The area that is now Regent’s Park once belonged to the monks of Barking Abbey until Henry VIII dissolved the monastery and turned it into a hunting park. In 1835 it became a public park on the instructions of the future King George IV who at the time was the Prince Regent (ruling in place of his mentally ill father George III until his death in 1820 when he became George IV). That’s why the park is The Regent’s Park, but hardly anyone ever calls it that.
The Park was designed by John Nash, Decimus Burton (architect of Wellington Arch) and James Burton. When I was finished at the Wallace Collection I realised I was near enough to Regent’s Park, where I’d never actually managed a visit before, to spend an hour or so before I had to get my train home. The park is 410 acres so I only visited a small portion of it, sticking mostly to the area around the lake.
In the 1980s the park became the centre for waterfowl breeding for The Royal Parks. Their role is to maintain and protect the populations at all the Royal Parks which include Kensington Gardens and St James’ Parks. There was a lot of such waterfowl to see even on my short visit including two herons –
Canadian geese –
and Egyptian geese.
During the Second World War the park was used to house personnel and anti-aircraft installations. Over 300 incendiary bombs and V2 rockets landed in the park and surrounding area – much of the park is now flatter than it was originally because of this and occasional subsidence is a real problem because of the collapsing of landfills and old air raid shelters.
Further back, on 15 January 1867 40 people died when the ice cover on the lake collapsed plunging over 200 people into the icy water. As a result it was drained and its depth reduced by four feet before it was reopened.
It’s a lovely place to visit with lots mores gardens than I had time to see, plenty of benches and places to eat. You can find some more photos here.