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.
For the final in this series we head out west to Richmond Hill which takes its name from the palace which once stood nearby.
At the summit of the hill, which stands about 50 metres (165 feet) high, stands the gate to Richmond Park while the steeper western slopes drop down to Petersham Meadows by the River Thames.
What was the village of Richmond – now incorporated into greater London – sits partly on the slopes of the hill. It and the hill take their names from a palace, established here in the early 16th century by King Henry VII as a replacement for Sheen (Shene) Palace which had been destroyed in a fire in 1499. The King named the new building Richmond Palace, in honour of the earldom of Richmond in Yorkshire, one of his titles.
Richmond Hill is famed for its views – they include the only view in England protected by an Act of Parliament (passed in 1902). It looks to the south-west over Petersham to the Thames, taking in Glover’s Island, and reaching as far as Windsor and has been immortalised in works by the likes of artists JMW Turner and Sir Joshua Reynolds as well as by author Sir Walter Scott.
Richmond Hill features many fine 18th century homes including Wick House (built for Joshua Reynolds in 1771) and the westward slopes boast the Terrace Walk and Terrace Gardens, both of which are Grade II* listed, while the massive bulk of the former Royal Star and Garter Home for disabled ex-servicemen (now apartments) can be seen close to the summit.
Other famous residents on the hill have included Rolling Stones’ guitarist Ronnie Wood and actress Celia Johnson while scenes for the film, The Hours, were shot on The Terrace.
Having recently been granted protection as a scheduled monument, the landscape feature known as King Henry’s Mound is located in Richmond Park in south-west London.
Its name, however, comes from the legend that King Henry VIII waited on top of the mound on 19th May, 1536, watching for a rocket to be launched from the Tower of London that would confirm his wife Anne Boleyn had been executed for treason (and so allow him to marry Jane Seymour).
The truth of that is unlikely – although it is possible to see St Paul’s Cathedral from the mound (it’s a view that is protected, as well as, to the west Windsor Castle and the Thames Valley), King Henry VIII was apparently in Wiltshire at the time.
The mound, however, was linked to kings as far back as 1630 when a map was published listing it as ‘Kings Standinge’, ‘standinge’ being a reference to a platform on which those not involved in a hunt could stand and watch.
Both King Henry VIII and his daughter Queen Elizabeth I are known to have hunted here – in fact, it was King Henry VIII’s father, King Henry VII, who built a royal palace at Richmond and named it after his estate in Yorkshire.
The mound was later incorporated into the gardens of Pembroke Lodge in the 19th century, during much of the latter half of which the property was home to Prime Minister Lord John Russell.
Today the Grade I-listed Richmond Park is managed by the Royal Parks.
For more on Richmond Park, head to www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond-park.
PICTURES: The Royal Parks
PICTURE: Guillermo Bresciano/Unsplash
We have finished our series on 10 of the most memorable (and historic) views of London. And while there’s plenty of views we didn’t mention (we’ll be featuring more in an upcoming series at some point), we think we have captured 10 worth seeing. So, in case you missed any, here they are again…
We’ll kick off our new special Wednesday series next week…
Tradition holds that the spot where this officially protected view originates from – the prehistoric barrow known as King Henry’s Mound – was where King Henry VIII stood on 19th May, 1536, to watch for a rocket fired from the Tower of London.
The signal was to indicate that his former wife, Anne Boleyn, had been beheaded for treason and hence that he was now free to marry Jane Seymour.
Sadly, the story is seen as unlikely – the king was apparently in Wiltshire at the time.
But it adds a nice nostalgia to this tree-framed view which looks across Richmond Park and areas south of the River Thames to the great dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.
The mound, which also offers views west over the Thames Valley towards Windsor, is believed to cover a burial chamber from the Bronze Age (it would have stood more prominently over the Thames Valley in those days) and was later used as a viewing position for hunting deer and falconry.
A permanent public telescope has been set up on the mound which since the 19th century has sat in Pembroke Lodge Garden (named for the Countess of Pembroke who lived in a cottage here between about 1788 and 1831).
The historic view made headlines last year over calls for London’s Mayor to step in and halt building work amid concerns that the 42-storey Manhattan Loft Gardens tower in Stratford, east London, could be seen in the view behind the cathedral dome.
WHERE: King Henry’s Mound, Richmond Park (nearest Tube station is Richmond); WHEN: 24 hour pedestrian access except during the deer cull in November and February; COST: Free entry; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond-park
PICTURE: Royal Parks
It was former Prime Minister Lord Sidmouth who established the plantation in the south-west corner of Richmond Park in 1831 when he was deputy ranger, enclosing the 42 acre site with fences to keep the deer out and planting oak, beech, and chestnut trees with a view to growing them for timber.
It was also he who, drawing on an older name for the area – Isabella Slade (Isabell is thought to have meant ‘dingy yellow’ in Old English and may refer to the colour of the topsoil in the plantation area while Slade meant a shallow valley) – gave it the name the Isabella Plantation.
The garden as we largely know it now was established on the site in the years immediately after World War II with clearings, ponds and waterways (these are today fed from Pen Ponds), thanks in large part to George Thomson, superintendent of the park from 1951-71, and his head gardener, Wally Miller.
Isabella Plantation was opened to the public in 1953 although improvements – including the Bog Garden which was reconstructed in 2000 – continue to be carried out.
Highlights among the flora include the National Collection of ‘Wilson 50’ Kurume azaleas (introduced by plant collector Ernest Wilson from Japan to the West in the 1920s) and large collections of rhododendrons and camellias. The garden also attracts a wide range of birds as well as other wildlife and offers the visitor something to see all year round.
There’s a number of trails you can download free-of-charge from the Royal Parks website which will help you to fully engage with the plantation.
WHERE: Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park (pedestrian access to the plantation from Peg’s Pond Gate, Broomfield Hill Gate, Bramble Gate, Deer Sanctuary Gate and High Wood Gate); WHEN: Daily (check Richmond Park opening times); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond-park/richmond-park-attractions/isabella-plantation.
PICTURES: © Greywolf/The Royal Parks
• Hidden Treasures – the national initiative to celebrate the UK’s museum and archive collections – kicks off for its second year next Thursday, 22nd August, and runs over the bank holiday weekend until 27th August. Among the London institutions taking part this year are the British Library, the British Postal Museum and Archive in Houghton, the Museum of the Order of St John in Clerkenwell (pictured) and Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham. Hidden Treasures is an initiative of the Collections Trust and the Independent newspaper. All events are free but some have to be pre-booked and have limited spaces so make sure you check out the details at www.hiddentreasures.org.uk/?page_id=118.
• The programme for Open House London – held over the weekend of 21st and 22nd September – will be made available online from today (or alternatively you can order a hard copy via the Open House London website). It’s important to note that a few of the buildings involved can only be entered by those successful in a ballot – they include 10 Downing Street, The View from The Shard, EDF Energy London Eye and Gray’s Inn. Head to the website – www.londonopenhouse.org – to enter the ballots which close on 13th September.
• The Isabella Plantation – a 40 acre ornamental woodland garden located in the south west area of Richmond Park – is celebrating 60 years since its creation and they’ve kicked off a fortnight’s programme of free events community to mark the occasion. The events, which will be focused around the yurt by Peg’s Pond in the plantation, include guided walks, a showcase of art for young people and a Teddy Bears picnic on the bank holiday weekend. One of the most visited parts of Richmond Park, the plantation is home to the Wilson 50 National Collection of Evergreen Azaleas, more than 150 hardy hybrid Rhododendrons, 50 species of Rhododendron and a large collection of camellias and magnolia as well as many rare and unusual trees and shrubs. While the plantation can be dated as far back as 1771 (then named Isabella Slade), it was planted for timber in 1831, and in 1953 the present garden was established and the old name Isabella adopted for it. For more on the events, see www.royalparks.org.uk.
• As Muslims mark the end of Ramadan this weekend, the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr will be celebrated in Trafalgar Square on Saturday. As well as the chance to sample foods from across the Islamic world, there will also be entertainment on stage, exhibitions and children’s activities. The festival, put on by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, runs between 1.30pm and 6pm. For more, see www.london.gov.uk/eid.
• On Now: Take One Picture – Discover, Imagine, Explore: Children Inspired by Willem Kalf. This display at the National Gallery focuses on Willem Kalf’s Still Life with Drinking-Horn (about 1653) and features alongside it responsive works created by children from 25 schools across the UK and as far afield as Turkey with works from other schools captured in a slide-show. Located at the Annenberg Court (Getty Entrance), admission is free. Runs until 12th September. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.
• A collection of furniture originally belonging to the 5th Duke of Devonshire and his wife, Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, has been returned to the Palladian masterpiece, Chiswick House, in west London. The furniture – which includes four French fauteuils (open arm chairs) by the leading Parisian chair maker Jean-Baptiste Tilliard, four neo-classical chairs with caned backs and seats and a ladies’ roll-top writing desk – was purchased by English Heritage at an auction in 2010 with the assistance of Art Fund. It had been removed from the house to the family estate in the late 1800s. Extensive conservation work on the furnishings was carried out thanks to the support of The Art Fund, Chiswick House Friends and The Pilgrim Trust prior to their being restored to the house. They are now displayed in the bedchamber while a mahogany pole-screen – designed in about 1730 by William Kent, protégé and collaborator of the house’s first owner and architect, Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington – has also been acquired and will be displayed in Lord Burlington’s Blue Velvet Room. Admission charge applies. For more information, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/chiswick-house/ or www.chgt.org.uk.
• German miniature picture Bibles are the subject of a new exhibition at The Courtauld Gallery. The third display in the gallery’s Illuminating Objects programme, the display centres on Bibles created by two sisters who belonged to a family of printmakers, Johanna Christina (Or Christiana) and Maria Magdalena Kusel, in Augsburg in the late 17th century. While many of the 17th century ‘thumb’ Bibles were created for children, the Kusel sisters most likely made theirs for private devotion. It is believed this is the first time the two Bibles have gone on public display. Visitors to the Courtauld website are also able to turn the Bible’s pages. Runs until 22nd July. For more, see www.courtauld.ac.uk/gallery/exhibitions/2013/illuminating/bible.
• Royal Parks are offering free travel to the newly improved Isabella Plantation – a 40 acre ornamental woodland garden in Richmond Park – this Sunday. The minibus service, which will travel from the traffic lights on Ham Common to the plantation, will be running between 10am and 4pm. The plantation, which features azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, magnolias, daffodils and bluebells, has recently been the subject of a £1.5 million improvement project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and BIG Lottery Fund. Improvements have included enhancements to ponds and streams and upgrades to the existing path network. For more, see www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond-park.
• A display commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Profumo Affair has opened at the National Portrait Gallery. Scandal ’63: The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Profumo Affair looks in depth at the scandal in which Secretary of State for War John Profumo was found to have had a brief affair with nightclub hostess and model Christine Keeler who happened to also romantically involved with Yevgeny Ivanov, a senior Russian naval attache (rather controversial during the Cold War). The display features a vintage print of one of Lewis Morley’s seated nude portraits of Keeler as well as press images of other key protagonists in the matter including her friends Mandy Rice-Davies and Paula Hamilton-Marshall. Also featured is on-set photographs of Keeler taken to publicise The Keeler Affair, a film which was banned in Britain (and later remade in 1989), images of a now lost work of pop art by Pauline Boty featuring four of the key players (it was titled Scandal ’63), and a pastel of Keeler by Stephen Ward (pictured). Admission is free. Runs until 15th September. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.
It was King Henry VII, father of King Henry VIII, who brought the name Richmond to London.
Inheritor of the title of the Earl of Richmond (the title relates to lands in Yorkshire and centres on the castle of Richmond), on being crowned king, Henry VII gained the use of Sheen (or Shene) Palace located on the banks of the Thames, about seven miles south west of Westminster (the history of which we’ll look at in greater detail in an upcoming post).
Sheen Palace was largely destroyed in a fire in 1497 and the king gave orders for it to be rebuilt (Richmond Palace is pictured here – found on a sign at Richmond). It was on its completion in around 1502 that Henry decided to rename the palace after his former earldom – Richmond.
The name Richmond, by the way, comes from a French word for ‘old hill’.
The once separated town of Richmond is now at the centre of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames (it became a municipal borough in 1890) and a popular residential suburb for London’s wealthy (among those who have lived there are Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall) – sought after for its riverside amenity, quaint village green, and panoramic views from Richmond Hill as well as its fine shopping and dining.
Richmond’s other great drawcard is Richmond Park, one of the city’s eight Royal Parks, and home to more than 600 deer (see our earlier entry on it here).
• This weekend London host’s the 10th Liberty Festival, a showcase of deaf and disabled artists. Free events – including live music, dance, street theatre, film and cabaret – are being held at several locations across the city over Saturday, Sunday and Monday, including in Trafalgar Square, the National Theatre, South Bank Centre, BFI Southbank and Picture, the Mayor of London’s Live Site at Potters Fields Park next to City Hall on the south bank of The Thames. Highlights of the event – a centrepiece of the Paralympic celebrations – include a “cabaret showcase of comedy, film and music” at Royal Festival Hall on Saturday, and a “jazz, blues and R&B spectacular” at BT London Live Trafalgar Square on Sunday. This year’s event, produced by the Mayor of London with Greenwich+Docklands Festivals, coincides with Unlimited, the London 2012 Festival’s showcase of disabled artists. For more details, see www.molpresents.com/liberty. For more on BT London Live Trafalgar Square, see www.btlondonlive.com.
• If you go down the woods (read Royal Parks) today…you will find a Teddy Bear’s picnic! Royal Parks is inviting children up to the age of 12 to attend three Teddy Bear’s picnics it’s holding in Richmond Park and Bushy Park this week. While one event has already gone (it was held yesterday), there’s still two to go – one at the Kingston Gate Playground in Richmond Park from 11.30am to 3.30pm today, and another at the Bushy Park Playground between 11.30am and 3.30pm tomorrow (Friday). Both afternoons feature free craft activities, games and a “best dressed ted” competition. For more, see www.royalparks.org.uk.
• Tragedy on the Thames: Princess Alice Disaster. This talk at the London Metropolitan Archives looks at an event which took place on 3rd September, 1878 when a day trip to Rosherville Pleasure Gardens in Gravesend turned to tragedy with more than 650 people dead after a collision on the Thames. The talk will discuss the coroner’s inquests and witness accounts before looking at some original documents held at the LMA. The free event is held on Monday from 2pm to 3pm. Booking essential (020 7332 3851). For more on the LMA, follow this link.
• Westminster Abbey has unveiled a new website showing how the spectacular Cosmati pavement was brought back to life in a two year restoration project. The 13th century floor mosaic, which covers the floor in front of the High Altar, was hidden under carpets for more than 100 years before the restoration work was carried out. The new website features more than 40 films showing all elements of the restoration and interviews with experts about the pavement as well as an interactive map of the pavement. For more, see www.westminster-abbey.org/conservation. You can also see our Treasures of London article on the pavement here.
• On Now: Animal Crackers – A Cartoon and Comic Bestiary. This exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury features characters including Mickey Mouse, Wallace and Gromit, Fred Basset and Rupert Bear as well as icons like the American Eagle, Russian Bear and financial Fat Cat and joke cartoons from publications including Punch, Private Eye, The Spectator and many national newspapers. More than 140 cartoons, caricatures, comics and graphic novels, created by more than 60 artists, are included in the display. Runs until 21st October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org.
• The largest official Olympic Rings were unveiled at Richmond Park National Nature Reserve in London’s south-west this week, having been mown into the grass by the Royal Parks’ shire horses. The rings, which lie on Heathrow’s flight path and are 300 metres wide and more than 135 metres tall, will welcome athletes as they fly in to compete in the Games which kick off later this month. It took six shire horses to create the giant rings – which represent five continents – but they’ll be maintained by just two – Jim and Murdoch. Horses have worked in Richmond Park since as far back 1637 when King Charles I had the park enclosed as a royal hunting ground. Eleven Olympic events will be held on Royal Parks during the Games including road race cycling in Richmond Park. For more on Richmond Park, see www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond-park. PICTURE: LOCOG.
• Almost 50 vehicles, ranging from handcarts to horse drawn carriages, steam powered vehicles to a new London bus, took part in the Worshipful Company of Carmen’s traditional ‘Cart Marking’ procession through the City of London yesterday. The ‘trade’ of carmen dates back to the 13th century when City authorities passed a bye-law controlling carters. At the ceremony, the carmen bring a variety of vehicles which are branded by placing a red hot iron on a wooden plate, with the year letter and the car number, in the continuation of an ancient tradition. The Worshipful Company of Carmen is said to be the oldest transportation organisation in the world. For more on the livery company, see www.thecarmen.co.uk.
• The late athletics coach Scipio Africanus “Sam” Mussabini (1867-1927) was honored this week with the unveiling of an English Heritage Blue Plaque at his former home in Herne Hill in London’s south. Mussabini, whose role in helping 100 metre sprinter Harold Abrahams win gold at the 1924 Olympics was depicted in the film Chariots of Fire (he was played by Ian Holm), lived at the house at 84 Burbage Road from 1911 to about 1916. It backs onto the Herne Hill Stadium where he worked as a cycling and athletics coach from the 1890s, a period during which he trained several medal-winning Olympic athletes. All up, Mussabini’s runners won a total of 11 Olympic medals including five golds, between 1908 and 1928. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk.
On Now: Double Take: Versions and Copies of Tudor Portraits. This display at the National Portrait Gallery features five pairs of nearly identical Tudor portraits and explores how and why they were made. Among the portraits from the gallery’s collection on display are those of King Henry VIII, his wife Anne Boleyn, Archbishop William Warham, the merchant Thomas Gresham and Lord Treasurer Thomas Sackville – all of which are paired with paintings on loan from other collections. Admission is free. Runs until 9th September. For more information on the Making Art in Tudor Britain research project – of which this is a part – see www.npg.org.uk/research/programmes/making-art-in-tudor-britain.
• If you’re not too exhausted after last weekend’s Diamond Jubilee festivities (or if you’re looking for something a little more sedate), this Saturday and Sunday London plays host to Open Garden Squares Weekend. Among the 208 gardens to be opened this weekend is the communal garden at Number 10 Downing Street, home of Prime Minister David Cameron. Laid out in 1736, the L-shaped garden at 10 Downing Street is shared by residents of both Number 10 and Number 11, including Larry, the Downing Street cat (tickets for this garden have already been allocated via a ballot process). Among the more than 200 gardens open to the public as part of the weekend are 24 new gardens and, for the first time, the event is being supported by the National Trust (along with the usual organisers, the London Parks and Gardens Trust). Downing Street aside, other gardens open to the public include the Regent’s Park Allotment Garden, the Royal College of Physicians’ Medicinal Garden, the Kensington Roof Gardens, and the gardens at HMP Wormwood Scrubs. Tickets for the gardens are cheaper if bought online in advance of the weekend and picked up on Saturday or Sunday – it’s not too late to do so, so for tickets and more information, head to www.opensquares.org.
• A new pair gates designed to mark St Paul’s Cathedral’s tercentenary were opened in Richmond Park for the first time last week. The gates, which now form part of the historic vista seen from King Henry’s Mound in Richmond Park when looking toward’s St Paul’s Cathedral, were designed by 21-year-old blacksmith Joshua De Lisle and funded through a donation from the family of family of the late environmentalist and The Ecologist magazine founder Edward Goldsmith. Called ‘The Way’, the gates stand on the fence of Sidmouth Woods, and depict oak branches. Sir Christopher Wren, designer of St Paul’s, is acknowledged through the inclusion of a wren on one of the lower branches. For more on the Royal Parks, see www.royalparks.org.uk.
• Now On: Winning at the ancient Games. The British Museum is celebrating the London Olympics with a victory trail bringing together 12 “star objects” in its collection, united by the theme of winning. The ‘stops’ on the trail include a classical Greek statue of a winning charioteer on special loan from Sicily, a previously never exhibited mosaic showing Hercules, the legendary founder of the ancient Games, and the 2012 Olympic Medals. The trail is free. For more information, see www.britishmuseum.org.
• Now On: Build the Truce. Drawing on the idea of truce that was implemented during the ancient Olympic Games to allow athletes from Greece’s warring cities to compete, this new display at the Imperial War Museum features films, interviews and insights collected during a project investigating the concepts of truce, conflict and resolution and their relevance in the 21st century. Highlights include excerpts of interviews with former IRA prisoner Seanna Walsh and former UDA prisoner Jackie McDonald -both now involved in peace initiatives in Northern Ireland, Courtny Edwards, who worked with a health service in displaced persons’ camps following civil war in Sierra Leone; and Professor Tony Redmond, who led aid teams in Kosovo following NATO attacks in 1999. Family activities are being run in conjunction with the exhibition on selected weekends. Entry is free. Runs until 23rd September. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.
• Leicester Square officially reopened last night following a £15.3 million transformation which has seen every paving stone replaced, new plants, and 40 new water jets placed around the Grade II listed fountain and statue of William Shakespeare. The 17 month makeover also included new lighting, new seating and a refurb of the underground toilets. The square – which owes its name to Robert Sidney, the 2nd Earl of Leicester, who purchased this land in 1630 and, after building himself a mansion, kept aside part of the land for public use – now welcomes as many as 250,000 tourists a day and is known as one of the world’s premiere sites for the release of new films.
• The Royal Academy of Arts is marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with a new exhibition opening tomorrow which features a selection of paintings by Royal Academicians elected during the early part of the Queen’s reign. The Queen’s Artists will include works by Jean Cooke, Frederick Gore and Ruskin Spear and will be displayed in the Reynolds and Council Rooms. Meanwhile The Saloon will house a collection of sculptures, paintings and drawings prepared by Royal Academicians for British coins and royal seals on loan from the Royal Mint Museum. The collection includes portraits of the Queen by Edward Bawden and Sir Charles Wheeler which have never before been shown in public, and Sir Anthony Caro’s new coin design of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Over in the Tennant Gallery, The King’s Artist’s George III’s Academy, will look at the king’s role in the foundation of the academy in 1768 and his influence in selecting the first artists. Highlights include portraits of King George III (pictured) and Queen Charlotte painted by the academy’s first president, Sir Joshua Reynolds. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk. PICTURE: Copyright Royal Academy of Arts, London/John Hammond.
• A new exhibition focusing on Londoners and their treasured souvenirs commemorating Queen Elizabeth II opens tomorrow at the Museum of London. At Home with the Queen features 12 photographic portraits of Londoners at home with their mementos as well as a selection of royal commemorative objects from the museum’s collection. The latter include trinkets produced for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, official Coronation Day street decorations, Silver Jubilee paper tableware and souvenirs relating to the current Diamond Jubilee. Runs until 28th October. Admission is free. For more (including a series of events running on conjunction with the exhibition), see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
• The Royal Parks’ Shire horse, Jed, retired last week after a decade of service working in Richmond Park. The Queen presented a commemorative retirement rosette to Jed who was born in 1993 and joined the Royal Parks from Bass Brewery in Burton upon Trent almost 10 years ago. Horses have been used in Richmond Park since it was enclosed by King Charles I in 1637. The horses took a break in 1954 but the Shires were reintroduced in 1993 as a way to sustainably manage the parkland. For more on Richmond Park, see www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond-park.
• On Now: The horse: from Arabia to Royal Ascot. This major free exhibition at the British Museum is part of the august institution’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and traces the history of the horse from domestication around 3,500 BC through to present day, with a particular focus on Britain’s equestrian tradition, from the introduction of the Arabian breed in the 18th century to events like Royal Ascot. Highlights include one of the earliest known depictions of horse and rider – a terracotta mould found in Mesopotamia dating from around 2000 to 1800 BC, a cylinder seal of Darius dating from 522 to 486 BC depicting the king hunting lions in a chariot, a 14th century Furusiyya manuscript, an Arabian manual of horsemanship, and the 19th century Abbas Pasha manuscript, the primary source of information about the lineage of purebred Arabian horses acquired by Abbas Pasha (mid-nineteenth century viceroy of Egypt). The exhibition is being held in Room 35. Runs until 30th September. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.
• Celebrate the Diamond Jubilee next Tuesday in Richmond Park as it hosts ‘Wild London’, the borough’s “first festival aimed at celebrating London’s woodlands, parks and gardens”. The event, which is being put on by Richmond Council and Royal Parks, will mark the Queen’s first visit to the borough in 23 years. It will showcase the conservational, recreational and inspirational role that parks and gardens play in London and will include hands-on exhibits, demonstrations, displays and performances. The event will be the first in a series celebrating the Diamond Jubilee held in Royal Parks. For more information, see www.richmond.gov.uk/home/leisure_and_culture/diamond_jubilee.htm
• The National Trust has launched a new photography competition aimed at celebrating green spaces and the life of the Trust founder Octavia Hill. The competition, called Your Space, is running in conjunction with National Trust Magazine and is open for entries until August. The competition was launched by internationally acclaimed photographers – Mary McCartney, Joe Cornish, Arnhel de Serra and Charlie Waite – with a new collection of pictures at National Trust places. One of the three Trust founder, Octavia Hill was a leading environmental campaigner in the Victorian Age and campaigned to save places in and around London like Parliament Hill. Entries in the competition, which aims to capture images of everyday green spaces, could include pictures from the local park or countryside. For details on how to enter, follow this link…
• The author of the Harry Potter books, JK Rowling, received the Freedom of the City of London this week. The books have sold an estimated 450 million copies worldwide and have been made into films. The Freedom ceremony took place at Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London. Speaking before the ceremony on Tuesday, Rowling was quoted as saying that both her parents were Londoners. “They met on a train departing from King’s Cross Station in 1964, and while neither of them ever lived in London again, both their daughters headed straight for the capital the moment that they were independent. To me, London is packed with personal memories, but it has never lost the aura of excitement and mystery that it had during trips to see family as a child. I am prouder than I can say to be given the Freedom of the City, which, on top of all the known benefits (and few people realize this), entitles me to a free pint in The Leaky Cauldron and a ten Galleon voucher to spend in Diagon Alley.” For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk.
• On Now: Royal Devotion. This exhibition in the Great Hall of Lambeth Palace is being held to mark both the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and the 350th anniversary of the revised Book of Common Prayer. The display charts the relationship between Crown and Church and its embodiment in the history of the Book of Common Prayer, one of the most important books in the English language. As well as the 1662 revision of the Book of Common Prayer, highlights include a 1549 printing of the Book of Common Prayer, medieval illuminated manuscripts, including the Book of Hours of King Richard III, Queen Elizabeth I’s personal prayer book and a copy of the book of private devotions compiled for Queen Elizabeth II in preparation for her coronation, the Book of Common Prayer used at the wedding of Queen Victoria, and King Charles I’s own handwritten revision of State Prayers. Admission fee applies. Runs until 14th July. For more, see www.lambethpalacelibrary.org/
Having spent the first few months of her life at 17 Bruton Street, the future Queen Elizabeth II moved into her parents’ new property at 145 Piccadilly.
The property, located close to Hyde Park Corner, was previously the townhouse of the Marquesses of Northampton (interestingly, it was while living here that her father the Duke of York first started visiting the Harley Street-based Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, as depicted in The King’s Speech). The 25 bedroom house was later destroyed by a bomb during the war, long after the Yorks had moved out.
As well as the house at 145 Piccadilly, the young Princess Elizabeth (and from 1930 her younger sister and only sibling Princess Margaret) also lived at White Lodge in the centre of Richmond Park in the city’s south-west. The Lodge, a Georgian property built as a hunting lodge for King George II, now houses part of the Royal Ballet School.
She also considerable time outside the city, staying in places including Scotland with her grandparents at either Balmoral Castle (owned by the Royal Family) or at Glamis Castle (owned by the parents of her mother, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore) as well as, from the age of six, at Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, the country home of the Yorks. The princess apparently had her own small house, known as Y Bwthyn Bach (the Little Cottage), in the grounds – a gift from the people of Wales in 1932.
Following the death of King George V and subsequent abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936, new King George VI and his family moved from 145 Piccadilly to Buckingham Palace. Following the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the princesses lived in Balmoral, Scotland, and Sandringham but spent most of the war at Windsor Castle.
Princess Elizabeth, meanwhile, had met Prince Philip of Greece during the 1930s and in 1947, he asked for permission to marry her.
Covering almost 1,000 hectares, Richmond Park, located by the Thames in the city’s south-west, is the largest of the Royal Parks. We have talked about some of Richmond Park’s history in an earlier post, but here we’ll give a little more detail.
It was King Henry VIII who renamed the manor Richmond (after one he possessed in Yorkshire) but it was King Charles I to whom the park owes its existence as we know it.
Charles, who had brought the court to Richmond in 1625 to escape the plague, enclosed the park – then farmland and pastures – in 1637 with eight miles of walls (these still remain, albeit having been repaired) and kept 2,000 red and fallow deer inside. The move didn’t met with universal approval from his subjects but he did pay compensation and eventually give people a right of way and allow them to collect firewood after complaints.
Features within the park – which still contains 650 Red and fallow deer (don’t get too close!) – include King Henry’s mound which features a protected, although tiny, view of St Paul’s Cathedral in the city 12 miles distant – it’s said by some that it was here where King Henry VIII watched for fireworks to be set off at the Tower of London indicating Anne Boleyn had been beheaded although the truth of that remains lost to history (others say it was here he watched hunting parties in the park – perhaps more likely).
The park is also home to White Lodge – it was a hunting lodge built for King George I and is now The Royal Ballet Lower School (complete with ballet museum) – and Pembroke Lodge – this house with stunning views overlooking the Thames Valley, now a restaurant, was once home to Prime Minister Lord John Russell and later the childhood home of his grandson, Nobel Prize-winning philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell.
More recently created is the Isabella Plantation – a woodland garden created largely in the 1950s by George Thomson , then park superintendent, his head gardener, Wally Milleron, an area once known as The Sleyt or Isabella Slade. The garden is well worth a visit at any time of year, having been specifically designed to be interesting all year round.
Richmond Park also features a lake divided in two by a causeway – as so known as Pen Ponds – which was dug in 1746 and remains a good place to see waterbirds.
WHERE: The park is located south of the Thames-side village of Richmond (nearest tube is Richmond). WHEN: 7am in summer (7.30am in winter) to dusk; COST: Free to enter; WEBSITE:www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond_park/
The origins of the gardens go back to 1689 when King William III and Queen Mary II decided to make Kensington Palace (which, as we mentioned last week, was formerly known as Nottingham House) their home. Queen Mary oversaw the creation of a formal, Dutch-style garden featuring hedges and flower beds.
Queen Anne expanded the gardens after King William III’s death and commissioned landscape designers Henry Wise and George Loudon to create an English-style garden. She also ordered the construction of the Orangery which still stands to the north of the palace complex today (and houses a fine restaurant).
But it’s to Queen Caroline, wife of King George II, to whom Kensington Gardens owe its current form for it was she who in 1728, scythed off 300 acres of Hyde Park and employed Charles Bridgeman to create a new garden. His designs included damming the Westbourne stream to create the Long Water and the adjoining Serpentine in Hyde Park. He was also responsible for the creation of the Round Pond in front of the palace and, a landscape-history making move, used a ditch known as a ha-ha to separate the gardens from Hyde Park.
By the reign of King Charles II, the gardens had become fashionable for the elite to stroll in with the Broad Walk a popular promenade. But the gardens gradually fell from favour – a move exacerbated when Queen Victoria, who was born in Kensington Palace, moved to live at Buckingham Palace.
There were some changes made during the era, however. They included the creation of the ornamental Italian water gardens at the northern end of the Long Water and the Albert Memorial (see our previous story here) on the southern edge of the gardens.
Other highlights there today include the Peter Pan statue (see our earlier story on this), the Serpentine Gallery (with, in summer, a temporary pavilion), the Peter Pan-themed Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground (opened in 2000), and the Elfin Oak, a stump which originally came from Richmond Park and is carved with tiny figures of woodland animals and fairies.
There’s also a statue of Queen Victoria directly outside of Kensington Palace which, interestingly, was sculpted by her daughter Princess Louise in celebration 50 years of her reign, as well as statues of Edward Jenner, creator of the small pox vaccine, and John Hanning Speke, discoverer of the Nile.
Other facilities include a cafe and, next to the magazine, an allotment.
WHERE: Kensington Gardens (nearest tube stations are that of Queensway, Bayswater, Lancaster Gate, South Kensington, Gloucester Road and Kensington High Street); WHEN: 6am to dusk; COST: Free; WEBSITE: http://www.royalparks.gov.uk/Kensington-Gardens.aspx
PICTURE: Courtesy of Royal Parks. © Giles Barnard
• An appeal has been launched to raise the final £500,000 of a £7 million project to restore Sir John Soane’s private apartments in his former home overlooking Lincoln’s Inn Fields in Holborn. Phase one of the three year restoration project, Opening up the Soane, is expected to be complete by late 2012 with the entire project – which will see all of the rooms open to the public – to be completed by 2o14. The eight rooms being restored in the project, all of which are located on the second floor of No. 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields – one of three adjoining properties Soane owned , include the architect’s bedroom, bathroom, oratory and book passage as well as Mrs Soane’s morning room and a room containing Soane’s architectural models. The building already contains the Sir John Soane Museum which features an eclectic and at time outright strange mix of artefacts Soane, designer of the Bank of England (although it has since been substantially altered), collected during his lifetime. For more information, see www.soane.org.
• Highland cattle will return to Richmond Park in autumn to help create patches of bare ground for wildflowers to grow after the success of a recent grazing trial. Richmond Park has the most extensive area of natural grassland in London and the type of grassland – known as ‘acid grassland’ – is a nationally rare habitat. Richmond Park is already home to 650 red and fallow deer. For more information, see www.royalparks.org.uk.
• On Now – A new exhibition of street photography in London has just opened at the Museum of London. London Street Photography showcases 200 candid images of everyday life in the city with images ranging from sepia-toned scenes of horse-drawn cabs captured by tripod mounted cameras through to the use of digital cameras in snapping images of 21st century residents. Among the 59 photographers whose work is on display is that of Paul Martin, who pioneered the idea of candid street photography in London in the early 1890s, freelance photojournalist Henry Grant who photographed London’s streets in the Fifties and Sixties, and Stephen McLaren, known for his contemporary “quirky and colorful” street images. Entry is free. The exhibition runs until 4th September. For more information, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
• On Now – The first major exhibition in 30 years of the work of EO Hoppe has opened at the National Portrait Gallery. Hoppe, who lived from 1878 to 1972, is considered one of the most important photographers of the early 20th century and is described as the “prototypical celebrity photographer”, shooting among others Margot Fonteyn, George Bernard Shaw, King George V, David Lloyd George and Ezra Pound. He also published the Book of Fair Women – photographs of women he believed to be the most beautiful of earth – in 1922 and in the Twenties and Thirties increasinly spent time outside the studio photographing street life. Hoppe Portraits: Society, Studio and Street runs until 30th May. For more information, see www.npg.org.uk.