Discover London’s Royal Parks
Guests wandering around Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane might notice hunting and equestrian references throughout the interior design touches of the Hotel, from the bronze statue of a big cat tussling with its prey on the first floor to the beautiful paintings of majestic horses on the walls of the stairs.
The link between the subject nature and a luxury hotel in the heart of Mayfair might not be obvious, but by looking at the history of the neighbouring Hyde Park, you see that these are indeed delicate nods to the history of the area, as Hyde Park was originally designed to provide royalty with somewhere to hunt.
Around 900 years ago, the area that became Hyde Park was owned by the monks from Westminster and was part of the Manor of Eia. Deer, boar and wild bulls would have roamed around the meadows dotted with trees.
In 1536, the manor was seized from the monks by King Henry VIII. Some of the land was sold, with the remainder turned into a vast hunting park, stretching from Westminster all the way to Kensington.
A fence was erected round his new park and the Westbourne Stream, which crossed from Hampstead to the Thames (and is now underground), was dammed to create drinking ponds for deer in the park.
Henry entertained ambassadors and dignitaries with royal hunts he organised, and visitors watched from grandstands before enjoying great feasts in temporary banqueting houses. Queen Elizabeth I continued the tradition of hunting in the park, and would also review her troops in the flat area of ground next to Park Lane that was used as a parade group.
The park would remain the same until Charles I became king in 1625. He created something called the Ring – a circular track around the park where the royal court could drive their carriages.
Today, Hyde Park is one of London’s most beautiful outdoor spaces, with meadows, art galleries and sports facilities creating the perfect place in which to enjoy the outdoors in London.
On the other side of Hyde Park Corner, lies The Green Park. The smallest of London’s eight Royal Parks, it comprises just over 40 acres next to Buckingham Palace. This peaceful triangle between Piccadilly and Constitution Hill was first recorded in 1554 as the place where a rebellion to place against the marriage of Mary I to Philip II of Spain. It remained meadowland until it was enclosed and stocked with deer in 1668 by Charles II. Now devoid of buildings, the park once contained lodges, a library, an ice house and two vast temples called the Temple of Peace and the Temple of Concord. These days, The Green Park offers a peaceful spot for visitors to London, and its striped deck chairs make it ideal for sunbathing during the summer.
A gentle stroll through Green Park takes visitors to St James’s Park, the oldest Park in London, surrounded by the Houses of Parliament, St James’s Palace and Buckingham Palace. Once a marshy meadow, it was here that Elizabeth I held many a fete indulging her love of pageantry and pomp. With Horse Guards Parade part of the park, it is here where the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard takes place every morning. In 1837 the Ornithological Society of London presented birds to the park and erected a cottage for a bird keeper. The cottage and the position of bird keeper remain to this day. Regular visitors to the park will be able to spot pelicans. First introduced into St James’s Park in 1664 as a gift from the Russian ambassador, there are currently four Eastern white pelicans in the Park, famed for their entertaining antics. Head towards the Duck Island Cottage at 2:30 pm to see them getting fed fresh fish.