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  • Writer's pictureWill von Behr, MA

A Brief History of Regent's Park: Royal Park in London

What is Regent's Park?

Regent's Park is a scenic 200-acre royal park established by the Price Regent (later King George IV) in the early 19th century on one of Henry VIII’s hunting grounds.

Regent's Park

Regent's Park History

Although this area now sits at the heart of the capital, it was once a vast forest known as Marylebone Park, named after the village and manor nearby. The lower ground of these woods made the perfect location for hunting deer, and so, in 1538, King Henry VIII seized the land from the local abbey and converted it into a hunting chase. Many of the trees were chopped down in the mid-17th century to pay the debts incurred during the British Civil Wars, and in the following century the land was leased to tenant farmers, since the popularity of hunting had declined.

In the early 19th century, the Prince Regent (who would later become King George IV), decided he wanted a new summer palace in north London.

The commission was given to John Nash whose design was a circular park with a lake, a canal, and, of course, the magnificent royal residence that would be linked to St James’ Palace by a processional way.

Queen Mary Gardens in Regent's Park

To fund the ambitious project, the architect had planned 56 villas within the confines of the park and a series of grand Regency terraces around it. However, when the prince turned his attention to modifying Buckingham Palace, Nash’s original plans fell by the wayside.

The royal summer residence was never constructed and only eight of the planned villas were built (however the avenue linking the park to St James’ Palace was constructed and is now known as Regent’s Street). Initially, only the residents of the park’s villas and surrounding terraces were allowed access to the area, however in the mid-19th century Regent’s Park was opened to the public.

Little has changed over the past 150 years and today the park remains a popular place for picnickers, open-air theatre performances and bicycle rides. In the southwest of the park you’ll find the Boating Lake where you can hire pedalos and see many of London’s aquatic birds.

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