Hyde Park is one of the largest parks in Central London, United Kingdom, and one of the Royal Parks of London, famous for its Speakers’ Corner.
The park was the site of the Great Exhibition of 1851, for which the Crystal Palace was designed by Joseph Paxton. The park has become a traditional location for mass demonstrations. The Chartists, the Reform League, the Suffragettes and the Stop The War Coalition have all held protests in the park. Many protesters on the Liberty and Livelihood March in 2002 started their march from Hyde Park. On 20 July 1982 in the Hyde Park and Regents Park bombings, two bombs linked to the Provisional Irish Republican Army caused the death of eight members of the Household Cavalry and the Royal Green Jackets and seven horses.
The park is divided in two by the Serpentine. The park is contiguous with Kensington Gardens; although often still assumed to be part of Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens has been technically separate since 1728, when Queen Caroline made a division between the two. Hyde Park covers 142 hectares (350 acres) and Kensington Gardens covers 111 hectares (270 acres), giving an overall area of 253 hectares (630 acres), making the combined area larger than the Principality of Monaco (196 hectares, 480 acres), though smaller than New York City’s Central Park (341 hectares, 840 acres). To the south-east, outside the park, is Hyde Park Corner. Although, during daylight, the two parks merge seamlessly into each other, Kensington Gardens closes at dusk but Hyde Park remains open throughout the year from 5 am until midnight.
Hyde Park is the largest of four parks which form a chain from the entrance of Kensington Palace through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, via Hyde Park Corner and Green Park (19 hectares), past the main entrance to Buckingham Palace and then on through Saint James’s Park (23 hectares) to Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall. The Grand Entrance to the park, also known as Queen Elizabeth Gate, at Hyde Park Corner next to Apsley House, was erected from the designs of Decimus Burton in 1824–25.
Sites of interest in the park include Speakers’ Corner (located in the northeast corner near Marble Arch), close to the former site of the Tyburn gallows, and Rotten Row, which is the northern boundary of the site of the Crystal Palace. South of the Serpentine is the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial, an oval stone ring fountain opened on 6 July 2004. To the east of the Serpentine, just beyond the dam, is London’s Holocaust Memorial. Another memorial in the park commemorates the victims of 7/7 terrorist attacks, in the form of 52 steel pillars — one for each of the dead.
A botanical curiosity is the Weeping Beech, Fagus sylvatica pendula, cherished as “the upside-down tree”. Opposite Hyde Park Corner stands one of the grandest hotels in London, The Lanesborough (Formerly — until the early 1970s — St George’s Hospital). Stanhope Lodge (Decimus Burton, 1824–25) at Stanhope Gate,demolished to widen Park Lane, was the home of Samuel Parkes who won theVictoria Cross in the Charge of the Light Brigade. After leaving the army, Parkes became inspector of the park’s constables, and died in the lodge on 14 November 1864. A rose garden, designed by Colvin & Moggridge Landscape Architects, was added in 1994.
In 1867 the policing of the park was entrusted to the Metropolitan Police, the only royal park so managed, due to the potential for trouble at Speaker’s Corner. A Metropolitan Police station (‘AH’) is situated in the middle of the park. The 1872 Parks Regulation Act created positions of “park keeper” and also provided that “Every police constable belonging to the police force of the district in which any park, garden, or possession to which this Act applies is situate shall have the powers, privileges, and immunities of a park-keeper within such park, garden, or possession.”
An assortment of unusual sculptures are scattered around the park, including Drinking Horse, made in the shape of a massive horse head lapping up water, a family of Jelly Babies standing on top of a large black cube, and Broom Broom, which resembles a giant human hand pushing a toy car along the ground.
Hyde Park has been the venue for some famous rock concerts, including the major location for the Live 8 string of benefit concerts where Pink Floyd reunited their classic line up for the first time in over 30 years. Queen played here in one of their most popular shows, in 1976. It is estimated that 150–200 thousand people turned up for the event. The record concert attendance is probably for the 1969 concert by the Rolling Stones. According to much of the press, the crowd then was estimated between 250,000 and 500,000. Blur played here as part of their reunion. They have released 2 live albums recorded at the park called All the People: Blur Live at Hyde Park (2009) and Parklive (2012).
Since 2007, Hyde Park has hosted “Winter Wonderland”, featuring fun fair rides from around Europe, markets, an ice rink, and numerous bars, restaurants, and cafes. Since 1996, the park has been the London venue for the Proms in the Park concerts, held on the last night of the BBC Proms. On 17 July 2012, pop icon Madonna performed in Hyde Park for her only London date during her MDNA World Tour in front of nearly 55,000 people.
For the 2012 Summer Olympics, the park hosted the triathlon and the 10 km open water swimming events. There are five London Underground stations located on or near the edges of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens (which is contiguous with Hyde Park). In clockwise order starting from the south-east, they are:
- Hyde Park Corner (Piccadilly Line)
Knightsbridge (Piccadilly Line)
Queensway (Central Line)
Lancaster Gate (Central Line)
Marble Arch (Central Line)
Bayswater tube station, on the Circle and District Lines, is also close to Queensway station and the north-west corner of the park.
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