Above: The tranquility of the large lake in Regent’s Park.
The park is one of the largest features of St Marylebone in terms of its size and also in terms of its interest as a visitor attraction. It lies on the north side of Marylebone Road and covers an area of 410 acres. As one of the Royal Parks of London it lies mainly within the City of Westminster with a small easterly part within the London Borough of Camden. The reason for this boundary passing through the park is historical – it is part of an ancient parish boundary between St Marylebone (to the west) and St Pancras (to the east). To the north of Regent’s Park is the equally attractive Primrose Hill with its fine views across London.
With the Marylebone Road acting as its southern boundary, the park extends to its northern boundary which is the Regent’s Canal. Regent’s Park is a popular location for joggers and summer picnic lovers, whilst also having some of London’s most beautiful homes surrounding it. The northern part of the park is not only bounded by the attraction of Regent’s Canal but part of the land is occupied by Zoological Society of London’s land – better known as the London Zoo. Other features of the park are the extensive gardens, a large boating lake, an open air theatre, several grand houses, a mosque and the Danish Church which meets in the old church of the Royal Foundation of St Katharine.
The history of the land that makes up today’s park is an unusual one. In medieval times it was part of the Manor of Tyburn, which had once been the property of Barking Abbey. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536) Henry VIII appropriated the land and ever since it has been Crown property – the only exception being the period between 1649 and 1660 when it was held by the Commonwealth. When held by Henry VIII that land was set aside as a hunting park, known as Marylebone Park, until 1649. It was then let out in small holdings for hay and dairy produce.
When the leases expired in 1811 the Prince Regent (later King George IV) commissioned architect John Nash to create a master-plan for the area. The Prince wanted a new palace built near The Mall – called Carlton House. The idea was that a road should be built linking Carlton House with a new hunting lodge on land in what is now Regent’s Park. They were very grand plans which were typical the Prince Regent’s lavish life-style. The architect John Nash had the unenviable task of trying to comply with the king’s wishes. Carlton House was built and the roadway running to the intended hunting lodge was skilfully cut through smaller streets in London. We are all familiar with the route – Lower Regent Street; Piccadilly Circus; Regent Street with its grand curve at the southern end; Oxford Circus; Portland Place; and the final ‘flourish’ of Park Crescent, connecting with Marylebone Road. The route just described was intended to continue north into the park, ending at the grand hunting lodge. However, by the time the lodge was to be erected the plan had run out of money and it was never built. The grand villas that surround the park today were built by those who believed that the park would one day have a royal hunting lodge and they would be near the King.
The park was opened to the general public in 1835 who greatly enjoyed the fine gardens and the large lake. Sadly, on 15 January 1867, during freezing conditions, 200 people fell into the water when the ice on which they had been standing gave way and 40 of them drowned. The depth of the lake was then reduced to less then four feet to prevent the same disaster from happening again.
Over the years the park has been enjoyed by many people for walking in, enjoying days out in the fresh air and also to enjoy its many attractions. There is plenty to interest the visitor and, due to its size, it is one place in London where you can walk and not hear the roar of London′s traffic.