Where is it? #68…

October 4, 2013

Where-is-it--#68

Can you identify where in London this picture was taken and what it’s of? If you think you can, leave a comment below. We’ll reveal the answer early next week. Good luck!

Well done to Renate, John, Diego and José who all correctly named this as the Boy with a Dolphin fountain in Hyde Park’s Rose Garden. The fountain, which is the work of Alexander Munro and dates from 1862, was once the centrepiece of the Victoria-era sunken garden which stood on the site of a former reservoir but was removed to make way for the widening of Park Lane. The fountain was moved to The Regent’s Park in 1960 but returned to Hyde Park in 1995. The Rose Garden, located close to Hyde Park Corner, also contains an older fountain – the Artemis Fountain, which dates from 1822.

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A white tiled plunge bath which once belonged to Princess Caroline of Brunswick, the estranged wife of George, Prince of Wales (later King George IV), still lies in the south-west corner of Greenwich Park between the Rose Garden and Chesterfield Gate.

Princess Caroline, a cousin of the prince, married him in 1795 in an arrangement made so he could get out of debt. Theirs was never a marriage of love – the prince is said to have spread rumours that she was adulterous, had bad breath and never washed – and after Princess Caroline gave birth to a daughter, Princess Charlotte, the couple separated.

Two years later, in 1798, Princess Caroline was banished to live at Montague House near Greenwich Park while the prince dallied with his mistress Maria Fitzherbert. The princess, known for her scandalous and indiscreet behaviour during her residence at the house, used the sunken bath, which the stood inside a bathhouse partly attached to the main building.

The house was demolished in 1815 on the orders of the king (a decision apparently prompted by a fit of pique at the Queen’s lifestyle), a year after Princess Caroline left England for the Continent plagued by rumours that she’d mothered an illegitimate child (a secret commission into her behaviour cleared her of a charge of adultery but did find her behaviour to be improper).

The sunken bath, meanwhile, was filled in during the 1980s and served as a flowerbed until, in 2001, it was re-excavated by Royal Parks in a dig funded by the Friends of Greenwich Park, Greenwich Society, the Friends of Ranger’s House and donations from individuals.

WHERE: Princess Caroline’s Bath, south-west corner of Greenwich Park (nearest DLR station is Cutty Sark – other nearby stations include Greenwich, Maze Hill and Blackheath); WHEN: 6am to at least 8pm (but beware, closing times vary depending on the month); COST: Free entry; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.gov.uk/Greenwich-Park.aspx

PICTURE: © Copyright Colin Smithwww.geograph.org.uk 

This year marks the 160th anniversary of the transfer of the care of the Royal Parks to the government (meaning the public was freely able to enjoy access for the first time). To celebrate, over the next weeks we’ll be taking a look at the history of each of them. First up is the 142 hectare Hyde Park, perhaps the most famous of all eight Royal Parks.

Formerly owned by Westminster Abbey, King Henry VIII seized the land in 1536 for use as a private hunting ground. He had it enclosed with fences and the Westbourne Stream, which ran through the park – it now runs underground – dammed.

It remained the king and queen’s private domain (Queen Elizabeth I is known to have reviewed troops there) until King James I appointed a ranger to look after the park and permitted limited access to certain members of the nobility in the early 17th century.

The park’s landscaping remained largely unaltered until the accession of King Charles I – he created what is known as the ‘ring’ – a circular track where members of the royal court could drive their carriages. In 1637, he also opened the park to the public (less than 30 years later, in 1665, it proved a popular place for campers fleeing the Great Plague in London).

During the ensuring Civil War, the Parliamentarians created forts in the park to help defend the city against the Royalists – some evidence of their work still remains in the raised bank next to Park Lane.

After King William III and Queen Mary II moved their court to Kensington Palace (formerly Nottingham House) in the late 1600s, they had 300 oil lamps installed along what we know as “Rotten Row’ – the first artificially lit road in the country – to enable them and their court to travel safely between the palace and Westminster.

The natural looking Serpentine – the great, 11.34 hectare, lake in the middle of Hyde Park (pictured) – was created in the 1730s on the orders of Queen Caroline, wife of King George II, as part of extensive work she had carried out there. It was Queen Caroline who also divided off what we now know as Kensington Gardens from Hyde Park, separating the two with a ha-ha (a ditch).

The next major changes occurred in the 1820s when King George IV employed architect and garden designer Decimus Burton to create the monumental park entrance at Hyde Park Corner – the screen still remains in its original position while Wellington Arch was moved from a parallel position to where it now stands (see our previous posts for more on that). Burton also designed a new railing fence and several lodges and gates for the park. A bridge across the Serpentine, meanwhile, was built at about the same time along with a new road, West Carriage Drive, formally separating Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

While the basic layout of the park has been largely unchanged since, there have been some additions – among them, the establishment in 1872 of Speaker’s Corner as a place to speak your mind in the north-east corner of the park (near Marble Arch), the creation in 1930 of the Lido for bathing in warm weather, and, more recently, the building of the Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Fountain (unveiled in 2004), and the 7 July Memorial (unveiled in July 2009).

Other sculptures in the park include Isis (designed by Simon Gudgeon, located on the south side of the Serpentine), the Boy and Dolphin Fountain (designed by Alexander Munro, it stands in the Rose Garden), and a monumental statue of Achilles, a memorial to the Duke of Wellington designed by Richard Westmacott, near Park Lane. There are also memorials to the Holocaust, Queen Caroline, and the Cavalry as well as a Norwegian War Memorial and a mosaic marking the site of the Reformer’s Tree (the tree was burnt down during the Reform League Riots of 1866).

The park has been integral part of any national celebrations for centuries – in 1814 a fireworks display there marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Great Exhibition – with the vast Crystal Palace – was held there in 1851 and in 1977 a Silver Jubilee Exhibition was held marking Queen Elizabeth II’s 25 year reign. Cannons are fire there on June 2nd to mark the Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation and on 10th June for the Duke of Edinburgh’s birthday.

Facilities these days include rowing and pedal boats, tennis courts, deck chairs, a restaurant and cafe (the latter based in the Lido) and, of course, some Boris bikes. There is a heritage walk through the park which can be downloaded from the Royal Parks website.

WHERE: Hyde Park (nearest tube stations are that of Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner, Lancaster Gate, Knightsbridge and South Kensington); WHEN: 5am to midnight; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.gov.uk/Hyde-Park.aspx?page=main

PICTURE: Courtesy of Royal Parks. © Indusfoto Ltd