Sunday, April 16, 2017

London's Hyde Park 1728

Since before the Norman invasion, the area which became Hyde Park was part of the Manor of Eia belonging to monks from Westminster Abbey. There were meadows dotted with trees, home to deer, boar, & wild bulls. The Westbourne Stream crossed the area on its way between Hampstead & the Thames.
1833 Map of Hyde Park.   In 1536, Henry the VIII (1491-1547) acquired the land for this park, the manor of Hyde from the clerics atWestminster Abbey by exchanging it for the Priory of Hurley in Berkshire. He sold some of the land but turned the rest into a vast hunting park that stretched from Kensington to Westminster. The monarch enclosed both Hyde Manor & St. James Park, which already belonged to the crown, with fence & began to stock it with deer forming a hunting-park of roughly 1000 acres. James I (1566-1625) permitted limited public access to the Hyde Park hunting ground to gentlefolk, appointing a ranger to take charge. Charles I (1600-1649) opened the park to public use in 1637. He created a circular track called the Ring, where members of the royal court could drive their carriages.
Grosvenor St From Hyde Park 1780 (from Old and New London, published 1880)

There was no reigning monarch in England between the execution of Charles I in 1649 & the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. In 1653, the park was sold. After the Restoration, Charles II (1630-1685) reestablished the crown's ownership of the land & constructed a paddock or "deer harbour" in the Northwest corner. He also enclosed the park with a brick wall. St James was given to the public at this time. It immediately became a fashionable place to walk during the day as well as a home to vendors especially of fruit, maquilage, & other women's toiletries. The keepers lodge or cake-house dates from about 1637, when Charles I opened the park to the general public. Refreshments such as milk, sylabub, cheese cakes, March pane, mince-pies, & China oranges were served there, until the building was torn down in 1826.

When William (1650-1702) & Mary (1662-1694) became king & queen in 1689, they bought Nottingham House on the western edge of the park. They renamed it Kensington Palace making it their main home in London. To get from Kensington to Westminster, they created a processional route through Hyde Park lit by 300 oil lamps, 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.
Hyde Park on Sunday 1804 (from Old and New London, published 1880)

The first true landscaping was envisioned by Charles Bridgeman (1690–1738) for Queen Caroline (Caroline of Ansbach 1683-1737), wife of George II (1683-1760). In 1728, she took almost 300 acres from Hyde Park to form Kensington Gardens, & and she separated the 2 parks with a long ditch or ha-ha. Queen Caroline made a large lake called the Serpentine by damming the Westbourne Stream. At that time, artificial lakes were usually long & straight. The Serpentine was one of the 1st created lakes in England designed to look natural. She also enlarged the garden Queen Anne (1665-1714) had laid out during her brief reign. Caroline was widely mourned following her death in 1737, not only by the admiring public but also by the King, who refused to remarry.