Half of London is green space, and the Royal Parks are some of the best grassy patches of it. Nowadays they provide Londoners with festivals, art and picturesque sandwich-scoffing spots, but 500 years ago most of us wouldn’t have been allowed to enter them at all. Launching this Thursday, ‘Parks: Our Shared Heritage’ is a two-week long multimedia exhibition at Mall Galleries, exploring how our Royal Parks have transformed from monarchical hunting grounds for a privileged few into the public spaces we enjoy today.
Artefacts spanning three centuries will uncover unknown stories in the Royal Parks’ histories. Here’s a sneak peek of what you can expect to see:
A woman walking Michael the leopard through Kensington Gardens in the ’60s
Crowds gathered by the Serpentine in Hyde Park to admire a flotilla that re-enacted British naval triumphs during the Peace celebrations of 1814.
The Temple of Peace in Green Park commemorated peace after the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748). Its opening night on 27 April, 1748 began with the ‘War and Peace Overture’, commissioned from Handel, but just ninety minutes later the structure was destroyed by fire. At a cost of three lives and £90,000 (that’s over £18m today), it was a very expensive ninety minutes.
Hyde Park as a salvage depot, 1941. Wood and other property salvaged from bomb-blitzed sections of London are piled up in the park.
A party of American soldiers, wearing battle kit, swim across the Serpentine during a military demonstration in 1943.
Police hold back Oswald Mosley’s fascist rally in Olympia in 1934
Parks: Our Shared Heritage is at Mall Galleries from Jul 27 to Aug 11 from 10am to 5pm each day. Entry is free.
Images: ACME Photo and The Hearsum Collection