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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Regent's Park

Regent's Park became enclosed as a park in 1812. John Nash designed the scheme and originally envisaged a kind of garden suburb, dotted with 56 villas in a variety of Classical styles, with a pleasure palace for the Prince Regent. In the event only eight villas -- but no palace -- were built inside the park (three survive round the edge of the Inner Circle).

In 1811, the Prince Regent, intent upon making London a place of style, commissioned the architect John Nash to plan a grand neoclassical scheme that pivoted upon Piccadilly Circus. A sweeping processional route was built to connect Westminster and St Jame's Park with an encircled space to the north that was to become the Regent's Park. Nash intended to develop this land as an upmarket housing estate with crescents and circuses providing elegant villas for the rich. But money and time ran out and fortunately this part of the concept was only partly fulfilled.

Instead we have a splendid park, planned as a circle within a circle and wrapped around from east to west by superb stucco terraces of large houses, with smaller intimate hamlets such as Park Village East and West. The northern perimeter, bounded by the Regent's Canal, connects the open parkland with the slopes of Primrose Hill. From here it once looked outwards to the rustic charms of the hill villages of Hampstead and Highgate.

The inner circle is now Queen Mary's Garden, with wide herbaceous beds, a sunken garden, a romantic lake with waterfall and rocks, as well as an open-air theatre for summer Shakespeare and a popular boating lake. Most of all, this site is justifiably admired for Queen Mary's Rose Garden, where a comprehensive collection of roses is encircled by tall posts supporting swagged ropes festooned with ramblers and climbers.



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