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A Short Guide to Hyde Park

Hyde Park is one of London’s largest parks and covers over 350 acres, the park has been the location of a large number of events over the past 500 years and is closely associated with the British monarchy.

It was King Henry VIII who seized Hyde Park from the monks of Westminster Abbey in 1536 and turned the park into a large hunting park where he organised royal hunts to entertain ambassadors and dignitaries. This hunting tradition was continued with Queen Elizabeth I and the park changed little until 1625 when Charles l became king. He opened the park to the general public in 1637 and it became a fashionable place to visit. When Charles I was executed , parliamentary troops built forts in the park to defend the city of Westminster from royalist attacks.

After the restoration of the monarchy, King Charles II turned Hyde park into a royal park when he restocked the park with deer, however there were greater changes when William and Mary became king and queen in 1689. They bought Nottingham House and renamed it Kensington Palace and made it their main home in London.

It was William III who created a processional route through Hyde Park lit by 300 oil lamps and became the first road in England to be lit at night. The road was called route de roi or King’s Road but the name became corrupted to Rotten Row.

Other striking features in Hyde Park were developed in the 18th century by Queen Caroline. In 1728, she took 300 acres from Hyde Park to form Kensington Gardens, she then had made a large lake called the Serpentine by damming the Westbourne Stream. Over the next 100 years, the park was largely unchanged until King George IV in the 1820s decided to create a monumental entrance at Hyde Park Corner. It comprised the Triumphal Screen which you see today and the Wellington Arch, which was later moved to the middle of roundabout at Hyde Park Corner.

One of the remarkable structures in the 19th century was the Crystal Palace which was built-in 1851 alongside Rotten Row to house the Great Exhibition.

The park become a traditional location for mass demonstrations which have included the Chartists and the suffragettes, it is a tradition that continues up to the present day. Political debate is still keenly undertaken at Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner which has acquired an international reputation for its tolerance of free speech developed from 19th century protest movements.

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries Hyde Park has been the venue for Rock and Pop concerts including the Rolling Stones and Queen. It is the location of British Summer Time Hyde Park concerts since 2013 and the park is also the venue for the Proms in the Park concerts. Since 2007, Hyde Park has hosted “Winter Wonderland”, London’s premiere winter attraction featuring fun fair rides , markets, an ice rink, and bars, restaurants, and cafes.The park also presents a number of sporting events over the year including ITU World Triathlon and Cycling.

The park also offers various recreational activities including open water swimming, boating, cycling, tennis and horse riding. There are plenty of food and drink options with cafes and refreshment points that offer coffee, ice cream, snacks & freshly made sandwiches. They are available in various locations around Hyde Park including: Serpentine Road, the playground and Hyde Park Corner.

Walking around the park is a large number of sculptures and statues including the Memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales which was opened by Her Majesty The Queen in 2004.

For more information, visit the Royal Parks website here

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