Peter Pan: the story that launched a thousand A&E visits when children became convinced they could fly (at the request of the London Ambulance Service, author JM Barrie later added fairy dust as a requirement for flight). Originally inspired by Barrie’s time in Kensington Gardens, it’s a story now known all over the world, with February 5 marking the sixty-third anniversary of the Disney film release. To celebrate, we’ve come up with five Peter Pan-inspired sights to look out for the next time you're wandering around this royal park:
1. The Pet Cemetery
Barrie briefly references this odd sight in 'Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens', the precursor to 'Peter Pan'. It all began somewhat accidentally in 1881 with the burial of a Maltese Terrier named Cherry but now contains over 300 animals, including one monkey. Entrance is by appointment only but you can catch a glimpse of the tombstones by standing on Bayswater Road and peering through the park railings.
2. The Peter Pan statue
Covertly installed one night in 1912, this bronze statue supposedly marks the spot where Peter Pan first landed in Kensington Gardens after doing a runner from his pram. Why all the secrecy? Aside from the small matter that Barrie hadn’t actually asked permission to install the statue, he wanted the children of London to think it had appeared by magic.
© Anne Marie Briscombe
3. The Princess Diana Memorial Playground
If ever there was a reason to offer up your babysitting services, this is it. The Peter Pan-themed Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground even comes complete with a giant wooden pirate ship. Adults are only allowed in when accompanied by a child, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed for an adults-only fundraising event. Mojitos and canapés on a pirate ship? Take our money already!
4. JM Barrie’s home
Directly across from the gardens stands 100 Bayswater Road. Sold last year for a bargain price of seven million pounds, this seven-bed property was Barrie's home for many years. It’s marked by a blue English Heritage plaque bearing his name.
Illustration by Arthur Rackham
5. The 'Tombstones'
A bit northwest of the Round Pond lie two parish boundary markers that Barrie claimed were actually the tombstones of two young children who had found themselves in Kensington Gardens after lock-out time and perished from the cold. According to Barrie, Peter Pan decided to bury them together 'because it seems less lonely'. It might sound a bit dark to some, but Barrie’s young friends were so enthralled by these stories that one excitedly declared, 'To die will be an awfully big adventure!' Here’s hoping he got some royalties for that line…