The Royal Parks present Parks: Our Shared Heritage, an exhibition in partnership with the Hearsum Collection and the Office of Public Works, Ireland
27 July - 11 August, 2017
Mall Galleries, The Mall, London, SW1
London’s Royal Parks have evolved over the past 500 years from monarchical deer hunting grounds to the world famous parks we know and love today, accessible to all and enjoyed by millions from across the globe. For the first time ever, London will host an exhibition exploring this rich history, with rarely seen artefacts including oil paintings, photographs, and historical documents spanning three centuries. The exhibition will also look at the history of Phoenix Park in Dublin, which was formed in 1662 as Ireland’s only royal deer park, and is today managed by the Office of Public Works, Ireland.
The exhibition, Parks: Our Shared Heritage, is a collaboration between The Royal Parks, the Hearsum Collection and the Office of Public Works, Ireland.
The Royal Parks that we enjoy today have been free to access by the general public for decades, but this wasn’t always the case. For example, when Richmond Park was a private royal hunting ground the public were excluded for royal privacy and safety. Copper tokens were issued to a privileged few to access the park, and can be seen in the exhibition. A portrait of John Lewis also features; famous for campaigning for public access to Richmond Park in the 1750s.
Other key moments in the history of the Royal Parks are explored, including The Great Exhibition in 1851. Hosted by Prince Albert, the exhibition of innovation, industry and art attracted six million visitors to Hyde Park and was located in the Crystal Palace, a vast structure of cast iron and glass covering about 20 acres.
A fascinating insight is offered into the parks’ connections with prominent historical figures including the Royal Family and Prime Ministers. One photograph taken at the christening of the future King Edward VIII at White Lodge in Richmond Park in 1894 features four generation of monarchs – Queen Victoria holding her great grandson the future Edward VIII alongside her son the future Edward VII and her grandson the future George V. The house was originally built as a hunting lodge for King George II but today is home to the Royal Ballet School.
Winston Churchill also appears in the exhibition, as a young boy in a naval suit. His father Lord Randolph Churchill lived in a lodge in Phoenix Park during his term as private secretary (1876-1880), and Winston Churchill’s younger brother, John, was born there in 1880.
The exhibition doesn’t just demonstrate change however; it also shows how tradition endures. A photo of George VI’s coronation in 1937, taken from the roof of Buckingham Palace, is almost identical to the ceremonial occasions we host today on The Mall in St James’s Park, such as Trooping of the Colour to celebrate the Queen’s official birthday.
In 1851, the Royal Parks of London became public parks with the introduction of the Crown Lands Act. Following this, the Royal Parks were used extensively by Government to aid the military effort in both World Wars of the 20th century. This is showcased with photos of soldiers performing drills with rifles in the Serpentine Lake, and Hyde Park being used as a salvage depot.
Daniel Hearsum from the Hearsum Collection said:
“The exhibition is a unique opportunity to see how these historic parks have evolved, with hundreds of previously unseen images and unknown stories; including duelling and riots in Hyde Park, the Temple of Peace in The Green Park – destroyed by fire within 90 minutes, a secretary walking her leopard through Kensington Gardens in the swinging sixties, and Marble Arch in its original position – in front of Buckingham Palace.”
Loyd Grossman CBE, Chairman of The Royal Parks, said:
“The Royal Parks and the Phoenix Park share a fascinating history which is being brought together through this exciting new exhibition. This is a great opportunity for our two countries to bond over our love of heritage, which for us stretches back hundreds of years from royal hunting grounds to the magnificent urban open spaces we see today. This collection brings that rich history to life, providing a glimpse of what makes these parks among the best in the world. I’m grateful to both the Hearsum Collection and the Office of Public Works, Ireland for collating exhibits from around the globe to create this exhibition, which I hope inspires visitors to enjoy and appreciate our parks on both sides of the water.”
Kevin Moran Minister for the Office of Public Works, Ireland said:
“This wonderful exhibition explores and celebrates our shared parks heritage on both sides of the Irish Sea. It demonstrates the commitment of the Office of Public Works, the Hearsum Collection and The Royal Parks to deepening and enriching the public’s understanding of these beautiful parks, including the Phoenix Park in Dublin, while meeting the everyday demands and pressures of the 21st century.
“The historic landscape of the Phoenix Park is of international significance, being one of the largest designed parks in any European city. It is a magnificent amenity for the ten million people who enjoy it annually, be its rich culture, heritage or nature. This international exhibition is certainly a must see exhibition for young and old alike.”
In addition to the exhibition, The Royal Parks in partnership with the education team at Mall Galleries, will host a number of community art activities between 28 July and 11 August. Find out more info on www.royalparks.org.uk/whats-on