Hoping you have a wonderful Easter break.
• Hampton Court Palace’s Tulip Festival – the largest of its kind in the UK – is returning following its successful inaugural year in 2021. From Friday until 2nd May (depending on flowering periods), the palace’s 60 acres of formal gardens are expected to be filled with rare, historic and specialist tulip varieties inspired by Queen Mary II’s famous 17th century collection which was once housed at the palace. Some 120,000 tulip bulbs of 60 different varieties have been planted, including breath-taking floating tulip vases located in the palace’s famous fountains, and floral displays which will fill the cobbled courtyards of Base Court and Clock Court. Visitors will be able to find out all about the links between the flower and the palace’s history with a dedicated Tulip Festival Guide. Included with admission. For more, head here.
• New exhibits marking the 40th anniversary of the Falklands Conflict have gone on show at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth. Among the new items on display are drawings by Linda Kitson, the first female artist commissioned by IWM to accompany troops into conflict, and images of the conflict – many of which have never been seen before – taken by photographer Paul RG Haley who covered it for Soldier Magazine. The museum is also exploring the story and legacy of the conflict through a digital programme of events including a series of short films and a new episode of the Conflict of Interest podcast featuring actor Katherine Parkinson. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.
• The Regent’s Park will soon boast a new 1.5 acre garden at its centre in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. The new garden, to be created on the site of a former plant nursery near the Inner Circle, will include design features that reflect the Queen’s “love of trees and nature”. The Royal Parks will be committing £1 million to the project and will seek external funding and public donations. Designs for the new park will be shared as they are developed. Meanwhile, The Royal Parks have also announced they will be creating a new wood in Richmond Park as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy Initiative. The new woodland, which will be located adjacent to Ham Cross, will be planted with 70 large trees, each one to mark a year of Her Majesty’s reign.
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A parakeet admires the cherry blossom in St James’s Park.
The Honourable Artillery Company fires a 62 gun salute at the Tower of London to mark the 70th Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne. The gun salute at the Tower was one of a number which took place across the UK on Monday – while the date of the Queen’s accession was the 6th February, gun salutes do not traditionally take place on a Sunday. The gun salutes are traditionally comprised of 21 rounds with a further 20 rounds fired at Royal Parks and palaces and a further 21 at the Tower to show the respect the City of London has for the Queen. Below, the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery can be seen firing 41 rounds in Green Park.
Amid controversy over plans for a new Holocaust memorial in London and the marking of Holocaust Memorial Day this week, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at where the oldest public memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in London, which actually isn’t that old, is located.
Unveiled in 1983 in Hyde Park at site just to the east of the Serpentine, it consists of a grouping of boulders surrounded by white-trunked birch trees. Designed by Richard Seifert and Derek Lovejoy and Partners, the largest of the boulders is inscribed with a text, in Hebrew and English, from the Biblical Book of Lamentations. It reads: “For these I weep. Streams of tears flow from my eyes because of the destruction of my people.”
The Holocaust Memorial Garden, which was actually the first such memorial dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust in Britain, was erected by the Board of British Jews.
Plans for a new memorial to the victims of the Holocaust – to be located in Victoria Tower Gardens, just to the south of the Houses of Parliament – were approved by the government in the middle of last year following a controversial public inquiry. But a High Court judge subsequently granted the London Historic Parks And Gardens Trust permission to appeal that decision.
Pelicans were first introduced to St James’s Park in 1664 when a pair of the rather large birds were presented as a gift from the Russian Ambassador to King Charles II. They’ve been there ever since.
More than 40 pelicans have apparently made their home at the park over the years. Past pelicans have included the solitary Daphne – nicknamed the ‘Lady of the Lake’, she lived alone at the park in the early 1970s as well as Astra and Khan, who came from Astrakhan in Russia and were presented by the Russian Ambassador in 1977. There’s also been a Louis, who came from Louisiana in 1982, and Vaclav and Rusalka, who were a gift from Prague Zoo in 1995.
There are currently six members of the ‘scoop’ or ‘squadron’ (just two of the collective nouns used for pelicans) in the park. They include Isla and Tiffany – gifted from Prague in 2013 – and Gargi (gifted in 1996 after he was found in a Southend garden) as well as newer arrivals, brothers Sun and Moon, and a female named Star, all of whom came from Prague Zoo in 2019. Five are Eastern Whites and one is a South American White.
The pelicans are fed fresh fish each day between 2:30pm and 3pm, next to Duck Island Cottage, and while they are free to go where they wish, they rarely go far from the almost 57 acre park. But they did make headlines for eating a pigeon in 2006.
Royal Parks are offering a walking tour of St James’s Park which ends with watching the daily feeding on 5th November. Head here for details.
One of the most beautiful features of London are its Royal Parks.
The parks, which covers some 5,000 acres, are owned by the Crown and managed by a charity, The Royal Parks. They include eight of London’s largest open spaces – Hyde Park, The Green Park, Richmond Park, Greenwich Park, St James’s Park, Bushy Park, The Regent’s Park, and Kensington Gardens – as well as some other important open spaces such as Brompton Cemetery, Victoria Tower Gardens, Canning Green and Poet’s Corner.
All eight of the Royal Parks have historically been owned by the Crown with St James’s Park considered the oldest (while Greenwich Park is the oldest enclosed park).
Under an Act of Parliament passed in 1851, the Crown transferred management of the parks to the government. These powers were originally vested in the Commissioners of Works and later transferred to the Minister of Works in 1942. They now rest with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
The Royal Parks charity was created in 2017 when The Royal Parks Agency – a former executive agency of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – and the Royal Parks Foundation came together. It is governed by a board led by chairman Loyd Grossman.
The largest of the eight Royal Parks is Richmond Park which covers some 2,500 acres in London’s south-west (it’s followed by Bushy Park which is just over 1,000 acres). The smallest of the parks is Green Park at just 40 acres.
Interestingly, Hampton Court Palace gardens, which are open to the public are not part of The Royal Parks but instead are under the care of Historic Royal Palaces.
Here’s one fact about each of the eight Royal Parks.
- Cardinal Thomas Wolsey gave Bushy Park to King Henry VIII in 1529 (along with Wolsey’s home, Hampton Court Palace).
- Green Park was initially known as Upper St James’s Park after it was enclosed by King Charles II in 1668.
- The Royal Observatory, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, is located in Greenwich Park.
- Hyde Park became the location of the first artificially lit highway in the country when King William III, who had moved his court to Kensington Palace and found his walk back to St James’s rather dangerous, had 300 oil lamps installed upon a route which later became known as Rotten Row.
- Queen Caroline, wife of George II, gave Kensington Gardens much of its present form when, in 1728, she oversaw the creation of the the Serpentine and the Long Water.
- Horse Guards Parade is considered part of St James’s Park.
- Architect John Nash designed a summer palace for the Prince Regent which was to be located in The Regent’s Park but was never built.
- Prime Minister Lord John Russell was given a home in Richmond Park (Pembroke Lodge) by Queen Victoria in 1847.
This large oak tree, planted in Hyde Park, was a focal point for protests in 1866 by the Reform League, a group which campaigned for all men to have the right to vote.
The tree was set alight during one protest (on what date and whether it was as an act of protest or simply an act of mischief by some boys during an otherwise orderly rally apparently remains a matter of debate).
The blackened stump was subsequently used a site for people to post notices, as a podium at meetings (including by the Reform League) and, more broadly, as a symbol of the right for people to assemble.
The tree was something of a precursor to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. That owes its formal establishment to an Act of Parliament, passed in 1872, that designated the north-east corner of Hyde Park as a site for public speaking and is now known – and emulated across the world – as Speaker’s Corner.
A circular mosaic depicting the blackened tree – the work of sculptor Harry Gray – now stands at the junction of numerous pathways close to the eastern end of Hyde Park. It was unveiled in the year 2000 by politician Tony Benn.
Whether it stands on the actual site of the original tree is also a matter of debate. The inscription on the memorial mentions that on 7th November, 1977, then Prime Minister James Callaghan planted a new oak tree on the spot where the Reformers’ Tree was thought to have stood. But there’s obviously no oak now where the mosaic is laid.
Standing in a park located just to the north of Regent’s Park in the city’s inner north-west, Primrose Hill stands 63 metres above sea level and, like Parliament Hill, provides panoramic views of the city skyline.
The hill, which features one of six protected views in London, was once part of a chase (unenclosed hunting land) owned by King Henry VIII and was Crown property until 1842 when it became part of a public park through an Act of Parliament.
The name has been in use for at least 500 years and is thought to refer to the flowers that grew here profusely (which it means it can’t have been named for Archibald Primrose, Prime Minister between 1894 and 1895).
The hill forms part of one of Mother Shipton’s “prophecies” – she apparently proclaimed that when London surrounded the hill, its streets would run with blood.
It was for a time known as Greenberry Hill after three labourers – Robert Green, Henry Berry and Lawrence Hill – were found guilty of the murder of magistrate Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey (he had heard Titus Oates’ evidence in the so-called Popish Plot). Sir Edmund was found impaled on his own sword on the hill in October, 1678 – convicted of his murder the three men were hanged on its summit in 1679 (they were later exonerated and the death of Sir Edmund remains something of a mystery).
The hill, which has also apparently been known as Battle Hill, was also the location where the poet and antiquarian Iolo Morganwg (Edward Williams) founded the Gorsedd, a community of Welsh bards, on 21st June in 1792.
In 1838, a railway tunnel under the hill was completed by the North Western Railway – it was the first in London and connected Chalk Farm and Swiss Cottage. In the 1840s, a proposal to create a cemetery here was put to Parliament but never went ahead. There were also plans to develop the entire hill as a housing estate but nothing came of it.
On top of the hill is York stone edging with an inscription by William Blake: “I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill.” There’s also the remains of an anti-aircraft battery from World War II.
On the hill’s slope, meanwhile, is a tree planted in 1964 to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth (it replaced once planted 100 years earlier in honour of the Bard’s 300th).
Primrose Hill gives its name to part of the surrounding area, which remains a sought-after residential district.
For details on when to visit, head to www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/the-regents-park/things-to-see-and-do/primrose-hill.
This ornate triple stone entrance in the south-east corner of Hyde Park (better known as Hyde Park Corner), was designed by Decimus Burton when he was just 25-years-old.
Made of Portland stone, the gate, also known as the ‘Apsley Gate’ (after the nearby home of the Duke of Wellington) or the ‘Hyde Park Screen’, was installed in the late 1820s and replaced a former tollgate.
Several designs were proposed in the late 18th century but it was only after work started to transform Buckingham Palace from a home into the grand building we know today that Burton, who was already working on designing a series of gates, lodges and railings around Hyde Park for the Office of Woods and Forests, was asked to design the screen alongside plans for a grand memorial arch to serve as an entrance to Green Park which would be located opposite.
Burton’s designs for the Hyde Park gateway were approved by none other than King George IV and it now stands true to his original design. Decorative elements in the gate include scroll-topped columns and friezes by John Henning which were copied from the Elgin Marbles. Burton also designed the classical-style lodge house just inside the gates.
Burton’s initial plans for the Green Park arch, however, were deemed not to be grand enough – after all, this would be one of the approaches to Buckingham Palace – and so he produced a second design which is now largely embodied in what became the Wellington Arch.
While the Hyde Park gateway originally stood in line with Wellington Arch, traffic management matters saw the latter moved to its current position in the 1880s, putting it out of alignment with the gateway.
This fountain and statue ensemble – also known as Diana of the Treetops and the Constance Fountain (and not to be confused with the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park or the Diana Fountain in Bushy Park) – for many years stood at the centre of Green Park.
The fountain replaced an earlier one by Sidney Smirke – installed in 1860 – that had fallen into disrepair.
The Ministry of Works approached the Constance Fund – which had been established by artist Sigismund Goetze and was administered by his wife Constance following his death – to provide finances for a replacement and after they agreed, a competition for the design was held overseen by Sir William Reid.
Escourt J “Jim” Clack, a teacher from Devon, won and designed a bronze statue of the Greek goddess Diana to top the fountain. Depicting a naked Diana unleashing a hunting dog, it sits atop a stylised tree under which sit the fountain basins. The fountain was unveiled in 1954.
In 2011, the statue was removed, restored and some gilding added and then placed near the entrance to Green Park tube station in the north-east corner of the park.
Postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic this year, the Peter Pan Cup is a swimming event that usually takes place on Christmas Day in Hyde Park’s Serpentine.
The bracing 9am event, which is only open to members of the Serpentine Swimming Club, is a handicapped race across a 100 yard course.
While the tradition of a Christmas Day swimming event goes back to 1864, it became the ‘Peter Pan Cup’ in 1904 when JM Barrie, creator of Peter Pan and a member of the club, presented the first cup to the winner. It was the same year Peter Pan debuted on the London stage (and Barrie would continue to present the cup to the winner until 1932).
Club members have to complete a certain number of winter races to be eligible to swim on Christmas Day. These days the race, which usually starts and ends on the southern bank of the Serpentine, is usually quite a spectacle with hundreds turning out to cheer the swimmers on.
Spotted in St James’s Park. PICTURE: Alexandru Vicol/Unsplash
The “Petticoat Duel” was so-called because this late 18th century duel apparently took place between two women – Lady Almeria Braddock and Mrs Elphinstone.
The story goes that the duel, which reportedly took place in 1792, came about after, during a social visit to Lady Braddock’s home, Mrs Elphinstone suggested the aforementioned lady was much older than her 30-odd years. It was clearly a sensitive subject and Lady Braddock demanded satisfaction via a duel.
The two women met in Hyde Park and initially exchanged pistol shots, the only casualty being Lady Braddock’s hat. Swords were then drawn and the women crossed blades until Mrs Elphinstone received a minor wound to her arm.
Following her wounding, Mrs Elphinstone wisely decided to apologise to Lady Braddock for doubting her age (she apparently wrote a lengthy apology later on) and the women put down their weapons. Crisis averted.
Despite the many times the story of the “Petticoat Duel” has been repeated, however, there’s some considerable doubt over whether it actually took place.
The key source appears to be an article in a 1792 edition of Carlton House Magazine and it has been suggested that “Lady Almeria Braddock” may be an invented character perhaps based partly on Georgian actress George Anne Bellamy.
So we apologise for any who have felt misled, for this “moment” may actually be no more than a creative writer’s story. But, whether true or not, it does make for an interesting tale.
No, it’s not a memorial to that Diana, but a bronze statue depicting a mythological figure which forms the centrepiece of the Great Basin in Bushy Park.
Commissioned by King Charles I for his wife Queen Henrietta Maria, the statue (and other statuary on the monument) was the work of sculptor Hubert Le Sueur (he was also the sculptor of the famous equestrian statue of King Charles I which sits at the top of Whitehall).
While the 2.38 metre tall bronze statue, which weighs some 924 kilograms, is commonly referred to as Diana – the Roman goddess of hunting, she has none of the usual attributes of Diana, such as a bow, and is believed by some to actually represent Arethusa, a nereid or sea nymph from Greek mythology.
The statue is set on a marble and stone fountain carved with depictions of shells and sea life, and is surrounded, at a lower level, by groups of bronze statues -depicting boys holding fish or dolphins and water nymphs or mermaids astride sea monsters – through which water is discharged into four bronze basins.
The bronze figures were originally commissioned for a fountain, designed by Inigo Jones and built in the 1630s, in the Queen’s garden at Somerset House. Oliver Cromwell had the statues moved to the Hampton Court Palace’s Privy Garden in 1656 where they were incorporated into a fountain designed by Edward Pearce the Younger in 1689-90.
In 1713 the ensemble was moved again, this time to onto a new purpose-built podium in the middle of the Great Basin, located at the end of Bushy Park’s Chestnut Avenue, a grand avenue of trees designed by Sir Christopher Wren. While most of the statuary is believed to be from the original fountain designed by Inigo Jones, it’s thought some of the statues of the boys were recast for the new fountain.
The Grade I-listed monument was restored in 2009 and and during this process a stone which uncovered on its base which had a crown and the date AR 1712 (AR for ‘Anne Regis’) which would have been added when the statue and fountain were installed in the basin.
WHERE: The park lies north of Hampton Court Palace, just west of Kingston and Hampton Wick and south of Teddington (nearest train station is Hampton Wick or Hampton Court). WHEN: 24 hours except in September and November when it’s open between 8am and dusk; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/bushy-park
The Royal Parks have created two flowerbeds outside Buckingham Palace which spell out the letters ‘NHS’ in honour of the service’s 72nd birthday. The two 12 metre long flowerbeds, located in the Memorial Gardens – officially part of St James’s Park – contain some 45,000 flowers including scarlet geraniums, especially selected to match The Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace, as well as white begonias on a blue background of drought resistant succulents which, together replicate the colours of the NHS. The floral display – an appropriate tribute in this year of pandemic – can be seen until mid-September. PICTURES: Courtesy of The Royal Parks.
PICTURE: Guillermo Bresciano/Unsplash
• It’s 169 years since the Crystal Palace served as the centrepiece of the ‘Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations’ in Hyde Park but for the first time you now have a chance to tour the building virtually. The Royal Parks, working in partnership with educational virtual reality company, Seymour & Lerhn, have recreated the grand glass and iron structure which hosted thousands of exhibits from across the globe at the 1851 exhibition which was spear-headed by Prince Albert. The building has been regenerated digitally using The Royal Commission for the Exhibition’s archive of plans and images, as well as The Royal Parks’ historical documents including old maps. The tour overlays this historic footage over the site as it is now and visitors can switch between the two as well as learn about some of the fascinating stories connected to the Great Exhibition including that of the construction of the first ever public toilets and that of the lady who walked from Cornwall to attend the display. The virtual tour is free to access at www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park/things-to-see-and-do/the-great-exhibition-virtual-tour.
• The National Museum of the Royal Navy, National Army Museum and Royal Air Force Museum are hosting their first tri-service celebration with a ‘Virtual VE Day 75 Festival’ to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe. The festival runs from today until 9th May and kicks off with ‘Vying for Victory: Britain’s Navy, Army and Air Force in Myth and Memory’ featuring representatives from the museums discussing the service’s respective roles during the closing stages of World War II. Other events include a live webinar featuring historian and broadcaster James Holland speaking to the National Army Museum’s Dr Peter Johnston about ‘Why the Allies Won’, re-enactors sharing stories from real service personnel during the World War II, and an immersive walk-through of HMS Alliance which will provide insights into the isolation experience of submariners on VE Day. For the full programme of events, head to Virtual VE Day 75 Festival.
• The National Portrait Gallery is launching a new community photography project to capture a snapshot of the nation during the coronavirus lockdown. People are being encouraged to submit pictures responding to three themes – ‘Helpers and Heroes’, ‘Your New Normal’ and ‘Acts of Kindness’ – to the project which is called Hold Still. Launched by the Duchess of Cambridge, patron of the gallery, this week, the project is open to Britons of all ages and will see 100 short-listed pictures featured in a digital exhibition. The closing date for submissions is 18th June. Head to www.npg.org.uk/hold-still/ for more.
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Japanese architect Junya Ishigami’s design for this year Serpentine Pavilion takes inspiration from architecture’s most common feature – the roof – and features an arrangement of slates positioned to form a single large canopy with a cave-like space beneath. The pavilion features 61 tonnes of Cumbrian slate tiles and 106 steel columns and, says Ishigami, is designed to play “with our perspectives of the built environment against the backdrop of a natural landscape, emphasising a natural and organic feel as though it had grown out of the lawn, resembling a hill made out of rocks”. “Possessing the weighty presence of slate roofs seen around the world, and simultaneously appearing so light it could blow away in the breeze, the cluster of scattered rock levitates, like a billowing piece of fabric,” he says. Ishigami is the 19th architect to design a pavilion for the Serpentine. His pavilion, which is located near the Serpentine Galleries in Kensington Gardens, can be visited until 6th October. It’s open 10am to 6pm daily. OS x Serpentine Park Nights, a programme of talks, films and performances, takes place on selected Friday nights. For more, head to this link. ALL PICTURES: © Junya Ishigami + Associates/Photography – Top and immediately below © 2019 Norbert Tukaj; Others below – © 2019 Iwan Baan.
As well as being a location for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s carriage rides, Hyde Park was the scene of what the Queen described as “the greatest day in our history” – the opening of the Great Exhibition in 1851.
Designed by Joseph Paxton, the vast Crystal Palace had been constructed on the south side of the park and it was at noon on 1st May, 1851 (having already celebrated their son Arthur’s first birthday), that the Queen and Prince arrived in a closed carriage to officially open the exhibition, encountering, as they did so, the biggest crowd they’d ever seen.
They were greeted by massed choirs as they entered the Crystal Palace after which Prince Albert delivered an address to the Queen and she made a short reply before the choir then sang the Hallelujah Chorus. The Royal Family – the Queen holding the hand of Bertie, the Prince of Wales, and the Prince holding that of Princess Victoria “Vicky” – then toured the building, cheered on by thousands of onlookers.
The exhibition, with its thousands of displays from around the world, was then officially declared open by the Lord Chamberlain and 100 cannons were fired outside.
The royal couple returned to Buckingham Palace where, for the first time, they walked out onto the balcony to greet the thousands of people massed outside.
Victoria described the day as one to “live for ever” in her journal. Paul Thomas Murphy, in his book Shooting Victoria, records that she went on to write: “God bless my dearest Albert, God bless my dearest country, which has shown itself so great to-day. One felt so grateful to the great God, who seemed to pervade all and to bless all.”
Interestingly, the park was also where Queen Victoria, in the presence of Prince Albert and other members of the Royal Family, presented 62 men with the first Victoria Crosses on 26th June, 1857. It was also where, sadly without the Prince, the Queen made a surprise appearance on 22nd June, 1887, as thousands of school children ate a free meal given as a gift to celebrate her Golden Jubilee.
PICTURE: ‘Her Majesty and the Princes passing through the Crystal Palace’, 1851 Sharles, H (artist) ; Ackermann & Co. (printer and publisher)/© Victoria and Albert Museum London.
WHERE: Hyde Park (nearest Tube stations are Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner and Knightsbridge); WHEN: 5am to midnight; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park