Public parks generally came into being during the nineteenth century Industrial Revolution. Parks, natural landscapes in an urban setting, became small sections of idealised countryside. Although Hyde Park and St James' Park were opened to the public in the seventeenth century, this was unusual. Generally speaking parks were a nineteenth century invention. Regent's Park, one of the earliest of these new spaces, offered partial opening to visitors from 1835.
Regent's Park was originally a royal hunting chase, seized by Henry VIII from the Abbess of Barking. Known as Marylebone Park, this area of open heath and forest continued as a royal chase until 1646. After the English Civil War of the 1640s hunting went out of fashion, and Marylebone Park was leased to tenant farmers. This use continued until the early nineteenth century, when the Prince Regent, later George IV decided that he would like a summer palace in north London. In 1811 he hired John Nash, his favourite architect, to develop Marylebone Park into Regent's Park as we know it today. Nash came up with a huge circular design, with a summer palace built in the grounds. The project's cost was to be offset against proceeds from the sale of fifty six villas built in and around the park. This plan never came to fruition as George decided to develop Buckingham Palace instead. The circular park was built, with eight villas, but without a summer palace. Of the original eight villas, two survive - St John's Lodge and the Holme. The beautiful John Nash facade of Park Crescent at the south entrance also survives. Originally Regent's Park was only open to villa residents, but from 1835 parts of the park were opened to the public, for two days a week. In 1847 London Zoo, opened in north Regent's Park and become hugely popular.
In 1863 the novelist George Eliot took up residence at the Priory, 21 North Bank, Regent's Park. George Eliot was to write her greatest novel, Middlemarch, here. Eliot wrote against the background of great industrial and scientific change sweeping through Britain in the nineteenth century. Regent's Park was a "middle march" between town and country, an idealised patch of countryside for new urban surroundings. Despite fond visions of a bucolic existence, the majority of people were in reality better off in their urban lives. And yet nostalgia for an idealised rural past remained. This nostalgia was, and is, answered by places like Regent's Park.
Regent's Park was used as a location for the films Withnail and I and Brief Encounter.
Within the park there are a number of cafes and restaurants, and the Hub sports venue. An open air theatre stages productions from May to early September, and a number of bandstands offer afternoon and evening performances.
Opening Times: Please use contact details below.
Directions: Convenient Underground stations are Regent's Park, Great Portland Street, Baker Street, St John's Wood, and Camden Town. Click here for an interactive map centred on Regent's Park.
Access: Blue badge parking is available at different points throughout the Park. There are drop off points at all park entrances. Once in the park there are plenty of level well kept paths. Adapted toilet facilities are provided.
Contact: The Store Yard, Inner Circle, Regent's Park, London NW1 4NR
telephone: 0300 061 2300
fax: 020 7224 1895