The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 4 Regent's Park

Criticism of Regent's Park and the Nash Terraces

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It is difficult to judge Regent's Park with an unprejudiced eye. The exaggerated praise it called forth when just completed is only equalled by the unmeasured censure of the next generation. Of the houses which surround it the following are two descriptions. The first, in 1855, calls them "highly-embellished terraces of houses, in which the Doric and Ionic, the Corinthian, and even the Tuscan orders have been employed with ornate effect, aided by architectural sculpture." Fifty years later the same houses are summed up with very different epithets: "Most of the ugly terraces which surround it exhibit all the worst follies of the Grecian architectural mania which disgraced the beginning of this century"! It may not be a style which commends itself to modern taste, but one thing is certain, that having embarked on classical architecture it was best to stick to it and complete the whole. It is as much a bit of history, and as typical of the age, as Elizabethan or Tudor architecture is of theirs, and as such it is best to treat Regent's Park as an interesting example of early nineteenth-century taste. This ground was country when building was begun, and when one thinks of the streets and crescents that grow up when the country touches the town, and the incongruous ugliness of most of them, there is much to be said for the substantial uniformity of Regent's Park. What can be argued from the surroundings of the other parks? Would Regent's Park have been improved by the erection of rows of houses of the Queen Anne's Mansion type? One cannot help wondering what Stowe would have thought of such a production, when he instances "a remarkable punishment of Pride in high buildings," how a man who built himself a tower in Lime Street, to overlook his neighbours, was very soon "tormented with gouts in his joynts, of his hands and legs"-that he could go no "further than he was led, much lesse was he able to climbe" his tower! What retribution would he have thought sufficiently severe for the perpetrators of Park Row Buildings, New York, with their thirty-two storeys?