Parks and Heaths

Parks and Heaths

London is one of the greenest cities in the world, boasting a variety of public open spaces. These include royal and municipal parks, common land and botanical gardens. They have been well used by visitors and Londoners throughout the 20th century.

Royal parks

Many of London's main parks began as royal land for hunting and recreation. Greenwich Park in east London is the oldest royal park, established in 1433 as a deer park. Charles I opened Hyde Park in central London to the public in the 17th century. Queen Victoria opened the formal grounds of Hampton Court Palace in west London in 1838. Regent's Park was opened in the 1840s.

During the 20th century Hyde Park became increasingly important as a venue for national events, such as Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee; and demonstrations, and public meetings. Speaker's Corner, where people can speak their mind on any subject, was established in 1866.

Municipal parks

There are hundreds of municipal parks in London. Many date from the 19th century but some were created during the 20th century from bombsites or slum-clearance schemes. One such is Burgess Park in Southwark, one of London's largest post-war parks. Conceived in 1943, it was created by gradually buying up and demolishing existing buildings. By the end of the century the park was 135 acres. Its eight-acre artificial lake was opened in 1982.

Throughout the 20th century, many London councils developed their parks into places of activity as well relaxation. Sports facilities appeared such as open-air lidos or swimming pools, as well as cricket, bowls and tennis courts. Funfairs and circuses have also been regular events in many of London's parks.

Common land

Two of the most famous areas of common land in the metropolis are Hampstead Heath in the north and Wimbledon Common in south London.

Hampstead Heath is famous for its wild landscape. It has long been a popular destination for Londoners on days out. Its traditional bank holiday fairs were important events in the London calendar and drew huge crowds. Since 1989, the Corporation of London has run the heath.

The focal point of Wimbledon Common's 1,000 acres of grassland is the windmill. The common itself was the focus of a long struggle between the landlord, Lord Spence, who wanted to develop the common, and the local residents, who wanted to save it.

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