7 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Primrose Hill

7 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Primrose Hill

Just outside central London and offering amazing views, Primrose Hill is a beloved park to many. We found some lesser-known facts about this Royal Park:

Photo: James Booth

War of the Worlds

H.G. Wells's seminal science-fiction story is most commonly associated with Woking, but in the original novel, the aliens make a final base on Primrose Hill. Large parts of the novel take place in Woking because that's where Wells lived when he wrote it, but he'd previously lived on Fitzroy Road by Primrose Hill, inspiring him to use this corner of London as a location in the novel too.

It used to have a sibling

Right next to Primrose Hill is Barrow Hill Reservoir, a water treatment plant. It's rather an odd name, considering that it's not on a hill whatsoever. There did use to be a Barrow Hill — a sort of twin of Primrose — but it was flattened to make way for the reservoir.

Photo: Theodore Black

The Popish Plot

Between 1678 and 1681, England was gripped by an anti-Catholic movement. It centred on a (fictional) Catholic conspiracy to kill Charles II. These accusations were originally made by Titus Oates to magistrate Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey. Godfrey was an MP and strong supporter of Protestantism; it was a shock to all when his body — impaled on his own sword — appeared in a ditch at the bottom of Primrose Hill, setting off a chain of events that led to the death of 22 Catholics. To this day, no one knows what happened to Godfrey.

Nearly a cemetery

During the early 1800s, London had a desperate need for cemeteries, which resulted in The Magnificent Seven being constructed. Before any of these were built, cemetery campaigner George Carden wanted a London version of Père Lachaise in Paris, and Primrose Hill was his first choice of location for it. His plans were ambitious: a brick pyramid, taller than St Paul's, holding (a very precise) 5,167,104 bodies.

It would have cost a monumental £2.5 million to build ( £205 million in today's money). Eton College owned the land at the time and weren't impressed by this idea. Instead they engaged in a land swap with crown-owned land in 1841, as the crown owned some of the land Eton was on. Parliament then turned Primrose Hill into a public park.

Photo: paul

Shakespeare's birth

You may know the tree that stands atop Primrose Hill as Shakespeare's Tree. In 1864 it was decided to plant a tree in the then-relatively new park, to mark the tercentenary of the writer's birth. 100 years later it was replaced by a new tree, which still stands today.

The planting of the original tree was a major event among Britain's working class, with reports of 100,000 turning up to see the planting. During the 19th century, Shakespeare was popular among Britain's working classes  due to rising literacy rates and Shakespeare's works becoming dirt cheap.

Mother Shipton

"When London surrounds Primrose Hill, the streets of the metropolis will run with blood."

So goes a bold prediction from medieval soothsayer Ursula Southeil, better known as Mother Shipton. Back in the 16th century when she was making these predictions, London was a lot more confined than the sprawling beast it is now. Despite the city's unwieldy size, we haven't spotted streets running with blood. Just air pollution.

Photo: DodderyIceDry

Home for Paddington

Chalcot Square and Chalcot Crescent, just off Primrose Hill, are some of London's most colourful streets. Unsurprisingly, the area is popular with photographers and Instagrammers. However, it's not just amateurs who point their cameras at the roads; Paddington was filmed there, stepping in for the fictional Windsor Gardens.

Last Updated 20 March 2021