Kensington Gardens, once the private gardens of Kensington Palace, are one of the Royal Parks of London, lying immediately to the west of Hyde Park. It is shared between the City of Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, lying within western central London. The park covers an area of 111 hectares (270 acres). The open spaces of Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and St. James's Park together form an almost continuous "green lung" in the heart of London between Kensington and Westminster.
Background and location
Kensington Gardens are generally regarded as being the western extent of the neighbouring Hyde Park from which they were originally taken, with West Carriage Drive (The Ring) and the Serpentine Bridge forming the boundary between them. The Gardens are fenced and more formal than Hyde Park. Kensington Gardens are open only during the hours of daylight, whereas Hyde Park is open from 5 am until midnight all year round, which includes many hours of darkness.
Kensington Gardens were long regarded as smarter than Hyde Park because of its more private character around Kensington Palace. However, in the late 1800s, Hyde Park was considered the more "fashionable" of the two because of its location nearer to Park Lane (Mayfair) and Knightsbridge, adjoining the entrance to central London opposite Wellington Arch and was therefore more crowded.
Kensington Gardens was originally the western section of Hyde Park, which had been created by Henry VIII in 1536 to use as a hunting ground. It was separated from the remainder of Hyde Park in 1728 at the request of Queen Caroline and designed by Henry Wise and Charles Bridgeman in order to form a landscape garden, with fashionable features including the Round Pond, formal avenues and a sunken Dutch garden.
Bridgeman created the Serpentine between 1726 and 1731 by damming the eastern outflow of the River Westbourne from Hyde Park. The part of the Serpentine that lies within Kensington Gardens is known as "The Long Water". At its north-western end (originally the inflow of the River Westbourne) in an area known as "The Italian Garden", there are four fountains and a number of classical sculptures. At the foot of the Italian Gardens is a parish boundary marker, delineating the boundary between Paddington and St George Hanover Square parishes, on the exact centre of the Westbourne river.
The land surrounding Kensington Gardens was predominantly rural and remained largely undeveloped until the Great Exhibition in 1851. Many of the original features survive along with the Palace, and now there are other public buildings such as the Albert Memorial (at the south-east corner of Kensington Gardens, opposite the Royal Albert Hall), the Serpentine Gallery, and Speke's monument.
The park also contains the Elfin Oak, an elaborately carved 900-year-old tree stump.
The park is the setting of J.M. Barrie's book Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, a prelude to the character's famous adventures in Neverland. The fairies of the gardens are first described in Thomas Tickell's 1722 poem Kensington Gardens. Both the book and the character are honoured with the Peter Pan statue by George Frampton located in the park.
Rodrigo Fresán's novel Kensington Gardens concerns in part the life of J.M. Barrie and of his creation Peter Pan, and their relationship with the park, as well as the narrator's own.
The park is a prominent aspect of the short horror novel The Beast, Ashley McClung, due to the events of the opening and closing chapters occurring at this location.
- Dunton, Larkin (1896). The World and Its People. Silver, Burdett.
- Self, Andrew (2014). The Birds of London. A&C Black. ISBN 978-1-408-19404-1.
- Skempton, A.W, ed. (2002). A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland: 1500-1830. Thomas Telford. p. 341. ISBN 978-0-727-72939-2.
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