The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 2 Hyde Park

Albert Memorial and tree planting in Hyde Park

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It was with the recollection of this world-famous Exhibition fresh in men's minds that the site for the Albert Memorial was chosen. The idea conceived by Sir Gilbert Scott was the reproduction on a large scale of a mediï¾µval shrine or reliquary. When it was erected an alteration was made in some of the avenues in Kensington Gardens, so as to bring one into line with the Memorial. A fresh avenue of elms and planes straight to the monument was planted, which joined into the original one, and a few trees were dotted about to break the old line. As first planned, the avenue must have commanded a view of Paddington Church steeple in the vista. There is no better refutation of the theory that only plane trees will live in London, than an examination of the trees in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. An appendix to this volume gives a list of the trees and shrubs which have been planted there, and notes those which are not in existence, having proved unsuitable to London, or been removed from some other cause. Many people will doubtless be surprised at the length of the list. A large number of the trees are really fine specimens, and would do credit to any park in the kingdom. Take, for instance, some of the ash trees. There is a very fine group not very far from the Mount Gate inside Kensington Gardens. Two specimens with light feathery foliage, Fraxinus lentiscifolia and F. excelsior angustifolia, when seen like lace against the sky, are remarkably pretty trees. Not far from them stand a good tulip tree and the last remaining of the old Scotch firs. The Ailanthus Avenue from the Serpentine Bridge towards Rotten Row, planted in 1876, is looking most prosperous. There are a few magnificent ancient sweet chestnuts above the bastion near the Magazine. The trees planted from time to time have wisely been grouped together according to species. Near the Ranger's Lodge, outside the new frame-ground, some birches grow well, and their white stems are washed every year. The collection of pavias, which flower delightfully in the small three-cornered enclosure where the road divides at the Magazine, are most flourishing. To the south-west of the fountains at the end of the Serpentine, some very good Turkey and American oaks are growing into large trees. Several really old thorns are dotted about. In a walk from the "Round Pond," by the stone which marks the boundary of three parishes, towards Bays- water, grand specimens of oak, ash, lime, elm, sweet and horse-chestnuts are met with. The avenue of horse-chestnuts is just as flourishing as those of planes or elms. In fact the whole Park shows how well trees will succeed if sufficient care is taken of them. One feature of the Park in old days was the Walnut Avenue, which grew nearly on the lines of the present trees between Grosvenor Gate and the Achilles Statue. They were decayed and were cut down in 1811, and the best of the wood was used for gunstocks for the army. It is a pity no walnut avenue was planted instead, as by now it would have been a fine shady walk. The old elms, which are of such great beauty in Hyde Park, have, alas! often to be sacrificed for the safety of passers-by, so that the recent severe lopping was necessary. Their great branches are the first to fall in a gale. Yet when one has to be removed there is an outcry, though people tamely submit to a whole row of trees being ruined by tram lines along the Embankment, so inconsistent is public opinion. It is almost incredible what narrow escapes from destruction even the beauty of Hyde Park has had. In 1884 a Metropolitan and Parks Railway Bill was before Parliament, which actually proposed to cross the Park by tunnels and cuttings which would have completely disfigured "The Dell" and other parts of the Park. In this utilitarian age nothing is sacred. [The Albert Memorial is situated in Kensington Gardens, London, England, directly to the north of the Royal Albert Hall. It was commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her beloved husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha who died of typhoid in 1861, and designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the Gothic revival style. Wikipedia, 2007]