One Of The First Victorians Born Was Called 'Hyde Park'

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 8 months ago

Last Updated 11 September 2023

One Of The First Victorians Born Was Called 'Hyde Park'

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Engraving of many tents and people filling Hyde Park. A balloon glides through the air
The coronation fair in Hyde Park was a major event... and featured an unexpected twist. Image: public domain

On Thursday 28 June 1838, Victoria was crowned Queen, and London's newly-minted Victorians celebrated across the city.

One such event took place in Hyde Park, where the theatrical entrepreneurs Johnson and Lee set up a huge fair, featuring in the ballpark of 1,000 tents, booths, marquees, stalls and suchlike — each displaying its own illuminations at night, and looking quite the spectacle after dark. There was dancing, fireworks, gingerbread stalls, and a hot air balloon piloted by Charles Green (a direct rival to the balloon that launched from nearby Green Park, flown by Margaret Graham).

A newspaper clipping announcing the birth
Image © The British Library Board

As Thomas Frost writes in his 1875 book, The Old Showmen and the Old London Fairs: "As the boom of the first gun announcing the departure of the Queen for Westminster Abbey was heard, Nelson Lee, standing on the parade of his theatre, struck the gong, and all the showmen unfurled their show-cloths, and the keepers of booths and stalls rolled up their canvas fronts, and commenced business."

We know a bally good time was had at the coronation fair because the Morning Post reported witnessing a "number of the unwashed, who might be seen rolling about the park in every stage of intoxication," and huffily wrapped up its piece: "the only benefit derived from the 'fancy fair'... is the conversion of a beautiful park into a filthy and disgusting receptacle of mud and dirt. The interior of the Park is totally ruined for the season."

Sepia photo of a random Victorian baby in a bonnet
Not Hyde Park, unfortunately, but a random Victorian baby. Still, Hyde Park might've looked a bit like this. Image: iStock/duncan1890

But not everyone was having such a carefree time. On the Friday evening, the pregnant wife of a gingerbread vendor— who had walked all the way from their home in Chingford to be at the fair — went into labour prematurely. She wound up giving birth to a baby girl right there in Hyde Park, "in the booth of Mr Eastgate, of the Crown and Anchor, Kent Road."

The newborn was delivered safely and — according to Frost — in honour of her unorthodox place of birth, duly named... Hyde Park. When news went round about the coronation baby and its name, the child and its mother became a fair attraction in their own right, the booth being "visited by many ladies, who made presents to the child and its parents" — in a scene that must've been vaguely reminiscent of the Nativity.

A messy scene from the fair with stage chows, dogs running around, children playing and someone shunning up a tree
The holiday hijinks 'ruined' the park, according to the haughty Morning Post. Image: public domain

Though there are newspaper reports on the birth, the only source to suggest the baby's unusual name we can find is Thomas Frost himself. But if what Frost says is true, one of the first post-Coronation Victorians ever to be born was called Hyde Park (whereas all the other suckers were going with 'Victoria' or 'Albert'). And although we've since had people named things like Chelsea, and London itself... we reckon Hyde Park might've been a strictly one-off.