The week before last, London Shoes took advantage of what was probably the last of the summer sunshine and warmth for this year – and ventured ‘up west’ to Piccadilly way, to explore “Green Park”………London’s smallest ‘Royal Park’.
Of London’s 8 Royal Parks, Green Park is the smallest one – and it is unique in that it has no lakes – no flower beds – no buildings in it grounds – no playgrounds, but what it lacks in general parkland amenities, it certainly gains in some interesting monuments and memorials.
Green Park is a 40 acre triangular area of parkland that is lodged between the much larger St. James’s Park and Hyde Park – with Buckingham Palace stuck in the middle of all 3 of these parks.
Constitution Hill and Piccadilly are the 2 streets that form Green Park’s boundaries.
Going back quite a few centuries to the 1500’s, it is believed that the area now known as Green Park was once a burial ground for lepers.
However, it is in the 1600’s that the park started it’s ‘journey’ to what it is now.
In 1668 King Charles II commandeered what was a privately owned piece of land – and then built a massive brick wall around it and designated it a ‘Royal Park’. Many of the pathways and ways that the gardens have been laid out – were how they were originally designed by the King.
In 1746 it was officially named ‘Green Park’ – because it was almost like an open meadow, with very few trees in situ.
The story goes that at its origins, Green Park used to have loads of beautiful flower-beds. However, one day King Charles II wife ‘Queen Charlotte’ caught him red-handed picking some of the park’s flowers for one of his many lovers – and as a result she ordered that all the flowers in Green Park be pulled up and the flower beds filled in – and to this very day Green Park does not have any flower beds!!!
It’s very hard to believe it today, but back in the 1700’s & early 1800’s Green Park was situated in a rural part on the outskirts of London – and it was a popular place for highwaymen to hang-out, and so a very dangerous place to travel through.
It was the chosen site for the huge firework displays that were popular throughout the 18th & early 19th centuries – and in fact the composer ‘Handel’ performed a number of his pieces of music in Green Park, whilst fireworks were being let off all over the place.
Green Park underwent extensive re-landscaping in 1820 – still with trees and not flowers – to the design as it is to this very day.
In 1840, Constitution Hill, one of the borders of Green Park, was the scene of an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria, by Edward Oxford – as she was travelling down the road on her was to Buckingham Palace.
Situated at the north of Green Park, alongside its Piccadilly border – there is the magnificent ‘RAF Bomber Command Memorial’ – that commemorates the 55,573 who died in WW2 whilst serving for the ‘Bomber Command’.
At the entrance to Green Park, opposite Buckingham Palace, there stands the magnificent ‘Canada Gates’ which were installed in the early 1900’s as part of Canada’s tribute to Queen Victoria – and celebrating Canada’s contribution to the British Empire. These magnificently designed gates are covered in crests representing all of the Canadian provinces.
Near the Canada Gates is the ‘Canada Memorial’ which was unveiled in 1944 by our present Queen – to commemorate all the Canadian servicemen who fought with the British Forces in WW1 & WW2.
The memorial deliberately points in the direction of the Canadian port of Halifax-Nova Scotia, where most of the Canadian servicemen set sail for Europe to join the British Forces in WW1 & WW2 – and the memorial is adorned with bronze maple leaves.
There are a number of public drinking fountains situated throughout Green Park – but of course, their taps are all turned off, because of Covid19 – which is a shame, but perfectly understandable.
One of the drinking fountains is designed so that adults, children and dogs can all use it. It’s made of Cornish granite, the same stone used for the Princess Di memorial fountain in nearby Hyde Park. The interesting thing about this particular drinking fountain is that it was financed by way of a gift from the famous jewellers, the Tiffany & Co Foundation – who apparently fund the restoration and renewal of all the drinking fountains in London’s 8 Royal Parks.
At the western end of Constitution Hill, that forms one of Green Park’s 2 borders, there stands the ‘Memorial Gates’ – which were opened by our present Queen in 2002 to commemorate the 5 million from India, Africa & the Caribbean, who served for the British Forces – and lost their lives in WW1 & WW2.
This wonderful memorial celebrates the contribution made, and still being made by those from many countries – to support the British Isles.
This magnificent memorial is made from Portland stone and is topped with a bronze urn that is lit on special occasions such as Remembrance Sunday – Armistice Day & Commonwealth Day.
Inside the dome of the Memorial Gates are engraved the names of all the holders of the Victoria Cross & George Cross that were from Africa – India & the Caribbean.
Directly opposite the Canada Gate entrance to Green Park is Buckingham Palace.
This globally instantly recognisable London landmark, started life in 1703 as a privately owned large townhouse – but in 1761 it was acquired by King Charles III as a residence for his Queen and it was formally known as Queens House. By the time Queen Victoria frequented the place in 1837 it had acquired 775 rooms and had, and still has – the largest private garden in London.
On any day of the week, and throughout the year – there are always hundreds of tourists/visitors in front of the railings of Buckingham Palace to watch pageantry stuff like the Changing of the Guard – but with the Covid19 virus, (and like the rest of London’s globally famous landmarks) – the roads & pavements surrounding Buckingham Palace on the day of my visit, were almost completely empty – very upsetting to see & very concerning as to whether things will ever return to the ‘old’ normal again.
Anyway – there were no pubs nearby that were open, and so I couldn’t neck down a ‘cheeky’ beer before setting off back home – all I could really do was purchase a can of ‘pop’ (I love to deliberately call a fizzy drink ‘pop’ as it really annoys my 2 daughters so much) from the kiosk in Green Park, and then rest me trotters on a bench in the park for a while, and watch the world go by.
As a matter of interest, there were far more people on the tube and overground trains during this day out than there had been in the previous 5 weeks or so when I’ve been out blogging – so that was a positive observation from the day.
So that’s all about ‘Green Park’ – London’s smallest, but perfectly formed Royal Park – & well worth a visit, especially on a lovely warm sunny day.
Hope you enjoyed the accompanying photos.
See below the entire gallery of photos taken to accompany this blog