Standing some 200 feet above sea level (almost 63 metres), this rounded grassy hill, just to the north of The Regent’s Park proper, has long held a fascination for Londoners partly, at least, for the panoramic views it offers of the city skyline. 

Once part of a hunting ground used by King Henry VIII, the hill – which has also been known as Battle and Greenberry Hill – was purchased in 1841 from Eton College to provide more public space for Londoners.

It has served as the site of a famous unsolved murder (that of magistrate Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey whose mysterious death, exploited by anti-Catholic plotter Titus Oates, caused considerable uproar) as well as duels, prize fights, mass gatherings and mystic happenings.

The latter have included it being the location where Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg) first organised a gathering of druids, known as a Gorsedd of Bards, in 1792, as well as it being the subject of a prophecy by 16th century ‘soothsayer’ Mother Shipton warning that the streets would “run with blood” if the hill should become surrounded by urban sprawl.

Around the summit of the hill stands a York Stone edging feature bearing an inscription from poet William Blake – “I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill” – while standing on the slope below is the famous Shakespeare’s Tree which was originally planted in 1864 to mark the 300th anniversary of the Bard’s birth (but was replaced in 1964).

The view over London is one of a number of protected views in the city (meaning you can’t build anything block it) and the trees below the summit are kept deliberately low so as not to impede sightlines.

The nearby residential district known as Primrose Hill is noted for being home to numerous famous figures including the likes of Jude Law, Kate Moss and the Gallagher brothers. It is also where the aliens in HG Well’s book, War of the Worlds, intended making their headquarters.

WHERE: Primrose Hill, The Regent’s Park (nearest tube stations are Chalk Farm, Swiss Cottage, St John’s Wood and Mornington Crescent); WHEN: Usually always; COST: free; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/the-regents-park/things-to-see-and-do/primrose-hill.

PICTURE: Mike Rolls/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0 (taken in 2012).

Advertisements

There’s no number for this property in the book so the actual house remains something of an unknown but it was on The Regent Park’s Outer Circle that a “young married couple of humans”, Mr and Mrs Dearly, lived along with their “owners”, a married couple of dogs named Pongo and Missis Pongo.

Yes, they’re all characters in Dodie Smith’s 1956 book, The Hundred and One Dalmatians. And the house? Well, Mr Dearly worked in the City where he was something of a “wizard of finance” and having done the government a “great service”  – described in the book as “something to do with getting rid of the National Debt” – he had, as part of his reward, been lent a “small house” on the Outer Circle where he and his wife lived with their dogs and two nannies.

While living there Missis gives birth to a litter of 15 puppies, the kidnapping of which by the dastardly Cruella de Vil, sets Pongo and his wife off on a journey to rescue them. They do so and manage to save more than 80 other puppies from de Vil (the 101 figure comes when the whole lot return to the Dearly’s home and, along with a few others including Pongo and Missus, take the total family to that number).

The Regent’s Park, of course, plays a key role in the book and subsequent films (see below) – it was in the park, for example, that Pongo engaged in the communication system of “twilight barking” to find out where his puppies were.

The book has, of course, been made into a film several times including a Disney animated version in 1961 and a Disney live action film starring Glenn Close in 1996 (although the plot has been altered somewhat) as well as a musical.

Meanwhile Smith (who based Pongo on her own Dalmatian of the same name), did go on to write a sequel to her book. Titled The Starlight Brigade, it tells a story of intergalactic proportions with the dogs of the world  – led by Pongo – being offered the chance to leave the Earth and escape the threat of nuclear war. They decide to stay.

PICTURE: Looking across the  Boating Lake in The Regent’s Park to the Outer Circle. Phil Russell/The Royal Parks

Triton-Fountain

Located in Queen Mary’s Gardens in The Regent’s Park, this round fountain features a bronze centrepiece depicting a sea triton blowing on a conch shell with two mermaids (also sometimes referred to as dryads or nereids) springing out of the water at his feet. 

Designed by William McMillan (he also designed one of the fountains in Trafalgar Square), the sculpture was offered to the gardens by the painter and sculptor Sigismund Goetze when the gardens were redesigned. 

Goetze lived in Grove House (now Nuffield House) on the northern perimeter of the gardens for 30 years until his death in 1939 and had a studio within the grounds; this sculpture was one of a number of features he donated to Queen Mary’s Gardens.

The sculpture, however, was not finished due to the interruption of World War II and it was only in 1950, long after Goetze’s death that it was erected and dedicated by his wife Constance to Sigismund’s memory – “painter, lover of the arts and benefactor of this park”.

The site on which the fountain – which received a gold medal for being the best sculpture exhibited in London that year – was located was formerly occupied by a conservatory which belonged to the Royal Botanical Society.

Incidentally, in 1944 Constance Goetze founded the Constance Fund which funded fountains in Green Park and Hyde Park.

WHERE: Queen Mary’s Gardens, The Regent’s Park (nearest Tube stations are Regent’s Park, Great Portland Street and Baker Street); WHEN: 5am to 7pm daily (closing times vary depending on the month); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/the-regents-park.

This is one property for which there is no ‘real’ address – 17 Cherry Tree Lane doesn’t exist except in the pages of PL Travers’ books about Mary Poppins (and the many subsequent adaptions including the famous 1964 musical film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke).

Bank-of-EnglandBut we do know that the home of Mr and Mrs Banks – the couple who hired Ms Poppins as a nanny for their children Jane, Michael and baby twins John and Barbara – is believed to have been located somewhere in London – possibly somewhere to the north-west of the city close to The Regent’s Park and within an easy commute of the Bank of England (pictured) where Mr Banks worked.

While some of the locations featured in the book and the film – such as the Bank  and, of course, St Paul’s Cathedral (remember the lady who fed the birds?) – do exist – there is also at least one residential property related to Mary Poppins which does as well.

According to Ed Glinert, author of Literary London, the model for Admiral Boom’s house a little further along Cherry Tree Lane  – you may recall him firing his cannon on the 1964 film – can be found in Admiral’s Walk in Hampstead. The property was apparently once home to the nineteenth century architect George Gilbert Scott.

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.

A former hunting chase, The Regent’s Park in London’s north-west was extensively developed in the 19th century and remains a good – if not complete – example of a Regency landscape.

As with many of London’s Royal Parks, Regent’s Park (it’s formal name is actually The Regent’s Park but we’ll shorten it for our purposes here) once served as King Henry VIII’s hunting grounds – he seized the park, then known as Marylebone Park Fields after the nearby village and boasting thick woods as well as more open forests, from the Abbey of Barking in 1538.

Used by royalty for the next 50 years, it remained largely unaltered until after the Civil War when, between 1649 and 1660, the Commonwealth ordered many of the trees to be chopped down to pay debts. It was restored to royal ownership with the restoration of the monarchy but, with hunting falling out of fashion, was then leased out to tenant farmers.

It was John Nash who created the park that we know and love today. Friend of the Prince Regent (later King George IV), he was among a number of architects who responded to the Prince Regent’s calls for the creation of a new design featuring a palace for himself.

Nash’s original designs included a round park featuring a lake and canal and surrounded by as many as 56 villas and a palatial summer home for the Prince Regent which would be linked to his other home at St James’s by a processional road.

But only eight of the villas were ever built and only two of them – St John’s Lodge and The Holme – remain (both are private residences but part of the lodge’s gardens are open to the public) while the plans for the Prince Regent’s palace were put on hold when he turned his attention to developing Buckingham Palace instead. The canal, meanwhile, was moved to the park’s northern boundary where it still stands today (see our earlier entry on Regent’s Canal) while the processional route Nash had proposed became Regent Street.

While the park was initially only for the exclusive use of residents and what Royal Park’s call the ‘carriage set’, in 1835, the eastern part of the park was opened to the public for two days a week. Other sections of what is now included in the park, including Primrose Hill, were opened later.

Meanwhile, the fact most of the villas had never been built had left a large amount of free space and so both the Zoological Society and the Royal Botanic Society moved in – the latter laying out what is the Inner Circle with lawns and a lake of its own. Another society to operate in the park was the Royal Toxophilite Society which introduced archery there.

Not much has changed since but for the creation of Queen Mary’s Gardens in the 1930s – these were laid out on the space formally occupied by the Royal Botanic Society which had decided not to renew its lease. The Open Air Theatre performances, which are still held in the gardens today, started at about the same time. The park was damaged by bombing during World War II but has been fully restored.

Other facilities now in the 166 hectare (410 acre) park include a sports facility known as The Hub as well as several cafes, tennis courts and boat hire. The London Zoo, of course, also remains there.

WHERE: The Regent’s Park (nearest tube station is Regent’s Park); WHEN: 5am to at least 4pm (closing times vary depending on the month); COST: Free entry; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.gov.uk/The-Regents-Park.aspx