Hyde Park Barracks, London
|Hyde Park Barracks|
Basil Spence's tower
Location within London
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
|Built for||War Office|
|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 by Thomas Henry Wyatt in the 1880s, which in turn were 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."
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.
- "A portrait of achievement" (PDF). Sir Robert McAlpine. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
- "Britain's top 10 eyesores". BBC News. 13 November 2003. Retrieved 2008-01-04.
- "The Household Cavalry may seek new household". The Telegraph. 16 January 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
- Gill, A.A (2011-10-13). A.A. Gill is Further Away. ISBN 9780297863816.
- "Listing refused: Minister ignores HE on Spence’s Hyde Park Barracks". architectsjournal.co.uk.
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