If you’ve got a jam-packed day of sightseeing in London, then you may well find yourself cruising along Park Lane on a red London bus at some point during your day. Home to some of the most expensive hotels, prestigious residences and grand car showrooms in the city, Park Lane is one of the most famous streets in London. It’s also one of the highest value properties on the Monopoly board, on the heels of Mayfair!
This 0.7 mile long street runs north-south from Marble Arch to Hyde Park Corner, along the eastern perimeter of Hyde Park, with the prestigious Mayfair neighborhood nestled to the west. A 20 minute stroll to the north-west will take you back to the Park Grand Paddington Court Hotel.
Park Lane a major corridor used by buses ferrying Londoners and tourists across the city, and so naturally does get congested. Yet, it connects several of London’s grandest attractions and has a fascinating and relatively unknown history scaling public hangings, demolished mansions, exiled statesmen and ostentatious parties. Chew over its bumpy history over a cup of tea at The Grand Restaurant, then go explore the strip!
Park Lane in fact has very humble origins as a rugged track running along the boundaries of farmland. At the time that Hyde Park was founded in the 16th century by Henry VIII it was known as Tyburn Lane, after the village of Tyburn. A tall brick wall shielded the park from Tyburn Lane, where gruesome dealings were going on.
Tyburn is known to have been the main site of executions in London up until the late 18th century. The Tyburn Tree was a gallows which was located close to where Marble Arch now stands, which was able to accommodate the hanging of several people all at once. The remains of the Tree are long gone, but if you wander down Bayswater Road at the north end of Park Lane you can see a commemorative plaque marking the historic site!
Hyde Park were originally private grounds for Henry VIII to hunt deer, but by the early 17th century, public access was granted to Hyde Park. Queen Anne and George II can be credited with further development which make special offers on London hotels with walking access to the park so popular today.
At this point there was only a scattering of modest dwellings and terraces, and the wall remained during this time – keeping the park firmly out of sight of the few residents of Park Lane (still known as Tyburn Lane).
During the 18th century, distinguished and wealthy men of London such as aristocrats, barons and earls, begun erecting mansions. It was during this timeframe that Tyburn Lane became rebranded Park Lane.
Holdernesse House (which would later become Londonderry House) was constructed during the mid 18th century. The owner Robert Darcy, the 4th Earl of Holdernesse, later bought the property next door and converted the two into one large, grand residence.
Increasing traffic and wear from vehicles led to the rough track getting a much needed upgrade after being taken over by the Kensington Turnpike Trust.
During the 19th century Park Lane started to take its first steps towards becoming the busy thoroughfare we know today. Townhouses were remodelled and extended to coincide with the transformation of Hyde Park Corner by Decimus Burton and James McAdam. Balconies were added and views of the park saw the value in property begin the skyrocket. The nearby Park Grand Paddington Court Hotel was constructed during this era of architectural boom, too!
By now, what was now known as Londonderry House was the property of Charles William Vane, the 1st Baron Stewart and the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry. The mansion’s exterior was modest, but the insides were lavishly sculpted and decorated with paintings and silverware. He and his family lived in the house during the social season in London. Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was known to visit often, during his exile in the middle of the century!
The Grosvenor family, who would become the Dukes of Westminster, moved into Park Lane in the early 1800’s. Robert Grosvenor, 1st Marquess of Westminster, purchased the existing Gloucester House and set about extending the building and refreshing the look of it to make it more fashionable. Electricity was introduced to the house in 1889, making it one of the very first homes in London to have this luxury. The National Trust was founded at a meeting in Grosvenor House shortly before this!
During the First World War, Londonderry House was used as a military hospital. Following the war, the home continued to be used as a residence and place of entertainment by the Viscount Caslereagh, Charles Vane-Tempest Stewart, and his wife Edith Helen Chaplin. Even Queen Elizabeth and King George VI attended some of these extravagant parties. The house remained part of the Londonderry estate until it was sold in 1962 and demolished in order for the extension of the London Hilton hotel across the street. Only the stables remain today.
Meanwhile, the Grosvenor family sold their mansion after the First World War. The building was flattened and the Grosvenor House Hotel was built in its place, Opening in 1929, the luxury hotel was the first in London to have a separate bathroom for each bedroom. The Great Room of the hotel was originally built as an ice-rink, and is where the current Queen Elizabeth learnt to skate when she was seven!
The 20th century was when Park Lane became the stomping ground for the deluxe hotels we see today. The Dorchester opened in 1931, on the site of the former Dorchester House built in the mid 19th century. It attracted writers and artists, including Somerset Maugham and Sir Alfred Munnings.
Park Lane was made into a dual carriageway in 1962. This meant a slither of Hyde Park was taken over to make room for the extension, and the underpass followed shortly.