The Garden Guide

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

Commonwealth Hyde Park, Oliver Cromwell

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Dismal days for the Parks followed. Although the Parks had been declared the property of the Commonwealth, it was from no wish to use them for sport or recreation. During the latter years of Charles the First's reign Hyde Park had become somewhat of a fashionable resort. People came to enjoy the air and meet their friends, and it was less exclusively reserved for hunting. Races took place, both foot and horse; crowds collected to witness them, and ladies, with their attendant cavaliers, drove there in coaches, and refreshed themselves at the "Cake House" with syllabubs. This latter was the favourite drink, made of milk or cream whipped up with sugar and wine or cider. But the Puritan spirit, which was rapidly asserting itself, soon interfered with such harmless amusements. In 1645 the Parks were ordered to be shut on the Lord's Day, also on fast and thanksgiving days. In 1649 the Parks, together with Windsor, Hampton Court, Greenwich, and Richmond, were declared to be the property of the Commonwealth, and thrown open to the public. But this did not lead to greater public enjoyment of Hyde Park. Far from it, for only three years later it was put up to auction in three lots. The first lot was the part bounded on one side by the present Bayswater Road, and is described as well wooded; the second, the Kensington side, was chiefly pasture; the third, another well-wooded division, included the lodge and banqueting-house and the Ring where the races took place. This part was valued at more than double the two others, and was purchased by Anthony Dean, a ship-builder, for �9020, 8s. 2d. This business-like gentleman presumably reserved the use of the timber for his ships, and let out the pasture. His tenant proceeded to make as much as he could, and levied a toll on all carriages coming into the Park. On some occasions he extorted 2s. 6d. from each coach. In 1653 John Evelyn in his diary complains on April 11 that he "went to take the aire in Hide Park, when every coach was made to pay a shilling, and every horse sixpence, by the sordid fellow who had purchas'd it of the State, as they were call'd."