The Garden Guide

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

Hyde Park in the Middle Ages

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Until the stormy days of the Reformation these lands remained much the same. Owned by the Abbey of Westminster, they were probably well cultivated by their tenants, and doubtless the game with which they abounded from early times afforded the Abbot some pleasant days' sport and tasty meals. The first time any of the Manor became part of the royal demesne, was when the Abbot Islip exchanged 100 acres of what is now St. James's Park, adjoining the royal lands, for Poughley in Berkshire, with Henry VIII. in 1531-2. This Abbot, who had an ingenious device to represent his name-a human eye and a cutting or "slip" of a tree -died in the Manor House of Neate or Neyte the same year. He gave up the lands from Charing Cross "unto the Hospital of St. James in the fields" (now St. James's Palace), and the meadows between the Hospital and Westminster. Five years later, when the upheaval of the dissolution of the monasteries was taking place, the monks of Westminster were forced to take the lands of the Priory of Hurley-one of their own cells just dissolved-in exchange for the rest of the manor. Henry VIII., who loved sport, found these lands first-rate hunting-ground. From his palace at Westminster, through Hyde Park, right away to Hampstead, he had an almost uninterrupted stretch of country, where hares and herons, pheasants and partridges, could be pursued and preserved "for his own disport and pastime." Hyde Park was enclosed, or "substantially empayled," as an old writer states, and a large herd of deer kept there, and various proclamations show that the right of sport had to be jealously guarded.