Hyde Park, which opened to the public in 1637, is the largest of several royal parks in London that are connected to each other, forming one large green lung in the center of the city. The park is famous for its Speaker's Corner.
The other parks are the neighboring Kensington Gardens, Green Park and St. James's Park. Hyde park covers more than 360 acres (142 hectares) and hosts many large events, including celebrations and concerts. It is also a popular place for jogging, swimming, rowing, picnicking and even horse riding. History In 1536 King Henry VIII confiscated Hyde Park from the monks of Westminster Abbey. It was used primarily for hunting. King Charles I opened the park to the public in 1637. The current park The Serpentine layout was planned by architect Decimus Burton in 1825.
Serpentine The Serpentine, a large artificial lake, is located at the south end of the park and extends into the neighboring Kensington Gardens where the lake is called the Long Water. Queen Caroline, wife of King George II had the lake constructed in 1730. It is popular for boating and swimming.
Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain Diana Memorial Fountain Just southwest of the Serpentine is a memorial installed in honor of princess Diana. The modern fountain, which more resembles an artificial stream rather than a fountain, was inaugurated in 2004 by Queen Elisabeth II. The memorial was designed by the American landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson, using computer modeling techniques. The circular fountain consists of 545 pieces of Cornish granite. Water flows from two sides at the top into a small pool at the bottom.
Rotten Row At the south end of Hyde park is Rotten Row, a famous bridle path. The road is almost four miles long (6,4 km) and is now used as a horse riding, cycling, rollerblading and jogging route. In the 17th century the road was often used by William III. The king found the walk from Kensington Palace to St. James's Palace too dangerous, so he had oil lamps installed along the route, thus Speaker's Cornercreating the first lit public road in England. The term 'Rotten Row' is derived from the French 'route du roi' or King's road.
Speaker's Corner In the 19th century Hyde Park had become a popular place for meetings. In 1872, in response to riots after police tried to disband a political meeting, Speaker's Corner was established to create a venue where people would be allowed to speak freely. Here, every Sunday people stand on a soap box and proclaim their views on political, religious or other items, sometimes Marble Arch interrupted and challenged by their audience.
Marble Arch At the north-east corner of Hyde Park is the Marble Arch. It was originally built in 1827 as a gateway to Buckingham Palace, but it was moved to its present location in 1851. The design by John Nash was based on the Arch of Constantine in Rome
Wellington Arch Another arch, the Wellington Arch, can be found on Hyde Park Corner, at the south-east corner of the park, connecting Hyde Park with Green Park. The arch was built in 1826 by Decimus Burton.A statue of the Duke of Wellington was added later, in 1846. The statue was replaced by the Quadriga of War in 1912. Inside the arch are exhibitions and galleries open to visitors.
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