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.
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.
Once located in Hyde Park, this drinking fountain was a gift from Maharajah Meerza Vijiaram Gajapati Raj Manea Sooltan Bahadoor of Vijianagram (a small princely state once located in what is now the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh).
Installed in 1867 by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association, the towering structure in the neo-Gothic style was apparently designed by the architect Robert Keirle (also the designer of the Readymoney Fountain in The Regent’s Park).
It was installed close to the park’s north-east corner (between North Carriage Drive and Bayswater Road, not far west of Marble Arch).
The fountain was eventually removed in 1964 (apparently due to the prohibitive cost of repairing it). A plaque these days marks its location.
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.
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.
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.
It’s well known that John Rennie’s London Bridge was purchased from the City of London by American entrepreneur Robert P McCulloch and in 1967 relocated to Lake Havasu City in Arizona. But what other London buildings have been relocated from their original site, either to elsewhere in the city or further afield?
First up is Marble Arch, originally built as a grand entrance to Buckingham Palace. Designed by John Nash, the arch was constructed from 1827 and completed in 1833 (there was a break in construction as Nash was replaced by Edward Blore) on the east side of Buckingham Palace for a cost of some £10,000.
Inspired by the Arch of Constantine in Rome (and, it has to be said, some envy over the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in Paris, built to commemorate Napoleon’s military victories), the 45 foot high structure is clad in white Carrara marble and decorated with sculptural reliefs by Sir Richard Westmacott and Edward Hodges Baily.
An equestrian statue of King George IV was designed for the top by Francis Leggatt Chantrey but it was never put there (instead, it ended up in Trafalgar Square). The bronze gates which bear the lion of England, cypher of King George IV and image of St George and the Dragon – were designed by Samuel Parker.
The arch, said to be on the initiative of Nash’s former pupil, Decimus Burton, was dismantled and rebuilt, apparently by Thomas Cubitt, in its present location on the north-east corner of Hyde Park, close to Speaker’s Corner, in 1851.
There’s a popular story that the arch was relocated after it was found to be too narrow for the wide new coaches – this seems highly unlikely as the Gold State Coach passed under it during Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1952. Actually, it was moved to create room for Buckingham Palace’s new east facade (meaning the palace’s famous balcony, where the Royal Family gather to wave, now stands where the arch once did).
Whatever the reasons, it replaced Cumberland Gate as the new ornamental entrance to Hyde Park, complementing the arch Decimus Burton had designed for Hyde Park Corner in the park’s south-east.
Subsequent roadworks left the arch in its current position on a traffic island. It stands close to where the notorious gallows known as the “Tyburn Tree” once stood.
The rebuilt, now Grade I-listed, arch contains three small rooms which, until the middle of the 20th century, housed what has been described as “one of the smallest police stations in the world”. Only senior members of the Royal family and the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery are permitted to pass through the central gates.
PICTURES: Top – Marble Arch in its current location and; Middle – and an 1837 engraving showing the arch outside Buckingham Palace.
• 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.
Send all items for inclusion to email@example.com.
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
It was on this road connecting the western end of The Mall outside Buckingham Palace with Hyde Park Corner that an infamous incident took place during Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s early years together.
For it was from a footpath on Constitution Hill that the first of eight assassination attempts were made on the Queen as the couple – the Queen then pregnant – rode out from the palace in a low slung carriage headed for Hyde Park as was their custom.
Edward Oxford was just 18-years-old when at on 10th June, 1840, he took up a position on a footpath on Constitution Hill where he stood for a couple of hours before, at about 6pm, as the royal couple’s carriage sailed past, he fired two pistols at them.
Both shots missed (in fact, no bullets were ever found) and Queen Victoria was quick to order the carriage to drive on (she and Albert would also ride out along the same route the next day despite the scare – this time there was a sizeable crowd of well-wishers eager to convey their good sentiments to the Queen and a procession of these followed their carriage up the hill to Hyde Park).
Oxford, meanwhile, was immediately seized by onlookers and stripped of his guns. He immediately admitted his crime, was subsequently arrested, charged with treason and later acquitted on grounds of insanity before being detained in an asylum at Her Majesty’s pleasure (he was eventually discharged with the proviso that he head to one of England’s overseas colonies and ended up living out his days in Melbourne, Australia).
An interesting footnote is that future artist John Everett Millais, then aged just 11-years-old, was among those standing on Constitution Hill watching the Queen drive past on the day of the assassination attempt.
There were another seven assassination attempts on Queen Victoria over the ensuing years. For more on them, check out Paul Thomas Murray’s detailed book Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem and the Modernisation of the Monarchy.
PICTURE: A view down Constitution Hill towards Buckingham Palace fro, the top of Wellington Arch.
With World War I commemorations taking place last weekend, so we thought it fitting to take a look at one of the city’s memorials.
Located in Hyde Park, the Cavalry Memorial (also known as the Cavalry of the Empire Memorial), which commemorates the more than 4,000 members of the cavalry regiments killed during the “Great War”, depicts St George (patron saint of cavalry), shown as a knight, triumphing over the defeated dragon coiled beneath his horse’s hooves.
It’s said that St George was modelled on 1454 bronze effigy of Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick, and that the horse was adapted from a 15th century engraving by Albrecht Dürer.
The pedestal underneath is decorated with a frieze of galloping horsemen from different countries within the Empire and the statue is accompanied by a stone backdrop, originally designed to shield the statue from Park Lane, upon which are bronze plates listing cavalry units from across the British Empire that served in World War I along with the names of the four cavalry officers who became field marshals – Haig, French, Allenby and Robertson.
Designed by army vet Captain Adrian Jones, the bronze sculpture was made from guns captured during the war (Jones also sculpted the Quadriga atop Wellington Arch on Hyde Park Corner). The Portland stone pedestal was designed by Sir John Burnet.
The Grade II*-listed memorial, which was proposed in 1920, was originally unveiled by Field Marshal John French, 1st Earl of Ypres and the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) on 21st May, 1924.
It was originally located at Stanhope Gate but was moved to its present site to the west, near the bandstand, in 1961 after Park Lane was widened.
For more on Hyde Park, see www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park.
This important Kensington thoroughfare runs through the heart of South Kensington’s world-famous museum precinct from Thurloe Place, just south of Cromwell Road, all the way to Hyde Park.
Along its length, it takes in such important institutions as the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Imperial College London while Royal Albert Hall is only a stone’s throw to the west.
It was, as might be expected given the name, indeed laid out as part of Prince Albert’s grand scheme surrounding the Great Exhibition of 1851 as a means of accessing the vast Crystal Palace which was located in Hyde Park (before moving out to south London).
It wasn’t the only road in the area built specifically for that purpose – the transecting Cromwell Road and Queen’s Gate, which runs in parallel and, yes, is named for Queen Victoria, were also built for to provide access to the Great Exhibition.
After the exhibition was over, Exhibition Road formed part of the precinct known as “Albertopolis” in which, inspired by the Great Exhibition, became something of a knowledge and cultural centre featuring various museums and the great concert hall which sadly Albert didn’t live long enough to see.
In the 2000s, a scheme to give pedestrians greater priority along the road was realised (in time for the 2012 Olympics).
PICTURE: Looking north along Exhibition Road from the intersection with Cromwell Road (the Natural History Museum is on the left; the Victoria & Albert Museum – and the Aston Webb Screen – on the right)/Google Maps.
The Serpentine Swimming Club, located on Hyde Park‘s Serpentine, dates its founding from 1864, the year it held the first of its famous Christmas Day Races.
The club, actually the oldest in Britain, was created in response to Londoners’ growing need for recreation – Hyde Park then being at the centre of a heavily built-up area – and came as the mass transit system – London’s Underground – was making it more accessible.
Initial facilities included a shady elm tree and a wooden seat. They’ve since improved somewhat to include changing rooms (although they’re still described as spartan).
These days members are permitted by The Royal Parks to swim in the lake between 6am and 9.30am daily.
While the Christmas Day Race – in which swimmers compete for the Peter Pan Cup (since the first cup was awarded by JM Barrie in 1904) – is the most famous race, the club also hosts numerous other races throughout the year which range in length and include a “bridge to bridge” race from one end of the Serpentine to the other (just held on 14th July).
While members use the Lido – which opened in 1930 – for swimming, it remains a separate entity to the SSC.
For more about the club, see www.serpentineswimmingclub.com.
The Lido on the Serpentine. PICTURE: Phil Russell/The Royal Parks.
The work of internationally renowned artist Christo, The London Mastaba floats serenely on Hyde Park’s Serpentine, despite the reported ruffled feathers of some swimmers upset over its installation in their pool.
Made up of 7,506 multi-coloured and stacked barrels reaching 20 metres high, the sculpture sits on a floating platform of high-density polyethylene cubes which has been anchored into place.
The artwork’s installation coincides with an exhibition of the work of Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude’s at the nearby Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens.
Christo & Jeanne-Claude: Barrels and The Mastaba 1958-2018 features sculptures, drawings, collages and photographs spanning more than 60 years and, according to Christo will provide “important context” for The London Mastaba.
The exhibition can be seen at the gallery until 9th September. Meanwhile, the sculpture will be floating on the Serpentine, weather permitting, until 23rd September.
And finally, the Serpentine Gallery’s annual temporary pavilion – this year the work of Mexican architect Frida Escobedo, of Taller de Arquitectura – can be seen until 7th October at the Kensington Gardens’ gallery. For more information on all three projects, see www.serpentinegalleries.org.
PICTURES: Top – The London Mastaba (pinn/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND-2.0); Right – Christo, The Mastaba (Project for London, Hyde Park, Serpentine Lake), Collage 2018: 43.1 x 55.9, Pencil, wax crayon, enamel paint, colour photograph by Wolfgang Volz, map, technical data, mylar and tape, Photo: André Grossmann © Christo 2018; Below – Serpentine Pavilion 2018, designed by Frida Escobedo, Serpentine Gallery, London © Frida Escobedo, Taller de Arquitectura, Photography © 2018 Iwan Baan
This rather large fountain once stood in Mayfair as a tribute to literary greats Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare and John Milton.
Designed by Thomas Thorneycroft (and apparently funded from wealth of a lady who died intestate but who had apparently always advocated for the location of a fountain on the site), the fountain stood on the centre of what is now a roundabout at the intersection of Old Park Lane and Hamilton Place.
Unveiled in July, 1875, it featured the three poets standing on various sides of a central pillar (Shakespeare taking pride of place looking towards Hyde Park). Below them sat three muses and above them, on top of a central column, stood a figure representing fame, blowing a trumpet.
The fountain, and survived until World War II during which it sustained damaged. It was dismantled in 1948 and only the figure of ‘Fame’ is believed to have survived.
This octagonal, Grade II-listed, bandstand was originally located in the adjoining Kensington Gardens (near Mount Gate), having been built in 1869, only eight years after the first ever bandstand in London had been installed in the nearby Royal Horticultural Gardens in Kensington.
It was moved to Hyde Park in 1886 – it can now be found on the north side of Serpentine Road, just to the north-west of Hyde Park Corner – and concerts were apparently held here three times a week in the 1890s. (Another bandstand was erected in Kensington Gardens in the 1930s).
Featuring cast iron decorative columns and a tent roof, the Hyde Park bandstand appeared in the 1935 film, Top Hat, which starred Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (although the building in the film was actually a replica located on a Hollywood soundstage). Others who have ‘played’ the bandstand include the famous trumpeter Harry Mortimer.
The bandstand, which is now one of the oldest in Britain, is still used for concerts on occasion as well as being part of the annual Winter Wonderland event. Check The Royal Parks website for details of when events are scheduled here.
A group of extinct Irish elk from the Ice Age – part of a series of models of extinct animals created by sculptor and fossil expert Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins and Professor Richard Owen, founder of the Natural History Museum, in the 1850s for the park surrounding the reconstructed Crystal Palace, known as Crystal Palace Park. Built for the Great Exhibition of 1851 by Joseph Paxton, the palace had been relocated from Hyde Park to Sydenham, in what was Kent (and is now south London), following the exhibition’s closure. The series of life-sized extinct animals, initially just mammals but later expanded to include dinosaurs, underwent extensive restoration in 2002 and were given Grade I listed status in 2007. There’s a free audio guide you can download while visiting the dinosaurs. PICTURE: Neil Cummings/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0.
Kinson Leung captures the vibrant colours of the annual Winter Wonderland fair in Hyde Park. PICTURE: Via Unsplash.