.16
The Picture of London for 1810 wrote:
In severe winters, when the Serpentine River is frozen over, the ice is almost covered with people. In one winter there were counted more than 6,000 people at one time on the ice. A number of booths were pitched for the refreshment of the populace; and here and there was a group of six, eight, or more, fashionable young men, skating, and describing difficult figures, in the manner of a country dance, with peculiar neatness and facility of execution. In general, however, the English do not excel in this exhilarating and wholesome exercise.
From the number of accidents which happen annually on this river when frozen over, his majesty gave the Humane Society a spot of ground on its banks, on which they have erected a most convenient receiving-house for the recovery of persons apparently drowned; it cost upwards of 500l. and is worthy the inspection of the curious. The society, during the time of frost, keep men on the river to guard the unwary from danger, and to relieve those who may require their aid.17
Crosby wrote that the Humane Society
… was established in 1774; and since this period, nearly 3000 persons, apparently dead, have been restored to life. It extends its benefits to apparent death by drowning, suffocation, &c. The receiving-house, in Hyde-park, is fitted up with an apparatus for employing every possible means to restore life; and the success of the London Humane Society has given rise to similar institutions in every quarter of the globe.18
Boat house of the Royal Humne Society from  The story of the London Parks by J Larwood (1874)
Boat house of the Royal Humne Society from
The story of the London Parks by J Larwood (1874)
Sadly, the Serpentine also attracted a number of suicides, including that of Percy Shelley’s first wife, Harriet Westbrook, whose body was found in the Serpentine on 10 December 1816.

Celebrations in the park

On 1 August 1814, Hyde Park took part in the celebrations of:
… a Grand National Jubilee, being the Centenary of the Accession of the illustrious Family of Brunswick to the Throne of this Kingdom, and the Anniversary of the Battle of the Nile.19
The grand fair in Hyde Park in 1814  from An Historical Memento by E Orme (1814)
The grand fair in Hyde Park in 1814
from An Historical Memento by E Orme (1814)
A mock naval battle was staged on the Serpentine depicting the British defeat of the French, which ended with the French fleet being set on fire. This was followed by a firework display and ‘water rockets’, and there was a grand fair which lasted all week.

The Fleet on the Serpentine River on 1 August 1814  from An Historical Memento by E Orme (1814)
The Fleet on the Serpentine River on 1 August 1814
from An Historical Memento by E Orme (1814)
On the coronation of George IV on 19 July 1821, there was a regatta and boat race on the Serpentine followed by illuminations by coloured lamps and Chinese lanterns and a grand firework display.

George IV’s alterations to the park

George IV made significant changes to Hyde Park. He employed Decimus Burton to erect an elaborate entrance at Hyde Park Corner which comprised the Wellington Arch and the Triumphal Screen. The screen remains, but the arch was moved to the middle of the roundabout in the 1880s.

Screen, Hyde Park Corner  from National history and views of London by ed by CF Partington (1837)
Screen, Hyde Park Corner from
National history and views of London by ed by CF Partington (1837)
The brick wall around the park was replaced with iron railings. John Rennie built a stone bridge with five arches across the Serpentine, and the West Carriage Drive which passed over it became the new boundary separating Hyde Park from Kensington Gardens.

Bridge over the Serpentine  from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Bridge over the Serpentine
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
The Achilles Statue

In 1822, Sir Richard Westmacott created a huge statue of Achilles, 18 feet tall, in honour of the Duke of Wellington. It was erected near Hyde Park Corner and caused a sensation when it was unveiled on 18 June 1822:
This colossal statue, which is erected in Hyde Park, as a monument to the Duke of Wellington, represents Achilles raising his shield. The illusion is somewhat forced. The ladies who subscribed for the monument affirm that the artist did not consult them respecting this allegorical statue; and that it was completed before the subscription was set on foot. A great outcry has been raised against the undraped figure of Achilles.20
Statue of Achilles, Hyde Park  from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Statue of Achilles, Hyde Park
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Hyde Park today

Hyde Park has not altered much since Decimus Burton gave it a makeover in the 1820s. In 1851, the Crystal Palace was built in Hyde Park to house the Great Exhibition, but the change was only temporary. A few years later, the palace was rebuilt in Sydenham, where it met its untimely end in a devastating fire in 1936.

One of the most famous sites in Hyde Park is Speakers’ Corner, where people have been allowed to speak freely on any subject since 1872.

A number of statues and memorials have been added including the Queen Elizabeth Gate in honour of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in 1993, and the Diana Memorial Fountain, in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 2004.

Hyde Park is open to the public every day from 5 am until midnight. More information on The Royal Parks website.

View across the Serpentine, Hyde Park
View across the Serpentine, Hyde Park
Notes
(1) Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878, London) Vol 5.
(2) Austen, Jane, Jane Austen's Letters, Collected and Edited by Le Faye, Deirdre (Oxford University Press, 1995).
(3) Crosby, B, A View of London; or the Stranger's Guide through the British Metropolis (Printed for B Crosby, London, 1803-4).
(4) Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1813 (1813).
(5) Ibid.
(6) Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810).
(7) Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1813 (1813).
(8) Walford op cit.
(9) Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, Pizarro (1799).
(10) Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810).
(11) Ibid.
(12) Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1813 (1813).
(13) Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810).
(14) Walpole, Horace, Letters of Horace Walpole to Sir Horace Mann in 4 volumes (1844) vol 4.
(15) Steinmetz, Andrew, The Romance of Duelling in All Times and Countries (1868).
(16) Walford op cit.
(17) Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810).
(18) Crosby op cit.
(19) Orme, Edward (ed), An Historical Memento (1814).
(20) Pichot, Amédée, Historical and Literary Tour of a Foreigner in England and Scotland (1825) Vol 1.

Sources used include:
Austen, Jane, Jane Austen's Letters, Collected and Edited by Le Faye, Deirdre (Oxford University Press, 1995)
Crosby, B, A View of London; or the Stranger's Guide through the British Metropolis (Printed for B Crosby, London, 1803-4)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1813 (1813)
Larwood, Jacob, The story of the London parks (1874)
Orme, Edward (ed), An Historical Memento representing the different scenes of public rejoicing, which took place the first of August, in St James's and Hyde Parks, London, in celebration of the Glorious Peace of 1814, and of the Centenary of the Accession of the Illustrious House of Brunswick (1814)
Partington, Charles Frederick (ed), National history and views of London and its environs, from original drawings by eminent artists (1837)
Pelham, Camden, The Chronicles of Crime or The New Newgate Calendar embellished with fifty-two engravings from original drawings by 'Phiz' (1841)
Phillips, Richard, Modern London; being the history and present state of the British Metropolis (1804)
Pichot, Amédée, Historical and Literary Tour of a Foreigner in England and Scotland (1825) Vol 1
Sargeant, John, Views in Kensington Gardens (1831)
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, Pizarro (1799)
Steinmetz, Andrew, The Romance of Duelling in All Times and Countries (1868)
Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878, London) Vol 5
Walpole, Horace, Letters of Horace Walpole to Sir Horace Mann in 4 volumes (1844) vol 4


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