Regents Park, 2011, Derek G Crook

Regents Park

Regents Park Today

Regents Park is one of several royal parks dotted in and around central London. Its precise location is the north-western corner of central London, close to Camden and Marylebone. The park is two kilometres squared and incorporates gardens, lakes, several villas, a mosque, an open air theatre, a canal and the London Zoo.

The park was developed in the mid-nineteenth century as part of a scheme which involved the urbanisation of a swathe of land stretching from Buckingham Palace all the way up to the park, and included the building of Regent Street. The development was dreamed up by the then Prince Regent, an ostentatious prince, who wished to leave a royal legacy in London, and designed by John Nash, whose stucco style architecture, mimicking the classic Greek and Italian style, still exists today and can be found around Regents Park.

Regents Park is arguably one of the most interesting parks in London, and has some of the finest gardens.

Inner and Outer Circles

Regents Park is circumscribed by two roads, one known as the outer circle, and the other known as the inner circle.

Regents Park Outer Circle, Elliott Brown

Regents Park Outer Circle, satguru


There are several gardens in Regents Park. These are Queen Mary's Gardens in the Inner Circle, the Italian Gardens and the English Gardens in the south east corner of the park.

Queen Marys Garden, Regents Park, Myriam Bardino

Tulips, Regents Park, Derek G Crook

Water Fall, Regents Park, MarkyBon

Roses, Regents Park, Aref-Adib


Regents Park Herony, Mogatron

Regents Park Herony, Márcio Cabral de Moura

Children's Playground

Regents Park Childrens Playground, Effata

Open Air Theatre

Regents Park Open Air Theatre, Paul Hammond

Regents Park Open Air Theatre, Dave Smith

Regents Park Open Air Theatre, Katy Stoddard

Managing Regents Park

According to Wikipedia, “The public areas of Regent's Park are managed by The Royal Parks, a government agency. The Crown Estate Paving Commission is responsible for managing certain aspects of the built environment of Regent's Park.”

Regents Canal

Regent’s Canal was constructed in 1816 as part of the development of Regent's Park, and runs through the north end of Regents Park, connecting the Grand Union Canal to the London Docklands.

Hazelle Jackson points out that John Nash, who was the designer of Regent's Park, was a shareholder in the Regent's Park canal company.

Regents Park Canal, Strussler

Regents Park Canal, JK

Regents Park Canal, Jan1ce

Nine Villas

According to Wikipedia, nine villas were built in Regent’s Park.

The villas exhibit the stucco style of John Nash. Stucco seems to describe a material, a style but also a building methodology. As a material, stucco is, according to Wikipedia, “a material made of an aggregate, a binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid. It is used as a coating for walls and ceilings and for decoration. Traditional stucco is made of lime, sand, and water. Modern stucco is made of Portland cement, sand, and water. Lime stucco is a relatively hard material that can be broken or chipped by hand without too much difficulty. The lime itself is usually white; color comes from the aggregate or any added pigments. Lime stucco has the property of being self-healing to a limited degree because of the slight solubility of lime (which in solution can be deposited in cracks. where it solidifies). Portland cement stucco is very hard and brittle and can easily crack if the base on which it is applied is not stable. Typically its color was gray, from the innate color of most Portland cement, but white Portland cement is also used.”

As a style, stucco is often used to refer to classical Greek and Italian styles, which often use marble, and involve the use of columns and sculptures.

However, as a building methodology, deployed by Nash, it refers to the using of basic building materials to build the main structure of the house, and then the use of the stucco material to provide a more classical Greek or Italian style façade to the building. Because John Nash used stucco to give a veneer of wealth and affluence to houses which were made out of standard building materials, John Nash’s stucco architecture and buildings have been described as cheap.

Regents Park Villa, Dave TAZ

Regents Park Villa, Dave TAZ

Regents Park Villa, Carole King

Band Stand

There is a band stand in Regent Park

Interestingly, in 1982, the band stand became a target for the self-styled Irish Republican Army, who detonated a bomb, which they had placed underneath the band stand, “as the Royal Green Jackets played music from Oliver to 120 spectators. It was the first of a season of lunchtime concerts for tourists and nearby office workers, four of whom were amongst the injured. Anti-terrorist experts believe the... bomb had been planted some time ago and was triggered by a timer.”

Regents Park Band Stand, Aage Drake

Regents Park Band Stand, irishtravel

London Central Mosque

Regents Park is the home for London Central Mosque whose domes add an eastern flavour to the park.

Regents Park Mosque, Gkriniaris

Regents Park Mosque, Holly Hayes

The Boating Lake

Regents Park Boating Lake, blackpuddinonabike

Regents Park Boating Lake, kenchie

Controversy over Nash's Architectural Style

Christopher Long noted that John Nash’s architectural style and building work was not well-respected. He reported that, “Maria Edgeworth said at the time that she was: "properly surprised by the new town that has been built in Regent's Park – and indignant at the plaister statues and horrid, useless domes and pediments crowded with mock sculpture figures which damp and smoke must destroy in a season or two".

Long agrees with Edgeworth’s observations. He says that, “ The cost of maintaining Nash's buildings is exorbitant. For all his genius in creating ornamental crescents, rides, lakes and gardens, Nash's building techniques left much to be desired. His buildings have been described as bold, imaginative and slapdash – and probably only the best of them have survived because so many of his country houses and London terraces have been structurally shoddy. In Regent's Park, however, most survive – even if the Victorians were unable to restrain the impulse to make the gardens more fussy and elaborate than originally intended.”

According to Christopher Long, the money for Nash’s plans began to ran out before the completion of the plans. He comments, “In some ways it may have been a blessing that the grand scheme, based on Regent's Park, was never completed. The idea was much more suited to Vienna, Paris or Rome. London, being a curious collection of intricately related villages, is somehow too intimate, too much of a workaday town, on a human scale, to accommodate the equivalent of the Etoile, the Champs Elysées and the Place de la Concorde – all of which suit Paris so well.”

London Zoo

London Zoo has a history stretching back to the early nineteenth century, when it was opened as a menagerie of wild animals by the newly founded London Zoological Foundation. According to Hazelle Jackon, “Among the zoo's regular visitors was Charles Darwin, a fellow of the Zoological Society from 1831. Darwin was particularly fascinated by the orang-utan, the first ever seen in Europe.

According to several writers the zoo, when it was finally opened to the public in 1847, was all the rage with Londoners, many of whom would have never seen an elephant or panda. However come the late twentieth century, and the dawning of the twenty-first century, and with the advent of cheap air travel and documentaries, arguably the human interest in seeing animals in the flesh had waned.

Writing in 1984, Long wrote of the zoo, “Today [it] looks healthy enough to the one million or more visitors each year – as do its inmates. But despite the massive investment in buildings and improved facilities for the paying public, the Zoo faces a severe financial problem. The public is staying away in droves. London Zoo needs the public to pay to see captive animals in order to fund its invaluable research and scientific work, which helps save and protect species in the wild all over the world. Unfortunately, the public doesn't seem to like the idea or the price of entry to something they find to be an increasingly offensive exploitation of animals. They have been told, and now believe, that animals should be allowed to run free and prosper in the wild.”

Bobby the Gorilla, who died in 2008, Nick Hider

London Zoo Tiger, M & J Rousell

London Zoo, marv!

The Development of Regents Park

The development of Regents Park has an interesting history; rooted in the machinations of Henry VIII, and his attempts to form a religious alternative to Catholicism, and which also owes a great deal to the unfortunate mental deterioration of King George III, and the ostentation of his son.

In the sixteenth century, during the rule of King Henry VIII, the land upon which Regents Park sits today, was full of trees, and known as the forest of Middlesex. At the time Henry was trying in vain to get the Catholic Church to annul one of his several marriages. In response to the Catholic church denying him the annulment, Henry, strong willed, introduced a series of Acts which cut back papal power and bought about the English Reformation, which led to the establishment of the Church of England, with Henry at its head. One of the major effects of the English Protestant Reformation was the Dissolution of Monasteries, under which monastic lands and possessions were broken up and sold off. On the dissolution of the monasteries (1536-40), Henry VIII acquired the Manor of Tyburn, which included the forest of Middlesex, and from that he created a hunting ground. The hunting ground came to be known as Marylebone Park. This is because it was situated in an area of London called Mary Le Bone, which took its name from a church called St Marys, which was located close to the stream or bourne as streams were called in those days, called the Tybourne.

Over one hundred years later Marylebone Park, still a forest, remained in royal hands. However with the advent of the English Civil War of 1646, the eventual victor, Oliver Cromwell, leader of the New Model Army, leased the Manor of Tyburn to pay wage arrears to the New Model Army. The forest was stripped of its trees by the new landowners, and the land was used for grazing; it was becoming to look more like the Regent’s Park we know today.

Come the nineteenth century, and by the end of the eighteenth century, the king at the time, King George III, began to develop mental health problems, exacerbated by the death of his daughter, and compounded by cataracts and rheumatoid arthritis. The King’s failing health precipitated the throne being handed to his son, who went on to become King George IV, but who whilst his father was alive was known as the Prince Regent. The Prince Regent was an ostentatious leader with a desire for lascivious living. He was keen to exact the labour of the nation for his glorification. With the lease of the Manor of Tyburn expiring in 1811, the Prince Regent, announced plans for the development of a part of London which stretched from his home in the Mall all the way up to what was then known as Mary Le Bone Park (Lovell and Marcham, 1943).

John Nash, a government architect in the Woods and Forests Department was awarded a grant of one thousand pounds to complete the Prince’s work. Nash would have been glad of the opportunity having failed in his first attempts at architecture and having then gone on to squander an inheritance on bad investments. He drew up an architectural plan called ‘the Regency Metropolitan Improvements’. Mary Le Bone Park was converted into a royal park and renamed Regent’s Park. Nash, knowing that Regent’s Park was one of a number of areas in north London opened up to residential development by the building of a northern circular which is today called Euston Road, set about creating a new urban village, a ‘garden city for the aristocracy’ around the park. The development of Regent’s Park estate included properties built on the Inner and Outer Circles of Regent’s Park, two Park Villages consisting of smaller houses in Gothic and Italian styles.

However whilst, ‘Nash originally envisaged a palace for the Prince and a number of grand detached villas for his friends… when this was put into action from 1818 onwards, the palace and most of the villas were dropped. However, most of the proposed terraces of houses around the fringes of the park were built.’ Christopher Long (1984) has argued that the development of Regent’s Park was the first example of purpose built suburban planning.

Regents Park was finished around about the 1820s. The public was not allowed access to the park initially. However Hazelle Jackson explains that, “During the nineteenth century, pressure from the expansion of London raised concerns in Parliament about the need to provide public open space for recreation, and in 1836 the general public were allowed into sections of the Park for two days of the week”

Although it was not part of Nash’s original plans, a decision was taken to locate a menagerie, a collection of wild animals, in the park, what we know today as London Zoo. Long claims that, “There was something very English, eccentric and delightfully heretical about the idea of herding together exotic lions, tigers, ostriches and camels in the centre of so much classical elegance.” According to Long the menagerie was established in 1827, one year after the establishment of the Zoological Society of London. Long points out that some of the animals came from the Royal Menagerie, “which had been based for centuries at the Tower of London” whilst other animals were donated.

When Regents Park was first constructed, neither the park, nor the zoo was intended for access by the public. However, Long points out that, “within twenty years of its establishment the Zoo was facing financial disaster” and so in 1847 a decision was made to open up the north-east corner of the park to the public, on weekdays, at a charge. With the public able to attend the zoo, it became a fashionable pursuit, and Long describes how the presence of an African elephant, known as Jumbo, became the talk of the town. The attention drawn by Jumbo, had according to Long, “focused maximum attention on the Zoo and the revenue earned allowed rapid expansion in both scientific research work and new facilities for the viewing public.”

Interestingly, Christopher Long, writing in 1984, seems to suggest that the ornate gardens of Regents Park did not come about until the 1930s. He notes that, “The park was largely comprised of informal open grass-land until the early 1930s when members of the British Shrub Growers' Association decided to form a garden within the park – mostly stocked with plants donated by members. A couple of years later the Rose Growers took over and again donations were made by members who named the garden after Queen Mary, widow of George V who died in 1936.”

Death in Regents Park

According to Hazelle Jackson, the mid-nineteenth century was characterized by severely cold winters, which had the effect of freezing the lakes of the Royal Parks, and which led to the popular pass times skating and sliding. Unfortunately the taking up of this past time led to the death of tends of people, when according to wikipedia, ‘On 15th January 1867, forty people died when the ice cover on the boating lake collapsed and over 200 people plunged into the lake. The lake was subsequently drained and its depth reduced to four feet before being reopened to the public.’


Rgents Park, Derek G Crook

Regents Park Duck, dvorahuk