London's best hills
Take a stroll on one of London's stunning summits. Time Out looks out from the capital's finest hills.
Posted: Mon Dec 18 2006
Primrose HillA former hunting ground of Henry VIII’s, this hill to the north of Regent’s Park (63 metres high) was opened to the public only in 1842. Once popular with duellists, it is now the stamping ground of idiotic celebrities. Anti-aircraft guns were sited on the summit in 1939.
Shooters HillThe highest point in south London (132 metres), Shooters Hill was a favourite with archers during the Middle Ages and highwaymen in the seventeenth century: it was the route of the mail coaches that ran between London and Dover. There was a gallows at the bottom, while the bodies of the hanged were displayed on a gibbet at the summit, close to where the Victorian gothic water tower now stands. The triangular folly Severndroog Castle was designed by Richard Jupp in 1784 and is occasionally opened to the public during Open House Weekends.
Brixton HillTechnically, the one-kilometre section of the A23 that links Brixton with Streatham Hill. It follows the line of the old Roman road, with Rush Common – common land protected by an 1811 Act of Parliament – to the east. It was a riot of trams and horse-buses in the late nineteenth century.
CornhillThe highest hill in the City, named after the medieval grain market. It boasted a prison (the Tun), stocks and a pillory in which the novelist Daniel Defoe spent a day in 1703 for publishing a seditious pamphlet.
Denmark HillFormerly Dulwich Hill, it was rechristened in honour of Queen Anne, wife of Prince George of Denmark, who lived on the east side. The Fox on the Hill pub stands on the site of the ‘Fox under the Hill’, the only building in the area shown on John Cary’s 1786 map.
Forest HillWhen the Croydon Canal closed, it was bought by the London & Croydon Railway Company. The opening of its line in 1839 transformed the aptly named Forest Hill into a thriving suburb.
Herne HillThe road itself connects the former ‘Heron’s Hill’ (named for the birds who gathered here) to neighbouring Denmark Hill. According to the English Place Name Society, the first reference to Herne Hill appears in 1789: the River Effra, down which King Canute is said to have rowed, ran along the foot of it.
Muswell HillThe site of a spring (‘Mossy Well’) thought to have healing properties and a place of pilgrimage in medieval times. Its impressive views over the Thames and Lea Valleys made it a popular rural retreat; then, in 1896, key estates were bought by developer James Edmondson, who built new houses and shopping arcades, effectively creating a suburb from scratch.
Parliament HillNamed after the loyalist troops who occupied it during the Civil War, Parliament Hill, near Hampstead Heath, is 95 metres high. Formerly a favourite walking spot of Romantic poets like Shelley and Coleridge, it is now the preserve of deranged kite-flyers.
Tower HillThere was a Bronze Age settlement here, then a Roman village, then (in the seventh century) the church of All Hallows-by-the-Tower, an original arch of which survives. More than 70 Tower prisoners were executed here, including Richard II’s tutor, Sir Simon Burley (the first, in 1388), and Sir Thomas More in 1535. The dispatching in 1780 of two prostitutes and a one-armed soldier marked the end of a bloody era.
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