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London's Kensington Gardens: Diana & Albert memorials, Peter Pan Statue, park maps and more

Updated on October 20, 2011

Introduction

Kensington Gardens is immediately to the west of Hyde Park, and is 275 acres of glorious formal gardens, ponds, wandering paths, and green-ness.

The Gardens are right next to Hyde Park, and you can walk straight across from one to the other, provided both are open.

Kensington Gardens is open slightly shorter hours - while Hyde Park is open from 5am to midnight year-round, the Gardens are open from 6am to nightfall. In the winter, it can get dark pretty early in London, and the difference in opening-times is therefore more obvious (think 4pm in December.....)

Kensington Gardens are quieter and less active than Hyde Park - if you want to play casual games of rugby, cricket or rounders, or hire horses, or be generally loud and noisy, Hyde Park is the better bet.

If you want a calmer atmosphere, and to enjoy peace and quiet amid wonderful gardens in central London, this Royal Park is for you!

It's also great fun to walk from Kensington to Westminster, through first Kensington Gardens, then Hyde Park, then St. James' Park, without stepping out into the busy atmosphere and traffic of the centre of town.

Kensington Palace, seen from Long Water in Kensington Gardens
Kensington Palace, seen from Long Water in Kensington Gardens
The Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens
The Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens
Simple map of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park
Simple map of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park

Kensington Palace

King William III and his wife, Queen Mary II, were joint monarches.

Mary was the elder (and protestant) daughter of King James II.

Mary and William were first cousins, and married in1677.

King James II had converted to Catholicism during his second marriage, and only lasted 3 years as King.

When James was forced out in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, his nephew William and daughter from his first marriage, Mary became King and Queen together.

William and Mary had no children together, and after Mary died, William continued as King on his own. After William's death, Mary's younger sister, Anne, became Queen.

The Royal couple bought Kensington Palace because it was, at the time, a semi-rural and peaceful place for the asthmatic King.

The Palace remained a royal residence - Queen Victoria was born there, and lived there until she became Queen.

Mary of Teck, wife of George V, mother of George VI, and grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II, was also born in Kensington Palace, as her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Teck, were visiting London at the time of her birth.

The Prince and Princess of Wales lived there from their marriage in 1981.

It continued to be Diana, Princess of Wales' London home after the couple divorced, until her death in 1997.

Kensington Gardens was also, for many years, home to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, wife of George VI and mother of Elizabeth II.

The "Americas" statue on the Albert Memorial
The "Americas" statue on the Albert Memorial
Statue of Prince Albert, covered in gold leaf, on the Albert Memorial
Statue of Prince Albert, covered in gold leaf, on the Albert Memorial

History of Kensington Gardens

Kensington Gardens were originally part of Hyde Park.

Owned for centuries by the monks at Westminster Abbey, Henry VIII bagged the lot in 1536 and created a massive hunting park for his private use.

The hunting park remained in Royal hands - in fact, both Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park are still Royal lands, although today both are part of the Royal Parks organisation and open to the public.

The Gardens were separated from Hyde Park when William and Mary bought Kensington Palace.

Kensington Gardens were laid out in the form surviving to this day by George II's wife, Queen Caroline, starting in 1728.

It was she who caused the damming of the River Westborne, which created both Long Water and the Serpentine, and she who created the Round Pond.

The lake created by the damming of the Westborne is the same stretch of water, but it is known as Long Water in Kensington Gardens and the Serpentine in Hyde Park.

Queen Anne, younger sister of Mary II, and successor to the throne, built the Orangery next to Kensington Palace.

The Albert Memorial was the major addition during the 19th century


Long Water, in Kensington Gardens
Long Water, in Kensington Gardens

The layout of Kensington Gardens

The Round Pond is the centre of four tree-lined avenues which each give a different view of Kensington Palace.

They are beautiful and the mature trees add to the view.

Queen Caroline's "ha-ha", the ditch which marked the boundary between the Gardens and Hyde Park, was a novel and then fashionable idea in landscaping at the time it was dug.

Most of it is now filled in, and is West Carriage Drive, and still marks the boundary.

The north-west corner of the park contains the formal Italian gardens, and just north of the Palace is the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial playground.

It's a great play area for children, with a model ship at the centre which kids can climb all over. My 3 year old son adores it.

East of the Palace is the Round Pond, which isn't round, and the tree-lined avenues radiating away from it.

It's a popular place to sail model boats, and if the weather's half-decent, you are likely to find children (and big kids) having fun with their boats here.

The Serpentine Gallery, in a 1930s building, holds fantastic exhibitions of modern art.

A link to the Gallery's website can be found to the right of this text.

The Agriculture statue on the Albert Memorial
The Agriculture statue on the Albert Memorial
The Engineering statue on the Albert Memorial
The Engineering statue on the Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial was built in honour of Prince Albert, husband and Consort of Queen Victoria.

It was built by the astonishing neo-gothic architect George Scott. It is made from red granite and grey granite.

It’s an incredibly elaborate work, with a 169 carved figures and angels, and separate sculptures representing the different continents of the world, arts, industry and science.

It suffered a lot with pollution and damage, and was repaired and restored at the cost of £10million in the mid 1990s. It is now sparkling and beautiful.

The Memorial is in Kensington Gardens directly north of the Royal Albert Hall, and is 176 feet tall.

The inscription reads:

Queen Victoria and Her people to the memory of Albert Prince Consort as a tribute of their gratitude for a life devoted to the public good.

At the top of the Memorial are statues of Faith, Hope, Humility, Charity, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance.

At the top of the tower is a large gold cross.

On the pillars of the canopy are statues representing geology, chemistry, astronomy and geometry, and in the four niches, rhetoric, philosophy, physiology, and medicine.

There are four mosaics on the outside of the canopy featuring allegories painting, architecture, poetry and sculpture, supported by historical statues.

King David and Homer support the poetry mosaic, Solomon and Ictinus the architecture, Phidius and Michelangelo the Sculpture, and Apelles and Raphael the painting mosaic.

There are also the allegorical sculptures depicting commerce, engineering, manufacturing and agriculture, all elaborate and detailed works, which featured in the Great Exhibition 1851, organised by Prince Albert.

The four statue groups of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas are also fascinating.

It’s an amazing work and needs to be looked at in detail to be properly appreciated.

Literature associated Kensington Gardens

Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens by J M Barrie features the famous boy who doesn't grow up. It is set mostly in the Gardens, after dark.

Barrie wasn't the first person to associate fairies and other little people with the Gardens.

Thomas Tickell wrote about them in his 1722 poem, Kensington Garden.

This is an extract from the poem, the link to the right of this text will show you the whole verse:

From every region to his palace-gate
Came peers and princes of the fairy state,
Who, rank'd in council round the sacred shade,
Their monarch's will and great behests obey'd.

There is a statue of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, and near the Diana playground the 900-year old Elfin Oak, which is carved to show fairies and elves peaking out of the bark.

Trinity is a computer game, famous amongst its kind, set largely in Kensington Gardens.

It involves grass that doesn't like to be walked on, and armies of nannies trying to imprison you in the Gardens.


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    • profile image

      Myra-Lea King 6 years ago

      Do you know if it is possible to get married at Kensington Gardens?

    • profile image

      Katia 7 years ago

      Hey Londongirl

      This hub was excellent. I would love to add it to my blog! Your research is really thorough.

      London hideaways Blog - Vacation rentals in London

    • profile image

      Jean Kotzur 7 years ago

      Nostalgia! I am also from London with a family history going back generations. Destiny took me away from there at the age of 22 years so I always enjoy hearing about my hometown.

      Lots of information - it brought back happy memories of childhood. Thanks.

      Jean

    • Ambition398 profile image

      Ambition398 7 years ago

      Thanks for all the research. This is a great hub.

    • LondonGirl profile image
      Author

      LondonGirl 8 years ago from London

      We are very lucky - London's a very green city, lots of small parks and squares, as well as the big parks.

    • Jenny30 profile image

      Jennifer 8 years ago from Canada

      Wow very impressive! I have always wanted to visit the parks in London! They are so beautiful! You are so forturnate to live near 3 parks!I am new to Hubpages feel free to check out my hubs and post a comment! Love to here some feedback!   

    • LondonGirl profile image
      Author

      LondonGirl 8 years ago from London

      We are very lucky to live near these three parks in the centre of London - a giant lung for the city!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      What a beautifully descriptive hub about these gorgeous gardens. You made me feel (almost) as though I was there with you! Great photos, also. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Philipo 8 years ago

      Very informative. Thanks.

      https://hubpages.com/business/philipo

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Sorry, I meant I would not mind living near great sites such as these.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I would not mind living near something great sites such as these.

    • LondonGirl profile image
      Author

      LondonGirl 8 years ago from London

      Glad you've enjoyed them - more to come lol

    • profile image

      Am I dead, yet? 8 years ago

      All the more reason to visit the London. I really enjoy reading your hubs like these! I have read them all!!

    • LondonGirl profile image
      Author

      LondonGirl 8 years ago from London

      Glad you enjoyed it! We love the Gardens too, and the play ground is fantastic.

    • diamondrose1 profile image

      diamondrose1 8 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for the wonderful hub.

    • profile image

      the dentist 8 years ago from Midwest

      This was very helpful to me. I have so much to learn, but it is fun stuff. Please keep writing more good articles. Thanks.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 8 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      It *is* a wonderful place, my favorite of the four parks. It was torture to read this (because I'm not there) but what *sweet* torture! Your description of the Gardens was *almost* as good as being there! Definitely a must-see for London visitors!

    • LondonGirl profile image
      Author

      LondonGirl 8 years ago from London

      Glad you all enjoyed it! It's a wonderful place.

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 8 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      Looks fabulous, another one on the list of places to visit.

    • mizlizb profile image

      mizlizb 8 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      Excellent hub! Thanks.

    • abhinab profile image

      abhinab 8 years ago

      Very well written. You have some great information contained in this hub. Thanks for writing it.