8 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Hyde Park

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 95 months ago

Last Updated 03 June 2016

8 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Hyde Park
Photo: Shifiku

1. The pet cemetery

Hyde Park is home to a pet cemetery. It all began with a terrier called Cherry, who belonged to friends of the lodge-keeper. When Cherry died in 1881, the lodge-keeper allowed her to be buried in the gardens of the lodge. Word got out, and over the next 22 years, over 300 pet graves appeared in the lodge's gardens.

It's no longer open to the public, although Royal Parks run occasional tours. It's next to the Victoria Gate Lodge on Bayswater Road, and it's possible to peek through the fences and hedge to get a glimpse of the mini graves.

The Hyde Park pet cemetery. Photo: Gábor Hernádi

2. Number One London

Apsley House, at the south-east corner of Hyde Park, was historically given the address Number One, London. Find out why here.

3. The Peter Pan Cup

Every Christmas Day, a bunch of nutters London's hardiest swimmers take a dip in Hyde Park's Serpentine, in a competition for the Peter Pan Cup. It was named the Peter Pan Cup by the author JM Barrie, who donated the prize in 1904 — the same year that Peter Pan was first performed on the London stage.

Before you get too excited, it's worth noting that only members of the Serpentine Swimming Club are allowed to take part in the Peter Pan Cup, so stick to opening presents on Christmas morning.

Christmas Day swimmers get ready to take the plunge. Photo: sinister dexter

4. Britain's first street lighting

Rotten Row is a track in Hyde Park, linking up Hyde Park Corner and the Serpentine. It's been there since the 1690s, and its claim to fame is that it had Britain's first street lighting.

King William III had it built and used it regularly to travel on horseback between Kensington Palace and St James's Palace. Due to the prevalence of highwaymen in the area at the time, he had it lit with 300 gas lamps.

The name Rotten Row is a corruption of the French Route du Roi, meaning King's Road.

Photo: Matt Brown

5. Lansbury's Lido

The Serpentine is one of the best-known outdoor swimming spots in London, but did you know that the swimming area is officially known as Lansbury's Lido?

It was named after MP George Lansbury, who oversaw the creation of the swimming area and lido pavilion ahead of its opening in 1930.

In the 1860s, there were plans to turn the Serpentine into a formal skating pond, but this never happened.

6. Inside Wellington Arch

Crossing Piccadilly at the south-east corner of Hyde Park, you come to Wellington Arch, an impressive structure on what is effectively a grassy traffic island, an extension of the park itself. The arch is hollow.

From 1883, one of the pillars of the arch was used as the park keeper's lodge, and the other as a police station, said to be the smallest police station in London, but it closed in the 1950s and today the arch is used as exhibition space by English Heritage.

We recently got up close to the sculpture on top of Wellington Arch.

Photo: Mandy Maregmen

7. The first Victoria Cross

The first ceremony awarding the Victoria Cross was held in Hyde Park on 26 June 1857. Queen Victoria presented the medals to 62 recipients who had fought in the Crimean War. Prince Albert and other members of the Royal Family were present at the ceremony.

8. Achilles statue

The statue of Achilles in the south east corner of the park isn't exactly light. It's made from 33 tonnes of bronze, sourced from cannons captured by the Duke of Wellington's campaigns in France. Rumour has it that actor Laurence Olivier once said the statue had "the best arse in London". Personally, we prefer this lot.