The Garden Guide

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

Mobs and riots in Hyde Park

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During the last hundred years Hyde Park has frequently been disturbed by mobs and rioters, until it has become the recognised place in which to air popular discontent in any form, or to ventilate any grievance. The first serious riot took place at the funeral of Queen Caroline, in 1821. To avoid any popular demonstration of feeling, it was arranged that the funeral procession should not pass through the City. The Queen had died at Brandenburgh House, and was to be interred at Brunswick. Instead of going straight by way of Knightsbridge and Piccadilly, a circuitous route by Kensington, Bayswater, Islington, and Mile End was planned. On reaching Kensington Church, the mob prevented the turn towards Bayswater being taken. Hyde Park was thronged with an excited crowd, trying to force the escort to go the way it wished. At Cumberland Gate quite a severe encounter took place, in which the Life Guards twice charged the mob. Further down Oxford Street were barricades, and to avoid further rioting the procession eventually had to take the people's route, passing quietly down to the Strand and through the City. The occasion of the Reform Bill riot in 1831, when the windows were smashed in Apsley House, is well known, and from 1855 to 1866 Hyde Park witnessed many turbulent demonstrations. The first occasion was in July 1855 against Lord Robert Grosvenor's "Sunday Trading Bill," when some 150,000 people assembled, and various scenes of disturbance took place. More or less serious riots were of frequent occurrence, until they culminated in the Reform League riot in July 1866, when the railings between Marble Arch and Grosvenor Gate "were entirely demolished, and the flower-beds were ruined." The flower-beds had not been long in existence when they were wantonly damaged by the mob.