Regent’s Park and Hampstead


If instead of going eastward along Holborn from Staple Inn we were to go westward we would come to New Oxford Street and then to Oxford Street itself, a popular shopping centre with several well known stores. At Oxford Circus we meet Regent Street and a few hundred yards up on the right are the headquarters of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and the slender spire of All Souls’ Church in Langham Place. Beyond it, Portland Place continues to Regent’s Park, laid out by the Prince Regent, who planned Regent Street as a convenient route between his house in Waterloo Place and another he proposed to build on Primrose Hill. That house did not eventuate but his architect, John Nash, surpassed himself when it came to building houses around the park, and fortunately many of them, beautifully restored, are still there to be admired.

Another approach to Regent’s Park is by Baker Street, turning up from Oxford Street at Selfridge’s. Almost behind the great store is Hertford House, containing the Wallace Collection, a magnificent assembly of pictures, armour, porcelain, sculpture and furniture. The whole was presented to the nation by Lady Wallace.

In the south-west quarter of Regent’s Park is a picturesque 22-acre lake on which boating and sailing take place. Here too is Bedford College for Women, a part of London University and dating from 1849. A circular drive known as the Inner Circle contains Queen Mary’s Gardens, a truly delightful spot, and the world-famous open-air theatre.

Winfield House on the west side of Regent’s Park is the residence of the United States Ambassador. At the north end of the park are the Zoological Gardens, founded in 1828 and considerably modernised in recent years. They lie on either side of the roadway known as the Outer Circle and the Regent’s Canal passes through the grounds. The most popular sections are the Mappin Terraces, where only deep ditches separate animals from spectators, the wonderfully lit aquarium, the monkey house and the children’s zoo. A very full day can be spent at the Zoo, which has excellent restaurant facilities. Incidentally the Society maintains a 500-acre country zoo in a delightful setting at Whipsnade on the Chiltern Hills. Here animals are seen in something approaching their natural habitat.

Cricketers will know that within a few hundred yards of Regent’s Park is Lord’s Cricket Ground (M.C.C.). There is a cricket museum in the old rackets court.

Buses running down Finchley Road come very shortly to Baker Street station, adjoining which is the Planetarium, a dome-shaped building in which projectors create a very realistic imitation of the night sky. Next door is Madame Tussaud’s Exhibition of waxwork figures of both the famous and the infamous.

Instead of travelling down Finchley Road to Baker Street, take a bus northward through St. John’s Wood and by Swiss Cottage to Hampstead, a lofty area of many charms, not the least of which is the Heath, a diversified area of over 300 acres rising to 440 feet above sea level and affording fine views over and beyond London. The Heath is joined by Golder’s Hill (36 acres), Parliament Hill (257 acres), Kenwood (210 acres), with 69 acres of Highgate Woods close at hand. London is indeed fortunate to have, right on its doorstep, such a splendid piece of ‘country’. At Kenwood is an Adam mansion containing the Iveagh Bequest of pictures and furniture. In summer there are open-air concerts in a magnificent setting in the grounds. Of the many notable people who have lived at Hampstead we may recall John Keats who wrote the ‘Ode to the Nightingale’ in the garden of Wentworth Place, which is now the Keats Museum.

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