London’s Royal Parks – Regent’s and Green
Having introduced the Royal Parks of west London in the first two parts of this article, running through Bushy, Richmond, Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, the third installment heads further into central London with Green Park, via Regent’s Park to the north.
Location: This larger city park is located within the boundaries of the City of Westminster and the borough of Camden. To the south and west it neighbours the exclusive residences of Marylebone and to the north and west the equally exclusive St John’s Wood. Continuing clockwise it is surrounded by the Primrose Hill and Regents Parks areas to the north and east with Camden and Somers Town beyond.
Character: The park consists of 410 acres of landscaped parkland which stretches up the slope of Primrose Hill on its northern edge, and is a diverse mixture of grassland, tree-lined avenues and formal gardens. The park below Primrose Hill is enclosed by an Outer Circle ring road whilst planted gardens to the south of the park are contained by an additional small Inner Circle road. The park is characterised by the presence of numerous impressive buildings/grounds, both new and old, between these circles. They include a few impressive Georgian villas dotted around its edges, particularly focused around the north western reaches of the park and the inner circle. Just beyond the Outer Circle to the north, the lower park is separated from the grassy slopes of Primrose hill by the Regent’s Canal which continues from the Grand Union Canal into the Thames. The south west corner of the park is dominated by a boating lake whilst the south eastern corner of the park contains further formal gardens split by an avenue, The Broadwalk, which stretches up in a straight line to the park’s northern edge.
Attractions: Perhaps the most famous attraction in Regent’s Park is London Zoo which sits entirely within the park, however the park is also noted for its Open Air Theatre which stages productions throughout the summer. For the more active, the park includes a tennis centre, a sports centre at The Hub, a boating lake and playgrounds. Primrose Hill is popular as a spot to take in the panoramic views of central London, but, visitors to the park below can also enjoy the planted formal gardens such as Queen Mary’s Rose Garden in the Inner Circle or the organic Wildlife Garden just outside. Although not open to the public, the park’s buildings include the US Ambassador’s Residence (with the second largest private garden in London) and Regent’s College (which includes a number of higher education colleges).
History: The park initially came into the ownership of the crown when Henry VIII dissolved the abbey at Barking which previously owned the land of Tyburn Manor, named after the eponymous river which flowed through from Hampstead to the Thames. As Marylebone Park, it was first a deer park and then leased farmland until the Prince Regent (later George IV) commissioned John Nash to re-designed the park and the surrounding area, down to St James’s, to form a neighbourhood of palaces and grand Georgian terraces fit for the Prince and his court. Some of the work was never completed but in 1811 the park was landscaped with the Regent’s Canal, the lake, avenues and villas. The terraces that were built around the park and down Regent’s Street towards central London spawned a Georgian building boom in the area creating the highly prized residences of Marylebone, Mayfair and St James’s which remain exclusive to this day.
Location: Green Park is situated on the western edges of central London, between Hyde Park and St James’s Park. It is separated from St James’s Park to the east by The Mall and from Hyde Park to the north west by the junction of Hyde Park Corner. To the south it borders the gardens of Buckingham Palace with Constitution Hill providing the boundary, whilst to the north are the exclusive residences of Mayfair by Piccadilly.
Character: Despite being the smallest of the Royal Parks at just 47 acres, it almost conjoins with St James’s Park and those to the west, including Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, to form a belt of green space which winds from Notting Hill all the way through to Charing Cross. In itself it mostly consists of trees and grassland and is the only park not to have any buildings or water features.
Attractions: Although it lacks much formal flower planting the park is renowned for an impressive Spring daffodil display. The park is first and foremost a green space however and so is best appreciated as a refuge from the hubbub of the surrounding city. It therefore has very few features with the Canada Memorial (to Canadian soldiers of the world wars) the only notable monument.
History: Along with St James’s Park, Green Park is the second of London’s green spaces to have a connection with the former St James’s leper hospital which lends it name to the surrounding area, acting as the burial ground for its patients. Charles II took possession of the lands in the late 17th century and enclosed the park as Upper St James’s Park. Subsequently it was another of the Royal Parks to receive the John Nash treatment in 1820 when he remodelled it alongside neighbouring St James’s park for George IV. Over the centuries it became popular as an outdoor entertainment space, which had a significant effect on the simplistic landscape of the park today. Although now bereft of any buildings the park had been home to a number of buildings including two temples both destroyed by firework displays.