Regent’s Park

Regent’s Park, which is officially named The Regent’s Park though the ‘the’ is rarely applied in common usage, is one of the more interesting of the Royal Parks of London. At around two square kilometers in size, it is large even by London park standards, and unlike the majority of other parks has villas built within its boundaries. These villas are former private residences, most of which – though not all – are now open to the public. This gives The Regent’s Park an edge over other parks for those interested in architecture and exploration, as well as the chance to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.

Regent's ParkThe land mass that is now known as Regent’s Park was originally the grounds for the manor of Tyburn, the property of Barking Abbey. However, during his bid to break with the Catholic church and thus marry his mistress Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII set about destroying abbeys and monasteries and claiming their vast wealth and lands for the crown. Henry was successful in what history now refers to as the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and he set aside the area for the purpose of hunting. Regent’s Park remained a royal hunting ground until 1649, when it was let out in small holdings to commoners for dairy and hay produce.

These leases expired in 1811, and the then Prince Regent, from whom the park takes its name, took the opportunity to redesign the area. Working with renowned architect John Nash, the Prince Regent that would become King George IV built a set of villas and houses around the perimeters of the park. The remainder of the park was opened to the general public in 1845, when nobles and friends of the Prince Regent were even effectively given or allowed to purchase the new, fashionable park villas that still remain today.

Regent’s Park is interestingly designed and consists of two main areas; the Outer Circle, and an inner ring road called the Inner Circle. The Inner Circle is the most carefully cultivated area of the park, with a particularly astonishing horticultural feat known as Queen Mary’s Gardens. There is a range of other features in the park, most notably a lake and heronry, sports pitches, children’s playgrounds and waterfowl and boating area.

Located on the north east edge of the park is the notable London Zoo, a tourist trap in its own right. There are also several academic institutions within the grounds, including Regent’s College, the European Business School London and Webster Graduate School.

Most of the villas, originally designed for the use of friends of George IV, are now in the public domain. There is one notable exception, St. John’s Lodge, which is still a private residence. However, in keeping with the general feel and history of Regent’s Park – generosity and glory for all – the owners now have much of their garden available for visitors to enjoy.