Created in 1637, Hyde Park is by far the largest of the four Royal Parks in London at 350 acres. In a previous piece, we covered such interesting facts surrounding its memorials, Speakers Corner, and its former use as a hunting grounds for King Henry VIII. Of course, these are not all the fascinating details and realities about the city’s biggest park. Join us as we delve deeper into the mysteries surrounding Hyde Park and find ten more interesting facts to captivate you. Who knows, you may even discover something you never knew before today.
All Good Boys and Girls
Not talking about children, but pets actually. You wouldn’t think of Hyde Park as a place to find graves, but for years part of it was used as a cemetery for beloved family pets. It started in 1881 when a friend of the lodge-keeper was granted permission to bury the friend’s dog Cherry there. More people asked for the same favor, and today the park’s pet cemetery has over 300 graves in it. The cemetery is not open to the public but does have the occasional tour.
Famous Future Neighbors
In 1963, the Fab Four known as the Beatles shared a flat near the park where they wrote a number of their hit songs.
A Cold Swim
Winter Wonderland isn’t the only Christmas tradition that comes to Hyde Park every year. On Christmas Day, members of the Serpentine Swimming Club engage in their 100-yard race in the man-made lake’s frigid waters. The tradition has been going strong since 1864 but didn’t get its name until 1904, when J.M. Barrie donated the first cup for the race (prior to that, the winner was given a gold medal).
Let There Be Light
In the previous article, we mentioned how popular “Rotten Row” was for people to been seen during the 19th Century. It was also the first street in London to have street lights after King William III had them installed since he regularly rode his carriage down the row.
It’s a Grand Old Band(stand)
Hyde Park is home to the United Kingdom’s oldest bandstand. The Hyde Park Bandstand was constructed in 1869, though it wasn’t always in the park. Originally, it was located in Kensington Gardens but moved to Hyde Park in 1881. It still hosts concerts today and is a centerpiece for the ice rink during Winter Wonderland, making for a picturesque place to spend a Christmas.
Seeing the Park for the Trees
There are over 4,000 trees in Hyde Park and more than 100 different types of roses in the Rose Garden.
The Oddest Tree You’ll Ever See
Some of a botanical curiosity, the weeping beech is one of the most distinctive trees within Hyde Park. Found on Nannie’s Lawn, it is known as “The Upside-Down Tree” since (as with most of its kind) the branches descend downwards from the crown of the trunk rather than up. You can walk under the branches and feel like you’ve been transported to somewhere almost mystical. Also, be sure to note the names of the people that have been carved into its trunk over the years.
The first ceremony for the presentation of the Victoria Cross was conducted in Hyde Park by Queen Victoria in 1857. The Queen presented 62 medals at the event.
Open but Empty
As mentioned, the park first opened to the public in 1637, which was done by the Royal Decree of King Charles I. However, despite the fact that anyone could go walk in it, the park seldom had many visitors for a couple of centuries. It wasn’t really until landscape architect Decimus Burton redesigned Hyde Park in 1825 and included the grand entrance seen at Hyde Park Corner.
A Good Place for a Fight
Or a duel anyway. While Hyde Park didn’t see nearly the number of visitors in the 18th Century that it does today, it was a popular spot for duels. During the 1700s, over 172 duels took place in Hyde Park, with 63 fatalities.