Once used by Henry VIII as his hunting grounds, Hyde Park has long been an integral part of London’s history. Located close to The Chesterfield Mayfair, the 350-acre site tells the story of many of the capital’s most momentous events through its collection of statues and landmarks. Take a tour of Hyde Park to discover the most intriguing historical spots within the park, from memorial fountains to art galleries and museums.
From the Chesterfield Mayfair, walk up to the Upper Brook Street gate to arrive next to the famous Speaker’s Corner. An iconic location for political activists and protestors, this space was allocated by parliament for public speaking in 1872. Notable former speakers include the likes of George Orwell, Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, but anyone can turn up at Speaker’s Corner and speak on a subject of their choice, providing that what they have to say is lawful.
Statue of Achilles
From there, walk down towards Hyde Park corner and you’ll find the Statue of Achilles, next to the aptly named Achilles Gate. King George III had this 18ft-high bronze statue of Achilles made to mark the military achievements of the Duke of Wellington, and it was unveiled in 1822. Made by Sir Richard Westmacott, the statue was created from melted down enemy cannons, captured during Wellington’s French campaigns.
Just a short walk from the statue of Achilles is the impressive Apsley Gate. Built towards the end of the 1820s by 25-year-old architect Decimus Burton, the commanding structure includes its own friezes, which were directly inspired by the Elgin Marbles, and is made from Portland stone. It was also designed in tandem with the triumphal arch that can be seen in centre of the roundabout opposite the entrance and the lodge house located inside the gates.
The Rose Garden
On your tour of Hyde Park, make sure to take the short stroll from Apsley Gate to the serenely beautiful Rose Garden, found in the southeast corner of the park. It’s a lovely place to pause and take a moment to admire the mix of beautiful rose blooms and herbaceous planting. From here, join the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk, which curves past the Serpentine Lake and Lido café. Stop for a coffee and watch the boats on the lake and, perhaps, a few of the members of the Serpentine Swimming Club bravely taking a dip.
Princess Diana memorial fountain
Formed out of an impressive 545 pieces of Cornish granite, the striking design of the memorial fountain is intended to reflect the character and personality of the Princess of Wales. Utilising water from the city’s Water Table, the fountain flows in two directions before meeting in a pool at the bottom. Visitors can cross one of three bridges over the water to get to the centre of the fountain, and are welcome to sit on the edge of the memorial and dip their toes in the water.
Follow the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk from here and you’ll arrive at the Albert Memorial. Located directly opposite the Albert Hall, this impressive monument was Queen Victoria’s tribute to her husband Prince Albert after his death in 1861. The elaborate monument is the design of George Gilbert Scott, its official title is the Prince Consort National Memorial, and it was intended to celebrate both Albert’s passions as well as the highlights of the Victorian age. Look closely at the friezes adorning the base, which show artists of various mediums and demonstrate Albert’s dedication to the arts.
Round off your tour of Hyde Park with a spot of contemporary art at one of the park’s two Serpentine Galleries. The original Serpentine Gallery has been one of London’s leading artistic institutions since opening in 1970, whilst the more recently opened Serpentine Sackler Gallery, designed by architect Zaha Hadid, is housed in a former gunpowder store.
Explore the history of Hyde Park from the comfort and convenience of the nearby Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel.
Image Credits: Lead image © iStock/Kit_Leong. Cyclists at Hyde Park cafe © iStock/Francesco Cantone. Apsley Gate © iStock/gregobagel. Princess Diana memorial Fountain © iStock/David Crespo. Prince Albert memorial © iStock/irisphoto2.