A Brief History of London’s Parks


As the corporate and industrial capital city of the United Kingdom, London is a thriving, modern and urban city that’s teeming with life and activity. Despite may preconceptions that London is just a bustling concrete jungle, the city is actually home to around 400 green spaces. Looking at greater London as a whole, there are over a thousand parks and green spaces for Londoners to enjoy. These green spaces take the form of royal parks, commonlands (or commons), public gardens, city farms, converted churchyards and built-for-purpose open spaces and gardens. While some spaces have achieved worldwide fame, there are still many relatively unknown parks in London that are well worth a visit.

Thankfully, the Park Grand London Lancaster Gate is brilliantly located within the perfect distance to appreciate several of the famous and unknown parks in London. With fantastic breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and evening meal options, plus some great luxury packages and offers, there really isn’t anywhere better to stay in London if you’re looking for a luxurious trip to the city.  The fantastic transport links and prime location mean that the Park Grand Lancaster Gate hotel is popular amongst visitors to London who want to get the know the more natural and open areas of the city.

From Hyde Park to Hampstead Heath, London’s parks are beautiful places that create pockets of open space, offering Londoners and visitors to the city a chance to connect with nature, be active, relax, and have fun.  However, these parks didn’t always exist and each type of open space in London has its own unique history. Here’s just a brief look at the fascinating histories and stories behind some of London’s stunning open spaces.

Royal parks

There are eight royal parks in Greater London, five of which – Hyde Park, St James’s Park, Regents Park, Green Park and Kensington Gardens are in central London. The other parks, Greenwich, Richmond and Bushy Park, are lesser-known but no less beautiful and can be found in the greater London area.

Henry VIII acquired much of the land occupied by the royal parks following the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1540s. Initially, these areas were kept as private hunting grounds for the royal family. They remained so until around the 19th century, but today they’re open for the public to explore, admire and use. Hyde Park was, in fact, the first royal park to be opened to the people of London and has since gone on to be one of the most famous. Today, London’s royal parks are managed by The Royal Parks Charity who keep the parks looking pristine and manage any public events that take place on the grounds.

After spending your morning exploring London’s royal parks and getting closer to royal life, you can indulge in another royal tradition – afternoon tea. The Park Grand London, Lancaster Gate hotel offers a range of afternoon tea options to suit every taste. One of our most popular amongst people who like to try something new is our Indian afternoon tea. Make sure you speak to our team about booking your afternoon tea during your stay.

Public parks

London’s first public park, Victoria Park, was established in Hackney in 1842. Soon after, Battersea, Finsbury and Southwark parks also opened to the public. All four parks were created to a similar design, combining sweeping drives, vast lakes and quaint bandstands and pavilions. Thanks to careful preservation, many of these features are still standing today.

The public parks were created to try and bring more greenery and open space to the city, which had become incredibly urbanised overtime. Victoria Park’s East End location meant that it was better located for most working-class people, and provided a more laid back alternative to the more upper-class Hyde Park.


London also has several “commons” sometimes known as commonlands. Unlike its parks, which are typically gated and enclosed spaces that have a feeling of being separate from the rest of the city, commons are far more open with unlimited access. They’re often a little wild and remote in comparison to the more established parks of the city.

Commonlands originated in the eleventh century by the Normans. At the time, meadowland was made readily available by manor owners so that land workers could use it for common grazing land once the harvest was over. This gave workers a chance to generate their own livelihoods.

As the population of London increased and more land becomes enclosed for private gain, public campaigns began to protect a number of London’s commonlands – like Hampstead Heath. These campaigns ensured that many commons, such as Hampstead Heath, Clapham and Wimbledon Common remained open to the public with unlimited and readily free access. In fact, London has over 100 commons spread across the city.

Pleasure gardens and purpose-built parks

In the 17th century, people started designing and creating ornate purpose-built pleasure gardens, which were intended to be solely for the enjoyment of the general public.

Some of these gardens were created for medicinal purposes, to help Londoners recover from various ailments and illnesses – hence why so many purpose-built parks are located near springs. Others, like Alexandra Palace and Park, were designed to provide both an indoor and outdoor space for entertainment.

Several purpose-built parks were intended to commemorate or host special events. Crystal Palace is one such example as it was designed to be the new home the 1851 Exhibition once it was moved from Hyde Park.

With so many parks and gardens to explore during your time in London, you’ll want to make sure you’re appropriately set for the day.

Make sure you arrange breakfast at our Lancaster Gate hotel to prepare yourself for a day of exploration. We have a range of breakfast options to suit all tastes, preferences and dietary requirements.

Keen to explore? Book now