Hyde Park Barracks, London
|Hyde Park Barracks|
Basil Spence's tower
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
|Built for||War Office|
|In use||Since 1795|
|Occupants||Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment|
The Hyde Park Barracks are located in Knightsbridge in central London, on the southern edge of Hyde Park. Historically they were often known as Knightsbridge Barracks and this name is still sometimes used informally. Hyde Park Barracks is three-quarters of a mile from Buckingham Palace, close enough for the officers and men of the Household Cavalry to be available to respond speedily to any emergency at the Palace and also to conduct their ceremonial duties.
The first buildings on the site were constructed for the Horse Guards in 1795, and a riding school and stables designed by Philip Hardwick were added in 1857. These buildings were replaced with new ones designed by Thomas Henry Wyatt on which construction started in 1878 and was completed in May 1880.
These buildings were in turn demolished to make way for modern buildings designed by Sir Basil Spence, and completed in 1970. It was built to accommodate 23 officers, 60 warrant officers and non-commissioned officers, 431 rank and file, and 273 horses. The most prominent feature is a 33-storey, 94-metre (308 ft) tall residential tower, which is one of the two most prominent modern buildings as seen from Hyde Park along with the London Hilton on Park Lane. It was built by Sir Robert McAlpine between 1967 and 1970.
Hyde Park Barracks is the base for the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, which is horsed and carries out mounted (and some dismounted) ceremonial duties on state and royal occasions in London. These duties include the provision of a Sovereign's Escort, most commonly seen at the present Queen's Birthday Parade (Trooping the Colour) in June each year. Other occasions include important ceremonies that take place during state visits by visiting heads of state, or whenever required by the British monarch. The regiment also mounts the Queen's Life Guard at Horse Guards, which consists of one squadron from each regiment.
The building has been described by the magazine, Country Life, as "dramatically modern and uncompromising", but many people have viewed it less favourably; it was voted number eight in a Country Life poll of Britain's "top ten eyesores". Lord St John of Fawsley remarked that "Basil Spence's barracks in Hyde Park ruined that park; in fact, he has the distinction of having ruined two parks, because of his Home Office building, which towers above St. James's Park". Critic A. A. Gill described the Barracks as the ugliest building in London, and said that Spence "managed to construct vertical bomb damage out of horizontal bomb damage."
Critics may not have considered the remit placed on the architect to provide quarters and mess facilities for over 500 soldiers, flats for 120 families and stabling for over 270 horses with the provision of an adequate parade ground so that an entire parade of mounted soldiers could practice together. 'I did not want this to be a mimsy-pimsy building', Spence is reported as saying. 'It is for soldiers. On horses. In armour'. He also felt that a tower would cut out less light to the park than a slab block, and would not prevent people in buildings over the way from seeing across the barracks to the park.
In 2015 the C20 charity which campaigns for the preservation of architectural heritage applied to have the building listed. Their bid was endorsed by Historic England, but was rejected by Culture minister Tracey Crouch.
- "Knightsbridge North Side: Parkside to Albert Gate Court, West of Albert Gate', in Survey of London: Volume 45, Knightsbridge, ed. John Greenacombe". London: British History Online. 2000. pp. 53–63. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
- "Knightsbridge Barracks: The Victorian Barracks, 1878–1965', in Survey of London: Volume 45, Knightsbridge, ed. John Greenacombe". British History Online. 2000. pp. 68–71. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
- "A portrait of achievement" (PDF). Sir Robert McAlpine. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
- "The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
- "Britain's top 10 eyesores". BBC News. 13 November 2003. Retrieved 4 January 2008.
- "The Household Cavalry may seek new household". The Telegraph. 16 January 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
- Gill, A.A (13 October 2011). A.A. Gill is Further Away. ISBN 9780297863816.
- "Knightsbridge Barracks: The New Barracks, 1967–70 | British History Online". www.british-history.ac.uk. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
- "Listing refused: Minister ignores HE on Spence's Hyde Park Barracks". Architects Journal. 1 October 2015. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
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