The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 17 Marylebone, Regent's Park, Zoological Gardens

Regent's Park

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Regent's Park, roughly circular in shape, has an area of 472 acres. It is the successor of Marylebone Park, a royal hunting-ground until Cromwell's day, and was laid out in its present style after 1812 by Nash, and named after the Prince Regent, who contemplated building a country-house here. It was not thrown open to the public until 1838. Near its outer edge the park is encircled by a carriage-road known as the Outer Circle (speed-limit for motors, 12 miles per hour), the south half of which is flanked by terraces of spacious houses in the classic style, by Nash (with the exception of Cornwall Terrace, which is by Decimus Burton). From south to north, across the east half of the park, runs the Broad Walk (+ miles; for pedestrians only), passing the Bandstand (music on Sunday) and leading straight to the Zoological Gardens, in the north-east portion of the park. In the south-west portion is an artificial lake of 22 acres (rowing-boats for hire at the north-west end). Through the north portion of the park runs the Regent's Canal. Near the south end of the Broad Walk are beautifully kept flowergardens, but the greater part of the park, though it includes also some fine trees, is a grassy expanse, devoted to cricket and other games. Waterfowl breed on the lake, many varieties of other wild birds frequent the park, and tame grey American squirrels (let loose from the Zoo) may be seen among the trees. From York Gate on the south a road leads north to the drive known as the Inner Circle, where Horse Parades are held on Easter Monday and Whit Monday. On the right, beyond the bridge, are public tennis courts (5/ per hour), managed by St. Dunstan's. On the left is Bedford College, a School of London University in 1849 by Mrs. E. J. Reid to provide for women a liberal education in secular subjects. The spacious new buildings, in grounds of 8 acres, to which the College removed from Baker St. in 1913, were designed by Basil Champneys, the library by S. R. J. Smith. There is accommodation for 500 students, of whom 90 may be resident, and the teaching-staff numbers about 60. The Inner Circle encloses the Royal Botanic Gardens, leased by the Crown in 1840 to the Royal Botanic Society (incorporated in 1839). The gardens (18 acres) include large palm-houses and a water-lily house. In summer flowershows, fetes, and other entertainments are held here. Apart from these the gardens are open on week-days from 9, on Sunday from 10.30 till sunset (admission 1/ on Monday and Saturday; other days by member's order only). Military bands occasionally. Within the precincts of Regent's Park lie not only the Zoological Gardens, but also several private or semi-private buildings. On the west side, near Hanover Gate (which is 4 minutes to the south-east of St. John's Wood Road Station), is St. Dunstan's Lodge, designed in 1830 by Decimus Burton for the profligate Marquis of Hertford. On the house is the old clock (1671) from St. Dunstan's Church, with two 'smite-the-clock' figures, purchased in 1832 by the Marquis, who used to admire it when a child. The figures below, representing King Lud and his sons, originally stood on the old Ludgate. St. Dunstan's Hostel for Blinded Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen, founded here by Sir Arthur Pearson (died 1921), now occupies St. John's Lodge, on the north side of the Inner Circle. Visitors are admitted on Tuesday, 2-4 p.m.; at other times by appointment with the secretary. On the north side of the park is Regent's Park College or Baptist Training College, founded in 1810 and established here in 1856. From the North Gate, opposite, Avenue Road runs to Swiss Cottage. On the east side of the park is St. Katherine's Royal Hospital, originally founded near the Tower in 1148 by Queen Matilda and removed hither in 1829, when the St. Katherine's Docks were excavated. In 1261 Queen Eleanor, wife of Henry III., took the wardenship into her own hands and reserved the patronage for ever for the Queens of England. The chapel (open on week-days 8-1) contains a fine monument to the Duke of Exeter (1447), Stalls and other woodcarvings of the 14th century, and a wooden pulpit, presented in 1621 by Sir Julius Caesar - all brought from the old chapel. The foundation, which consisted of a master, three brethren, and three sisters, was abolished in 1914, and the funds (�10,000 a year) are now used for infant welfare and other social work near the docks. The West End Hospital for Nervous Diseases occupies St. Katherine's Lodge, which was originally the master's lodge.