Another green space that was once the personal property of King Henry VIII, by the 19th Century it was transformed by landscape architect John Nash into the public park it is today. Last time we wrote about Regent’s we covered such interesting stories as its zoological history, the view from Primrose Hill, and the ties to the 2012 Olympic Games. However, the fascinating things to learn about Regent’s don’t end there, and we have found ten more interesting facts for your consideration. Join us below as we delve further into the history and features of one of London’s best parks.
A Circle Within a Circle
Regent’s Park’s design is such that it’s very circular in shape. The Outer Circle has a length of 2.67 miles, and the Inner Circle is 0.8 miles. Either circle is very popular for getting in a good run, while the Inner Circle holds important features like the Japanese Gardens, Regent’s Bar & Kitchen, and Queen Mary’s Rose Garden.
A Not So Well-Known Garden
Within the park is one large private residence, St. John’s Lodge. Built in 1812, it is one of only two private homes within the park and is currently owned by the Royal Family of Brunei. While you can’t go for a tour inside the house, it has its own adjacent gardens that are open for anyone to visit. Inside the gardens, you’ll find a bronze statue known as Goatherd’s Daughter. This work of art is Grade II listed and was crafted by the Royal Academy of Art for the National Council for Animal Welfare in 1932.
Straddling the Line
Regent’s park is divided by the Broad Walk, which divides the park between the two boroughs it sits in: Camden on the east and Westminster on the west. Since it’s a Royal Park, the Royal Parks have management over it.
It is Defended
Although perhaps not in the conventional sense. Regent’s Park is Grade I listed, which means it could never be built over, offering it a measure of protection from development.
The Music of the Trees
A unique feature of Regent’s is the Music for Trees app. Developed in conjunction with the Royal Academy of Music, Music for Trees will play creations from the Academy’s students based on the species of trees that are near your location. The app was the brainchild of Royal Parks arboriculturist Matt Steinmann, who enjoyed listening to music as he performed his surveying duties in the park. According to an interview for RoyalParks.org, Steinmann said he then “imagined whether music could be composed *for* trees.” The result is a musical and natural experience like no other.
Discovering Other Worlds
St. John’s Lodge and the Holme are the only existing private houses in the park today, but that wasn’t always the case. Astronomer George Bishop owned South Villa in the park and in 1836 built himself an observatory on what’s now part of Regent’s College. From here he was able to discover several minor planets.
When ZSL London Zoo opened in 1828, it wasn’t open to the public. Founded by the Zoological Society of London, it was a zoo BY zoologists FOR zoologists. The Zoo’s collections of animals, birds, reptiles, and more were originally for scientific study and not people’s enjoyment. It wouldn’t open to members of the public for twenty years after its founding.
The Secret Canal
While Regent’s Canal is a popular attraction not too far from the park, Regent’s Park has its own abandoned canal. The Cumberland Canal adjoins Regent’s Canal, and the remainder of it can be seen today as a stub that goes just a bit east (at the location of the Feng Shang Princess restaurant. The canal became disused after WWII and filled in with rubble from the Blitz. The former canal is now the site of a car park for the Zoo.
Any body of water in Regent’s Park is only 4-5 feet deep and for a good reason. In previous centuries before we had dedicated skating rinks, people would go skating on the rivers and lakes in the park when they froze over. Unfortunately, on January 15, 1867, the ice broke, and 200 people were plunged into the freezing waters with 40 of them drowning. The waters were then reduced to their current depth to prevent any further deaths.
Back when King Henry VIII took possession of Regent’s Park, it was actually known as Marylebone Park. The name wasn’t changed until after John Nash’s redesign.