The Garden Guide

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

Lord Redesdale and the Dell Garden

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The Dell had not been ten years in its present form when the proposal was made. The site of the Dell was a receiving lake, about 200 yards by 70, which had been made in 1734. This was done away with in 1844, and the overflow of the Serpentine allowed to pass over the artificial rocks which still remain. It was enveloped in a dark and dirty shrubbery, the haunt of all the ruffians and the worst characters who frequented the Park at night. The place was not safe to pass after dark, neither had it any beauty to recommend it. It was in this state when the present Lord Redesdale became Secretary of the Office of Works in 1874. He conceived the idea of turning it into a subtropical garden, designed the banks of the little stream, and introduced suitable planting, banishing the old shrubs, and merely using the best to form a background to the spireas, iris, giant coltsfoot, osmundas, day lilies, and suchlike, which adorned the water's edge in front. The dark history of the Dell is quite forgotten, and watching the ducks and rabbits playing about this pretty spot is one of the chief delights of Hyde Park. The monolith which stands near was brought from Liskeard in Cornwall by Mr. Cowper Temple, when First Commissioner of Works, and set up in its present place as a drinking-fountain in 1862. In 1887 the water was cut off it, the railings altered, and the turf laid round it, joining it on to the rest of the Dell. To Lord Redesdale are due also the rhododendrons which make such a glorious show on either side of Rotten Row. He contracted with Messrs. Anthony Waterer for a yearly supply, as they only look their best for a short time exposed to London air. In his time, too, many of the small flower-beds which were dotted about without much rhyme or reason were done away with, and the borders at the edge of the shrubs substituted.