home / introduction / authors / musicians / tour / maps / links


Regent's Park and Primrose Hill in Literature and Music
Authors - E to I

Edgeworth, Maria (1830)
Edwards, Rachelle
Eliot, George (1867)
Elmes, James (1847)
Elton, Ben (P)
Elyot, Kevin (P)
Fage, George H.
Falconer, Helen (P)
Farjeon, Eleanor (P)
Fitz-Stephen, William (1180)
Fleetwood, Hugh
Fleming, Ian
Forster, Margaret
Foscolo, Ugo (c1822)
Fowler, Bo
Fowler, Christopher
Fowles, John
Francis, Dick
Fraser, Sir Arthur Ronald
Galsworthy, John
Gardam, Jane
Garnett, Eve
Garnett, R.S.
Gay, John (1728)
Geoghegan, Peter
Ginsberg, Allen (P)
Gissing, George (1882)
Glendinning, Victoria
Goons, The
Gosse, Edmund (1879)
Granger, Ann
Grant, Linda
Green, Christopher
Greenlaw, Lavinia (P)
Grossmith, Weedon (P)
Guizot, François (1862)
Gwilliam, Jane (1838) (P)
Hacker, Marilyn
Hames, Michael
Hamilton, Patrick
Harford, Henry (1892)
Harrison, M. John
Hawker, Peter (1814)
Hawkes, Jacquetta (P)
Heller, Zoë (P)
Hickey, Margaret
Holly, Emma
Horowitz, Anthony
Howard, Peter (P)
Hughes, Ted
Hunt, Leigh (1833)
Hunter, Alyson
Hutchinson, A.S.M.



Letters from England, 1813-1844. Ed. Christina Colvin. Clarendon Press, 1971.
'2 Nov. 1830...Lestock took me last Sunday to the Zoological gardens...I was properly surprised by the new town that has been built in the Regent's park - and indignant at plaister statues and horrid useless domes and pediments crowded with mock sculpture figures which damp and smoke must destroy in a season or two. The Zoological gardens charmed me - very fine day' (p.424).

The Irish novelist was on a visit to London and staying with her sister and brother-in-law, Lestock Wilson. Though best known for her tales of 'dignified peasantry and country life' she had earlier displayed a taste for gothic horror: in a novel written when she was a schoolgirl the villain wore a mask made from the skin of a dead man's face. This ghoulish streak seems to have re-surfaced on her visit to the Zoo, where 'eagles and vultures struck my imagination most...'

'The otter fished for live fish thrown into his pool and bit off the head of one the instant caught and played with it horribly as a cat with mouse and granched it bones and blood till I was sick looking and yet could not move my eyes - like the girl looking at the murder thro the cranny in the wainscoat' (p.425).


Marylebone Park. Fawcett Crest/Ballantine Books, New York, 1990.
'It was not so fashionable to ride in Marylebone Park, so it was nowhere near as crowded as Hyde Park. Their ride there would have been interrupted by constant calls from acquaintances. It gave Sophia no small amount of pleasure to reflect he might have chosen Marylebone Park just because they could enjoy each other's company the better' (p.177).

Sophia's companion is not her fiancé, about whom she is beginning to have doubts, but the dashing Lord Manville. Her worst fears are realized when she spots 'a familiar yellow phaeton coming toward them' and is 'assailed by a feeling of unreality on seeing Felix riding with Manuela Malliende in Marylebone Park' (p.178).

A 'Regency Romance' website summarizes the plot for us: 'Held up by ruffians, then secretly kissed by the mysterious gentleman who came to her rescue, recently engaged Sophia Kingsland feared the gossip-starved ton would milk the incident for all they could.' The author has more than thirty Regency romances listed; this appears to be one of the less popular, since no copies are available in the UK.

ELIOT, GEORGE (pseudonym of Marian Evans)
Eliot and G.E.Lewes lived at several addresses on the west side of the park between 1860 and 1880.

George Eliot's Life As Related In Her Letters and Journals. J.W.Cross. Blackwood, 1885, 3 vols.
Returning from the Zoo 'about five o'clock I could not help pausing and exclaiming at the exquisite beauty of the light on Regent's Park, exalting it into something that the young Turner would have wanted to paint' (letter dated 25th September 1868, Vol.3, p.60).

An earlier letter describes their plans for employing 'a system of viva-voce mutual instruction...for giving new interest to Regent's Park' when they resume their walks there (16th March 1867, Vol.3, p.4). Her real interest seems to have been the Zoo, 'my one outdoor pleasure now and we can take it several times a week, for Mr. Lewes has become a fellow' (Vol.2, p.288). Other mentions of the park and zoo in Vol.2, pp. 311 & 320, but no descriptions.


Metropolitan Improvements Or London In the Nineteenth Century. Jones & Co., 1847.
'What a prospect lies before us. Splendour, health, dressed rurality and comforts such as nothing but a metropolis can afford are spread around us. "Trim gardens", lawns and shrubs; towering spires, ample domes, banks clothed with flowers, all the elegancies of the town, and all the beauties of the country are co-mingled with happy art and blissful union. They must surely all be the abodes of nobles and princes! No, the majority are the retreats of the happy free-born sons of commerce, of the wealthy commonalty of Britain, who thus enrich and bedeck the heart of their great empire' (p.21).

Elmes walked around the park in 1827, when it was still under construction. Pausing for a breather at the 'north east boundary' (the Zoo grounds were still being prepared), the prospect before him confirmed his belief that 'the public are beholden' to Nash 'for the most picturesque improvements that ever were bestowed upon their metropolis' (p.17). As a practising architect his particular interest was the buildings; the scenery was there to provide an attractive setting, as with Sussex Place:

'The lake spreads its tranquil bosom before the facade, and reflects its eastern-like cupolas with pleasing effect. The varied plantations of the park, group with singular felicity, and the delightful season, that we are now enjoying, gives a double relish to the natural beauties of the place' (p.48).


Inconceivable. Bantam Press, 1999.
'I trod in this huge turd the moment we entered the park. Huge. No mortal dog could have passed such a turd. Honestly, I went in almost up to my knees. Any deeper and I would have had to call for a rope. London Zoo is situated at the bottom of Primrose Hill and I was forced to conclude that an elephant must have escaped' (p.115).

Sam has been persuaded that a midnight coupling at the summit, surrounded by candles and a sprinkling of primrose oil, is the only way that Lucy is going to conceive: 'the most positively powerful ley line within this, our ancient and magical land of Albany, runs right across Primrose Hill!' But there are worse dangers than dog shit. A squirrel finds its way into Sam's discarded trousers, with predictable results when he puts them on again. The police, alerted earlier by a nocturnal dogwalker convinced there are satanic practices afoot, appear as Sam leaps about screaming. Lucy concludes the tale:

'Sam got into an awful mess trying to pull his trousers up...the sight that he must have presented to them in the torchlight could not have been pleasant. I should mention here that Sam's Donald Duck pants were also round his knees so that there was a second moon shining on Primrose Hill tonight. I think we were very lucky that they didn't do us for indecency' (p.119).


Mouth to Mouth. Nick Hern Books, 2002.
'Scene: The Kitchen.
Dennis: One day, very shortly after we'd first met, in fact...This particular day, an afternoon, we were sitting on top of Primrose Hill - it was the height of summer - and saw the most extraordinary thing: at the foot of the hill was a layer of snow, a vast expanse of thick white snow glistening in the sunlight. The middle of summer, it was, a hot July afternoon, and we were amazed. And I looked at her and thought, this is the most remarkable woman and I love her more than - more than...well... The snow - so strange. I thought we were blessed...
Frank: What was it? A freak snowstorm or - ?
Dennis: A trick of the light. That's all it was' (p.44).

The play was first performed at the Royal Court Downstairs, 1st February 2001. 'The fascination of Elyot's accomplished play is that it shows the London suburbs to be every bit as much filled with pain, passion and guilt as Proust's Paris or Combray' (Michael Billington, The Guardian, 8th February 2001).


My Old Man Was a Barrow Boy and Gran Was a Piccadilly Flower Girl. Published by the author. Revised edition 2007.
'Dad took us to Regent's Park where there were as yet no lights and no railings around the Park. I was allowed to fire the [Very] pistol and down came the flare on a small parachute. The flare lit up the field for some hundred yards radius and suddenly there were couples jumping up everywhere clutching their underwear and clothes and beating a hasty retreat!' (p.52).

In 1945 Dad had just been demobbed from the RAF, returning home with 'a big pram' full of WW2 souvenirs. The family was living in North Gower Street, then called George Street, a few minutes walk from the park. It was 'a paradise for local people...The mums often took some bloater paste sandwiches and Tizer and we would have a picnic...plenty of room to run about and play games, such simple pleasures' (p.95).

'There were some fearsome tales of the canal circulating amongst the local kids. The most popular was that of people drowning by being pulled under by monster weeds. That did not stop us, in the summer we would often dive for pennies at the Primrose Hill end. There were several bridges over the canal inside the Zoo and it is the people crossing the bridges that we solicited. We only ever caught half the money thrown as the bottom was covered with scrap metal. (No supermarket trolleys!) If we did not catch it on the way down, it was gone for good. There must be hundreds of pounds buried in the mud' (p.86-87). Accounts of other youthful exploits in the park on pages 95-96.


Primrose Hill. Faber&Faber, 1999.
'It wasn't like being in London at all - not down in London where you couldn't see shit, but up here, closer to the sky, like we'd been living down a manhole and climbed up and pushed off the cover. You could imagine you were right out of it, maybe on a mountain top somewhere, real air and a sky you could see' (p.5).

Si just wants to hang out with 'the crowd on the hill, the peace and love types, all growing our hair...we were doing the hippy thing', and much of the action takes place on or around Primrose Hill. But his mate Danny has decided to kill his mother's junkie boyfriend, and needs Si's help; the summer of love is put on hold.


A Nursery in the Nineties. 1935. Oxford University Press, 1960.

'At twelve o'clock it was time to go for a walk. "Let's go to Regent's Park," said Joe. "And take some bread," added Bertie, giving the show away. Bread meant the delight of ducks and water. "Wouldn't it be nicer, dears, to go to Primrose Hill? It is such a clear day, and I can show you St. Paul's from the top." We disliked Primrose Hill, the grass was so bare, and the trees were so dull, and you never got away from the feeling of iron railings, and however clear it was I couldn't see St. Paul's and, even if I could, I didn't want to. However, when Miss Milton said firmly, "Yes, we'll all go for a nice walk to Primrose Hill," we knew there was no hope' (p.384-385).


In the 1890's the Farjeon children and their governess were living in nearby Adelaide Road. Miss Milton was one of those people who 'seemed to go against everything I wanted to discover... However, if we took our hoops we could play the game of Greeks and Trojans which Harry had invented for us, after the Iliad had been shared out fairly among us.' Miss Milton, predictably, 'thought we had better leave our hoops at home.'

Primrose Hill from Junior Modern Poetry, selected by Richard Wilson (J.M. Dent & Sons, 1922), p.73.

'Primrose Hill is green,
Primrose Hill is yellow.
As I walked over Primrose Hill
I met a pretty fellow.
We went up the Hill,
We went down the Valley,
We went through the Primroses,
And he said, "Will you marry?"...'


A Description of the City of London, newly translated from the Latin original. c.1180.
B. White, 1772.
'On the north are corn-fields, pastures, and delightful meadows, intermixed with pleasant streams, on which stands many a mill¹, whose clack is so grateful to the ear. Beyond them an immense forest² extends itself, beautified with woods and groves, and full of the lairs and coverts of beasts and game, stags, bucks, boars, and wild bulls. The fields abovementioned are by no means hungry gravel or barren sands, but may vie with the fertile plains of Asia, as capable of producing the most luxuriant crops, and filling the barns of the hinds and farmers.

1. Hence Turnmill Brook, which ran under Holbourne Bridge.
2. The forest of Middlesex, which was not deforested till A 1218, in the reign of King Henry the Third'

Regent's Park and Primrose Hill were still part of the Forest of Middlesex when this description of London, a century after the Norman Invasion, was written. The author was Thomas Becket's chaplain, and had witnessed the murder of the archbishop in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. He subsequently wrote a Life of Becket, and this Description formed the introduction to it. His translator, Samuel Pegge the elder, conjectures that the work was written between 1170 and 1182.


Brothers. Serpent's Tail, 1999.
'Joey decided as an experiment that, instead of hovering over Paul, as he had on the previous occasions they had come alone together to the park, he would let the boy get on with it by himself...Paul seemed to react not at all; he seemed not to notice he had been abandoned. Instead, he just squatted down amidst the swans and geese and ducks, with his plastic bag full of breadcrumbs, as if he were finally in his element...' (p.121).

Lulled by a false sense of security, Joey becomes absorbed in his book; when he looks up again the boy has disappeared. 'He gazed at the geese and swans still pecking crumbs off the ground as if they were hiding Paul; he looked through the birds, out into the lake, as if expecting to see that someone had offered the boy a ride in a row-boat. Then, seeing no-one, he jumped to his feet and rushed forward: to flap the birds away and make sure that they were not concealing anyone...' (p.122)

Eventually the boy is discovered, sitting on a bench and chatting to a sinister figure from Joey's past. For a moment he feels 'blind with hate...I sort of in one movement grabbed Paul, lifted him into the air and held him. And then, then I could see again. I was standing in Regent's Park with an angelic-looking child in my arms, and there were people all around, and - and it was all normal again, just a regular afternoon...it all seemed so normal that looking at Timmy I couldn't ever believe that he had any evil designs on Paul' (p.126).


You Only Live Twice. 1964. Penguin, 2002.
At a low point in his life, James Bond, hitherto 'more or less oblivious to…the wonders of nature', sits in Queen Mary's Rose Garden, 'ten minutes away across the park' from his office, and muses. 'It was all right here really. Lovely roses to look at. They smelled good and it was pleasant looking at them and listening to the faraway traffic. Nice hum of bees' (p.23-26). Unsurprisingly, 007's communion with nature doesn't last long.

According to John Pearson's James Bond: The Authorised Biography of 007, Bond first reported to 'British Naval Intelligence HQ, Regent's Park' in August 1939; he was based there until 1965. In You Only Live Twice it is described as a 'tall grey building whose upper storeys showed themselves above the trees.' There are brief mentions in other novels, e.g. 'the triste winter twilight of Regent's Park under snow' (On Her Majesty's Secret Service).


Lady of Desire. 2003. Piatkus, 2006.
'At the base of the slope, he left the curricle with the groom...Together they walked up the flowery meadows to the summit. The sun was setting. Near an old, massive, whispering oak tree they sat side by side in the overgrown grasses and gazed at the prospect of London in the distance. A chubby shopkeeper's family was picnicking near the bottom of the hill. They had a blanket laid out upon the grass with countless baskets of food and a trio of children tumbling riotously down the hill. Their screeches of laughter floated to Jacinda and Rackford faintly on the evening air. Other than that, they had Primrose Hill to themselves' (p.247-248).

Rackford is Lady Jacinda's bit of rough, leader of a criminal gang now posing as a lord. Snuggling up, she confides that she's grateful to him for '"stopping me from running away from home...and doing permanent damage to my relationships with my family."' Rackford takes the cue and 'eased her back into the deep, soft grasses, laying her upon a bed of daisies, primroses and tiny buttercups' (p.250), but she won't go any further: someone might see.

'Together they watched the sunset's glow fading where its swirling colours reflected on the lazy river. As night fell, London disappeared amid the stars. The crickets sang around them in the field...With a most touching degree of reverent solicitude, he walked her back down the long hill' (p.252-253).

top of page


Lady's Maid. Penguin Books, 1991.
'We reached the Park and then I found a pretty path near the pond that lay under the trees and we stayed there a good while, Miss Elizabeth being delighted with the shade and it did her good to be cool and have so much to see that was different' (p.30).

In this retelling of the Elizabeth Barrett-Robert Browning romance Elizabeth's personal maid, Lily Wilson, is writing to her mother about the first visit that the semi-invalid poet makes in her wheelchair. More outings follow; Lily also makes numerous visits on her own to meet her male 'followers' or walk the dog. (See the Woolf entry for what the dog thought of it all.)


A Publisher and His Friends: Memoir and Correspondence of the Late John Murray. Samuel Smiles. John Murray, 1891. 2 vols.
'20th August, 1822
...Since I must be buried in your country, I am happy in having insured for me the possession during the remains of my life of a cottage built after my plan, surrounded by flowering shrubs, almost within the turnpikes of the town, and yet as quiet as a country-house, and open to the free air. Whenever I can freely dispose of a hundred pounds, I will also build a small dwelling for my corpse, under a beautiful Oriental plane-tree, which I mean to plant next November, and cultivate con amore' (vol.2, p.139-140).

The exiled Italian patriot and man of letters was writing to his publisher, John Murray, about Digamma Cottage, the property he had purchased on the South Bank of the Regent's Canal. (See the Anonymous – A Seven Years Absentee entry.) The following year his fellow countryman, Count Pecchio, paid a visit and 'found him lodged in his new cottage, with all the luxury of a Fermier Générale [a wealthy financier], promenading over rooms covered with beautiful Flanders carpets; with furniture of the rarest woods, and statues in the hall; with a hothouse full of exotics and costly flowers; and still served by the Three Graces (I believe more expensive than everything else).' (Quoted in Saint John's Wood: Its History, Its Houses, Its Haunts and Its Celebrities. A.M. Eyre. Chapman & Hall, 1913, p.74-75.)

The Three Graces were his maidservants; two of them turned out to be prostitutes, and one of them ran off with his former translator. This led to a duel, whether in Regent's Park or Primrose Hill is not clear; fortunately no blood was shed. But the extravagance Pecchio had noted soon led to financial ruin, and that same year everything was sold to meet his debts. He died not long after and was buried at Chiswick; later his remains were moved to Florence where, 'with all the pride, pomp and circumstance of a great national mourning,' he was interred alongside monuments to Michelangelo and Galileo. In England however his only lasting fame is at one remove: Wilkie Collins appropriated the name for the villainous Count Fosco in The Woman in White.


Scepticism Inc. Vintage, 1999.
The narrator, a supermarket trolley with a diploma in agnosticism, is taken to the park 'against my will' by truanting children and has to make its own way home (p.23). No descriptions.


Spanky. 1994. Warner Books.
'The park was closed. Spanky slipped his hand through the wrought-iron bars and gently lifted away the lock, swinging the gate open wide. We walked into a gravelled avenue of rain-heavy plane trees, dimly lit by the street lamps outside. I noticed that my new acquaintance threw no shadow...We had reached the fountain at the centre of the park. The June night was cool and pleasant, with the tang of rain still in the trees, but I was growing increasingly uneasy. There was an ozone-scented voltage in the air. The wind felt strange on my skin. The park was empty and full of noise. I think I began to feel once more that I was in the company of a madman' (p.27-28).

Martyn's companion claims to be a daemon - 'the link between God and man' - and can transform his life: 'fill your mind with the sentience of harmonic world order and your body with the mobius-chords of hedonistic fulfilment.' But like all Faustian pacts the full import only becomes clear later.

'Finally, we had reached a recognizable landmark. The gates of Regent's Park, where Spanky had first shown me his illusions...By now the hours had crawled nightmarishly to lunchtime, and a few hardy office workers had braved the inclement weather to sit in shelters unwrapping sandwiches and opening bags of crisps. I had decided that if Spanky didn't kill me within the next few hours, pneumonia would..."You're thinking aloud," he said, turning aside and looking off along the misted green avenue of trees...As I followed his gaze, a figure emerged through the drizzle, walking uncertainly towards me' (p.308-309).

Disturbia. 1997. Warner Books, 1998.
'The cab...reached the park and entered the first of the gates into the Outer Circle. Here the government departments were hidden behind trompe l'oeil mock-Grecian temples, painted a glaring white and set back from the road. Bedecked with posturing statues, they reminded Vince of over-iced wedding cakes, the apotheosis of good taste to some, the ultimate in kitsch to others. Smearing a path through the steamed-over window with the back of his hand, he could make out the parade of security cameras mounted on grey steel poles. The curving park road bristled with them' (p.308-309).

In an ominous future London Vince and his friends are pitted against the League of Prometheus in a deadly game involving a series of challenges contained in envelopes. The clues this time point to the Lubetkin penguin pool, one of the few surviving features of an almost-bankrupt Zoo where 'a carnival-yellow bouncy castle and fast food kiosks lined the once-grand central square.'

'The white oval of the sunken pool, dazzling even in rain and darkness, was in sight...Vince ran up to the edge and peered in. A handful of bedraggled penguins stood around the lip of the cobalt pool, sheltering from the downpour. Across the centre, two sweeping white ramps curled around each other in an elegant descent to water level. On the top one stood a figure dressed in black and white motorcycle leathers, holding a pale envelope' (p.315).


The Magus. 1966. Jonathan Cape. Revised version, 1985.
'The park was full of green distances, of countless scattered groups of people, lovers, families, solitaries with dogs, the colours softened by the imperceptible mist of autumn, as simple and pleasing in its way as a Boudin landscape' (p.646).

Nick confronts his elusive lover, in the final scene of the novel, under the suddenly sinister gaze of 'the Regency facade, bestatued, many and elegantly windowed, of Cumberland Terrace'; an echo of the scene where a World War One deserter confronts his girlfriend 'by the gloomy canal that runs through the north of the park' (p.151). The two are connected, but the plot is far too complicated to explain how.


Forfeit. 1968. Pan Books, 1970.
'The Rolls leaped across the pavement and on to the grass. The bank sloped gently and then steeply down to the Canal, with saplings and young trees growing here and there. The Rolls scrunched sideways into one trunk and ricocheted into a sapling which it mowed down like corn... I let go of Ross. It was far too late for him both to assess the situation and do anything useful about it. He was just beginning to reach for the hand brake when the Rolls crashed down over the last sapling and fell into the canal' (p.176-177).

Sports writer James Tyrone has managed to escape from his second abduction, but is nearly drowned in the process. 'You could see the silver rim of the rear window shimmering just below the surface...the water sliding shallowly through the gaping hole my rescuers had pulled me through' (p.178). Earlier he had been brought to the Zoo to be questioned inside the Big Cats' House about a missing racehorse; 'the strong feral smell seemed an appropriate background' (p.108-112).

top of page


A House In the Park. Jonathan Cape, 1937.
'A horseman leaving the Botanical Gardens on his right hand would see through the trees and thickets on his left an aloof, shapely house, painted cream…beside its own water'. Kent House, where the Stokes children live in the years before and after the First World War, is clearly The Holme. 'On Sundays and Bank Holidays the lake fairly swarmed with boats' (p.1).

Ann Saunders, in Regent's Park From 1086 To the Present, says of it: 'Not a good novel but worth reading for its evocation of a leisured life in idyllic surroundings.'

Lived at 8 Cambridge Gate from 1887 to 1899.

The Man Of Property. William Heinemann, 1906 .
'He decided to commence with the Botanical Gardens, where he had already made so may studies, and chose the little artificial pond, sprinkled now with an autumn shower of red and yellow leaves, for though the gardeners longed to sweep them off, they could not reach them with their brooms. The rest of the gardens they swept bare enough, removing every morning Nature's rain of leaves... The gravel paths must lie unstained, ordered, methodical, without knowledge of the realities of life' (Part 3, Chapter 3, p.299-300).

It is Autumn, 1887, and as Young Jolyon starts to set up his easel he realizes that the woman sitting on a nearby bench is Irene Forsyte, waiting for her lover. Her striking beauty has not gone unremarked by other visitors.

'Two young gentlemen of that peculiar breed, at once forward and shy, found in the Regent's Park, came by on their way to lawn tennis, and he noted with disapproval their furtive stares of admiration. A loitering gardener halted to do something unnecessary to a clump of pampas grass; he, too, wanted an excuse for peeping. A gentleman, old, and, by his hat, a professor of horticulture, passed three times to scrutinize her long and stealthily, a queer expression about his lips' (p.301).

Another rendezvous in the park, Young Jolyon and his children meeting grandfather at the Zoo, is depicted in Part 2, Chapter 6.

The Freelands. 1915. Thomas Nelson & Sons (undated).  

'A policeman put them right for Portland Place. Half past one! And it would be dawn soon after three! They walked soberly again now into the outer circle of Regent's Park; talked soberly, too, discussing sublunary matters, and every now and then, their arms, round each other, gave little convulsive squeezes. The rain had stopped and the moon shone clear; by its light the trees and flowers were clothed in colours whose blood had spilled away; the town's murmur was dying, the house lights dead already.'


After an evening at the opera Derek and Nedda have set out to walk to Hampstead, timing themselves to catch the sun rising over the Heath.


'They came out of the park into a road where the latest taxis were rattling past; a face, a bare neck, silk hat, or shirt-front gleamed in the window-squares, and now and then a laugh came floating through. They stopped to watch them from under the low-hanging branches of an acacia-tree, and Derek, gazing at her face, still wet with rain, so young and round and soft, thought: "And she loves me!"' (p.209).


Saint's Progress. 1919. Heinemann, 1924.
'Coming off duty at that very moment, Leila Lynch decided to have her hour's walk before she went home. She was in charge of two wards, and as a rule took the day watches; but some slight upset had given her this extra spell... In this desert of the dawn she let her long blue overcoat flap loose...Though she could not see herself, she appreciated her appearance, swaying along like that, past lonely trees and houses. A pity there was no one to see her in that round of Regent's Park... walking in meditation, enjoying the colour coming back into the world, as if especially for her' (Part 1, p.82).

Leila is working at a VAD hospital in St. John's Wood, nursing the wounded of World War One. Twice married but now on her own, she has been looking over some old love letters which have 'sharpened to poignancy the feeling that life was slipping away from her while she was still comely.'

'Her wheel of Regent's Park was coming full circle, and the sun was up behind the houses, but still no sound of traffic stirred. She stopped before a flower-bed where was some heliotrope, and took a long, luxurious sniff: she could not resist plucking a sprig, too, and holding it to her nose. A sudden want of love had run through every nerve and fibre of her; she shivered, standing there with her eyes half closed, above the pale violet blossom' (Part 1, p.87).


The Flight of the Maidens. Chatto & Windus, 2000.
'"I've known for a long time I can't go through with this, Lieselotte. College is asking too much of me. Please." They paid, retrieved the suitcase and went out into Baker Street, where, across from the Regent's Park, they could see the College lights shining through the trees. "Could you just make this one, last try?" asked Una; and Hetty, as they stood amid traffic on an island in the middle of the road, thought, She does look tired.'

It's 1946 and the three friends are about to go up to university. But Hetty has been devastated by the recent death of her mother, and is now reluctant to embark on a new adventure far from home.

'And so they walked on, and reached the park in the blue and golden autumn evening with transparent smoke going up from the piles of bonfire leaves in the grass, other leaves drifting down, scratching the paths. Along a side road, the traffic noise faded and black-painted iron gates stood before them wide open, joined overhead by a black and gold scroll, that made Una think of the coal cart. But on this scroll were Latin words...Down an avenue of flowering plane trees they went...The trees were very high above them with clusters of black round fruits dancing against the night. Side by side the three marched on, up two shallow steps between the urns; and here were the College doors' (p.276).


The Family from One End Street. 1957. Puffin Classics, 2004.
'At last they reached an entrance to the Park...There seemed to be hundreds and hundreds of carts and horses of all kinds drawn up in a line that stretched far out of sight. Coal Carts, Railway Vans, Brewers' Wagons, and last, but certainly not least, Dust Carts: and dust carts of every description, and all – horses and carts – looking more like something out of the most expensive toy-shop than anything in real life!' (p.262-263).

The Ruggles family has come to see the London Cart Horse Parade, held every Easter in Regent's Park (it has since been moved to West Sussex). Waiting for it to start, the children go off to the 'Play Park' near the Lake. Their long absence causes some concern and mother sets off to investigate.

'As Mrs. Ruggles neared the crowd, Kate ran to meet her. "Oo, Mum, come quick!" she cried, pulling her mother by the hand and stuttering in her excitement. "P-Pamela's in the Lake and a p-policeman says our Peg's been s-stealing!"...Sure enough, there was Peg, howling in the arms of a policeman, and Pamela, not in the Lake, but dripping on land and howling too, while Lily Rose and a Park-keeper did their best to wring the water out of her pink silk flounces!... "This your little girl?" inquired the policeman, indicating Peg. "You'd better teach her can't pick flowers in Public Parks," he added sternly, and deposited the howling Peg in her mother's arms; to her horror Mrs. Ruggles beheld a large bunch of choice pink roses in one of Peg's fat hands' (p.277-280).


Some Book-hunting Adventures from Blackwood's Magazine. Vol. CCXXIX, January-June 1931.
'Chapter VIII
As I say, Lucile Vavasour early one morning is swimming in the waters of the Regent's Canal, when a villain who has watched her sweetly innocent movements...slides down the bank, and...privily steals and conveys away in a bundle all her apparel...At length she gracefully emerges, dripping (of course), looks wildly round for her garments, and seeing a barge with two drunken bargees approaching...rushes up the bank and takes refuge in a thicket in Regent's Park. Presently a handsome golden-moustached young lancer, from the almost adjacent Albany Street Barracks, passes the thicket. Lucile, chastely ensconced behind a bush, voices an appeal to him to lend her his regimentals' (p.140-141).

The lancer is at first 'uncertain whether to accede to her desires,' but on catching a glimpse of flesh 'the whiteness of Parian marble...his heart melts.'

'Calling to the maiden not to look, he straightway strips himself of his outer garments, helmet and boots, and...returns to Albany Street...His Colonel...naturally demands an explanation of him...and dismisses Raoul to his quarters. But no sooner has he saluted and turned his back than the Colonel (he is a bad roué) makes a bee-line for the park. There, on reaching the thicket, he finds in the snow not only the prints of Lucile's lovely bare extremities (she wears "twos"), but unmistakable traces of the departure in the direction of Portland Place of her regimental boots. He follows those traces out of the park, across the Marylebone Road, and so up Portland Place, even to the very portico of the Langham Hotel' (p.141).

'Chapter IX.
At six o'clock one October morning I found myself sitting up in my little bed under the night nursery window awakened by a light of extraordinary brilliance...The historic explosion...had just wrecked our neighbourhood, that of the North Gate, Regent's Park. Then divers reports filtered in from outside. The bridge at the North Gate and the porter's lodge had been blown up...Before the morning was over we children were taken out by Chapple [their nurse]. The first thing we noticed was a quantity of nuts – brazils and almonds – lying about' (p.272-273).

The explosion had occurred at 5am on 2nd October 1874, when a barge carrying gunpowder had blown up as it passed beneath North Bridge (now rebuilt as Macclesfield Bridge), killing the crew of three. (This is a fictional account; for an eye-witness report of the aftermath see the Campanella entry.)

'Deeply versed as we were in the manifold experiences of the Swiss Family Robinson, we were not surprised (though Chapple was), and we hastened to pick the nuts up without, I think, connecting them with the explosion. Proceeding to the North Gate, we found there a large crowd of people, and saw that the bridge had vanished, while the canal banks adjoining had gaps...Fortunately for us all, the height of the banks prevented the demolition of all but the nearest houses. As for the nuts, they had been placed over the several tons of blasting gunpowder for the purpose of hoodwinking the 'Customs' (as I believe)' (p.273).


The Beggar's Opera. 1728. Reprinted in The Beggar's Opera and Other Eighteenth Century Plays. Intr. David. W. Lindsay. Everyman/J.M. Dent, 2000.
'Macheath: There will be deep play tonight at Marybone, and consequently money may be picked up upon the road. Meet me there, and I'll give you the hint who is worth setting...There is a certain man of distinction who in his time has nicked me out of a great deal of the ready. He is my cash, Ben; I'll point him out to you this evening, and you shall draw upon him for the debt...So gentlemen, your servant. You'll meet me at Marybone.'
(Act 3, Scene 4, p.191)

Macheath is briefing his gang of highway robbers for a sortie to Marylebone Gardens, a resort popular with gamblers. (And with criminals – at one time the proprietor had to hire a guard of soldiers to protect his customers on their way to and from London.) But Peachum, whose daughter Macheath has secretly married, thinks 'the captain keeps too good company ever to grow rich. Marybone, and the chocolate-houses, are his undoing.' (Act 1, Scene 4, p.153). The 'author', a beggar, comes on stage at the end to point the moral: 'It is difficult to determine whether (in the fashionable vices) the fine gentlemen imitate the gentlemen of the road, or the gentlemen of the road the fine gentlemen' (Act 3, Scene 16, p.205).

The success of The Beggar's Opera meant that Gay could indulge in the fashionable vices himself, including dog-fighting. In his Fables (1728-1738) he wrote, 'Both Hockley-hole and Mary-bone / The combats of my Dogs have known' (Fable XXXIV – The Mastiffs).


Numen Adest: A Novella. Lapwing, 2005.
'Adjacent to the miniature pond, and in the shade of the willow, sat a very old and rather dilapidated park bench...The previous night an old homeless man well known in the area, had passed the night on that very bench...He had no blanket and used a retracted arm to cushion his head. But spring had arrived, signalling the end of the bitter cold of winter and when the night watchman had moved him on he gave only token resistance. Dawn was breaking on the horizon and as the old man shuffled out onto Baker Street, though weighed down by his baggage, the sweet smell of the morning dew filled his nostrils' (p.15).

Later on a young man arrives to sit on the same bench beside the pond, and starts to feed bread to the ducks.

'He stared apologetically at a small brown duck that floated on the water's surface, so serene, so unthinking, just hungry. He felt hungry too, but for what he did not know yet. Like the ducks he had lived his life on the surface, had taken care to thread only the shallower waters without any need for a life beneath the surface...He was probably beginning to understand for the first time that the desire for constancy, for the familiar, a desire that had brought him to Regent's Park to feed the ducks at an hour when he should have been working, could never again be enough' (p.16).


Guru from Selected Poems 1947-1995. Penguin Books, 1997.

'It is the moon who disappears
It is the stars that hide not I
It's the City that vanishes, I stay
with my forgotten shoes,
my invisible stocking
It is the call of a bell

Primrose Hill, May 1965'

In the summer of 1965 the author had made a trip to England with several other Beat writers, and had given a reading at the Albert Hall. In a note to the poem he says that it was 'occasioned by a nap at dusk on the site of Druid mysteries, the grassy crest of London's Primrose Hill, overlooking London's towery skyline' (p.421). See also the Sinclair entry.


Thyrza: A Tale. 1887. Harvester Press, 1974.

'And so they went to the ice in Regent's Park, and Mr. Emerson put on his skates, and was speedily exhibiting his skill amid the gliding crowd. Clara and her companion walked along the edge. Thyrza, regarding this assembly of people who had come forth to enjoy themselves, marvelled inwardly. It was so hard to understand how any one could enter with such seriousness into mere amusement. How many happy people the world contained! Of all this black-coated swarm, not one with a trouble that could not be flung away at the summons of a hard frost!' (p.468).


A perfect winter's day – 'fog had vanished; the ways were clean and hard; between the housetops and the zenith gleamed one clear blue track of frosty sky' –has persuaded Thyrza, still grieving over a blighted love affair, to join the Emersons on their outing to the park.


'Just before them, on the ice, a little troop of ducks was going by, fowl dispossessed of their wonted swimming-ground by the all-hardening frost. Of every two steps the waddlers took, one was a hopeless slip, and the spectacle presented by the unhappy birds in their effort to get along at a good round pace was ludicrous beyond resistance. They sprawled and fell, they staggered up again with indignant wagging of head and tail, they rushed forward only to slip more desperately; now one leg failed them, now the other, now both at once. And all the time they kept up a cackle of annoyance... Thyrza had thought that nothing in the world could move her to unfeigned laughter. Yet as often as she thought of the ducks it was with revival of mirth' (p.468-469).

New Grub Street. 1891. Penguin, 1968.
The principal characters live close to the park, and walk round it in moods of gloom or despair (p.86 and 530). The odious Jasper, disappointed in his fiancée's financial prospects, arranges to meet her at Gloucester Gate; in the 'tree-shadowed strip of the park which skirts the canal' he manipulates her into breaking off the engagement (p.506-510, 535-540).

The Odd Women. 1893. Oxford World's Classics, 2000.
Monica Madden meets her suitor Mr. Widdowson at 'the south-east entrance' to the park for a pony and trap ride to his villa at Herne Hill (p.83). Another rendezvous there later but no descriptions.

The Collected Letters of George Gissing. Ed. Paul F Mattheisen, Arthur C. Young, Pierre Coustillas. Ohio University Press, c1991. 4 vols.
'29 Dorchester Place, Blandford Square NW.
March 8, 1882
My Dear Madge,
...Last Monday Alg. and I, following in the track of the somewhat ridiculous excitement prevailing here now, went to the Zoological Gardens to see the famous elephant Jumbo - of whom you have doubtless heard. There were 16,000 people in the Gardens that day, and as, on the average, every person gave Jumbo three biscuits or buns, judge of the animal's size and appetite. They have sold him to an American showman for £2000, and now find it absolutely impossible to fulfil their bargain; Jumbo refuses to stir. A monstrous box has been made for him, but he can't be persuaded to enter...' (vol.2, p.74).

The author had just moved into lodgings near Regent's Park and was writing to his sister about an outing with their brother Algernon. In July he was writing to 'Dear Alg...Splendid weather since you left...Went to hear the band in the Park last night. A change happened to be made in the order of the music, and No.4 was put up when No.11 should have been. Curious old fellow by me shouted out: "Now, I objec' to that; I object on principle. It leads the public astr'y. Now men'll go about tellin' their friends as they've eerd Number 11, when they haven't eerd no such thing!"' (vol.2, p.95).

In May 1884 he moved to 62 Milton Street (now Balcombe Street), also close to the park, and was still enjoying the concerts: 'Every Sunday evening we have a really good band there, which plays excellent music. Last Sunday we had a capital selection from Iolante. The concert lasts from 5 to 8. By paying a penny you get a chair inside an enclosure, and another penny purchases a programme...' (vol.2, p.220).

By Christmas he had moved again, to a block of flats in Allsop Place, near Clarence Gate. Despite frequent complaints about the fumes from the Metropolitan Railway's Baker Street Station, which stood opposite, he was to remain there for five years. Subsequent letters contain only brief references, e.g. 'A fair amount of sunshine. I have dinner at 12, and then walk exactly round the park, returning by Marylebone Road. I have tea at 3.30, and am at work by 4' (April 3, 1887, vol.3, p.99-100).


Flight. Scribner, 2002.
'Julie was waiting at the ornate gates of the rose gardens when he arrived...They began to walk around between the beds of roses, not speaking...He thought the roses were hideous. Coarse oranges and reds, brash and fleshy...He watched a three-generation Asian family preparing a picnic in a glade just beyond the roses - women in saris spreading out rugs and unpacking food, men in dark trousers and white shirts fooling around with little children. They had hung the children's jackets on the overhanging branches of trees. He would have liked to ask Julie why she thought that people from the sub-continent used London's open spaces so much better, and so much more decorously, than anyone else did. He'd often noticed it. But it wasn't the moment to discuss comparative cultures' (p.231-232).

Martagon has arranged the meeting to explain why it's all over between them, but his 'can't we just be friends' line gets short shrift:

'"Don't say it. I don't want to hear it." She turned aside and ran from him, lightly and fast, not through the wrought-iron gates but in the opposite direction, back through the rose gardens and towards the wide open area of the park. He watched her disappear, her backpack bobbing behind her. "I'm sorry," he said, knowing she could not hear. "I'm so sorry."' (p.235)

top of page


The Great Regent's Park Swim. Spike Milligan and Larry Stephens. The Goon Show, Series 8, Episode 4. First broadcast 21st October 1957.

'Seagoon: Well, what's that long parcel you've got in your long brown bathing suit?
Bloodnok: Ah, it's something that I have invented...
Seagoon: What?
Bloodnok: Regent's Park Canal.
Seagoon: What a stroke of luck! With that canal, and this bottle of green liquid, I can swim across it without using a bridge. Any revenues from it, I'll split in two and keep both.
Bloodnok: Well, one doesn't get an offer like that every day! Very well, at dawn tonight, you start training for the Great Regent's Park Swim.'

1830 seems to have been a bonanza year for inventions: Neddie Seagoon, following an experiment with a green liquid, has invented swimming, and Grytpype-Thynne has invented the word "Help". Realizing that Neddie's invention will render his own invention worthless, he is determined to stop the Great Regent's Park Swim taking place.

'Bloodnok: Right, Neddie, now drink your green liquid and swim.
Grytpype-Thynne: Hands up, all of you! Bloodnok, drop that Regent's Park Canal.
FX: (iron bar drops)
Grytpype-Thynne: ...and I warn you, nobody shout "Help". That is a word I've just invented and will cost anybody five hundred pounds to use. Now, give me that green liquid. Right, Neddie, into the canal.
Seagoon: But I can't swim without that green liquid. Aarrggh.
FX: (splash)
Seagoon: You swine, you pushed me in! Help!
Grytpype-Thynne: Out you come, Ned. To using the word "Help", five hundred pounds.'

My thanks to John Mathews who transcribed this episode. The full text can be seen at

Lived at 17 Hanover Terrace from 1901 to 1928.

Father and Son. 1907. William Heinemann, 1948.
'My Father, after a little reflection, proposed to take me to Primrose Hill. I had never heard of the place, and names have always appealed directly to my imagination. I was in the highest degree delighted, and could hardly restrain my impatience...I expected to see a mountain absolutely carpeted with primroses...'

The author, a biographer and critic best known now for this autobiography, was born in 1849 and aged about six at the time of the incident he is recounting. After 'a sort of fit of hysterics' brought on by his attempts to discover the secrets of 'natural magic', he had convinced his father that he needed to 'go into the country' to recuperate.

'But at length, as we walked from the Chalk Farm direction, a miserable acclivity stole into view – surrounded, even in those days, on most sides by houses, with its grass worn to the buff by millions of boots, and resembling what I meant by "the country" about as much as Poplar resembles Paradise. We sat down on a bench at its inglorious summit, whereupon I burst into tears, and in a heart-rending whisper sobbed, "Oh! Papa, let us go home!"' (p.39-40).

The Life and Letters of Sir Edmund Gosse. Evan Charteris. William Heinemann, 1931.
'The horse-chestnuts, vast candelabra crowded with creamy candles – and the grace of the leaves, and the flash of the waters, and the soft blue sky, and the pink blouses of the far-away young ladies disporting on the lake! Talk not to me of your rural scenes. Regent's Park beats the lot of them' (22nd May 1918, p.427).

Gosse is describing the view from his favourite writing place, a 'capacious balcony' overlooking the lake. Earlier, while living in Delamere Terrace W2, he had written:

'I stepped across the Park this morning in an ecstasy. There was a silver bloom upon the grass, the sun was walking through real blue sky…' (13th November 1879, p.124). This must have inspired him to move there: on 8th April 1901 he wrote, 'I have bought a house! It is a large solid house in an old Georgian Terrace jutting into and overlooking Regent's Park. It is a good deal out of repair… The situation and outlook are delightful; there is no view in London more beautiful than from our upper windows. There is a vast balcony where we hope to live entirely in summer, where I shall work by day, and sit on fine nights with the electric light delicately shaded, and enjoy long talks…' (p.272).

Describing one of his 'usual Sunday walks' in a letter to his wife: 'Tessa [his daughter] took me into the garden of South Lodge, which we explored in every corner…it is charming, and at the back there is a deserted walk, most romantic, like a beautiful lane somewhere deep in the country. When we came back, the nursery-maids and Sunday walkers had all disappeared, so we sat quite alone on that bench in the further enclosure where you and I sit, close to the water, and opposite the sparrows' new [illegible]. There we had the delight of seeing a kingfisher! He was fishing further up the water, where the foliage is so thick, and we saw him dive down on the water from the over-hanging boughs at least thirty times. He was in brilliant plumage, and seemed perfectly at home. Where can he have come from?' (20th September 1909, p.317-318).

(See the Noyes entry for a warning against having Gosse as a neighbour.)


Keeping Bad Company. Headline, 1997.
''I went down to the canal. It was a visit I had to make. Albie's body had long been removed, of course. All that remained to mark his demise at that spot was a fluttering blue and white tape that had cordoned off the area. And even that was broken down. The strip of mud and straggly grass beside the concrete towpath was strewn with cigarette stubs and sweet wrappers and trampled by police-issue boots. But the visitors, both official and simply ghoulish, had all gone for the moment and I was alone.'

Fran has come to place flowers at the spot where Albie, an alcoholic tramp she had befriended, had drowned; an earlier incident makes her doubt that it was an accident.

'As I came to the end of my short act of memorial, it seemed to me I wasn't alone after all. I looked up quickly, thinking someone might be watching me from the railings atop the steep bank, or had come along the towpath unheard, or was even in one of the quiet houseboats. But there was no-one. The canal itself was covered with a scum of debris, everything from waste paper to discarded condoms. Water slapped against the houseboats as they groaned and creaked. Yet I still felt that tingling between the shoulder blades that you get when someone is watching' (p.117).

On a second visit to the scene her own life is threatened when a motorcyclist tries to run her down. 'Behind me a deafening crash had shattered my ears, a final screaming roar from the engine, which was abruptly cut off and followed almost at once by a mini tidal wave as the surface of the canal lurched and splashed up over the towpath and my fleeing feet' (p.208).


The Clothes on Their Backs.
Virago, 2008.
'I ran out of the kitchen and out of the flat, turned up the High Street, crossed Marylebone Road and went into Regent's Park. The park was ringed by white palaces, lions roared in the distant zoo. Crossing the road, I came almost at once to a boating lake, with birds – geese, like the ones Alexander had studied and written his poems about...The birds were making a big noise in the early summer morning, and they demanded my attention. I sat down on a bench to look at them...Their small eyes watched me, their webbed feet padded across the grass, they clustered round crusts of bread' (p.69).

Alexander dies in a bizarre accident on their honeymoon, choking to death on a piece of meat in a restaurant. When Vivien discovers she is pregnant she decides on an abortion, but later comes to regret it.

'If I'd kept that baby, she would have most of the things she needed to become a real person by now...This time next year I would have been wheeling her in a pram through Regent's Park, past the rose garden. I would have showed her the lake with the water birds and explained the inner life of a goose, as her daddy understood it' (p.251).

GREEN, CHRISTOPHER (with Carol Clerk)

Hughie and Paula. Robson Books, 2003.
'There were few tender moments between father and son back then, although one spring day when I was about ten, he truly amazed me. I had taken a tiny duckling, which had followed me through Regent's Park, back to the lake, only to see a female duck kill it. Hughie listened sympathetically to my heartbroken story and talked to me gently, kindly, and reassured me that there was nothing we could do when Mother Nature decided to take her course. He acted towards me as I always hoped he would one day - with loving attention' (p.100).

Father was the hugely popular TV star Hughie Green (his talent show Opportunity Knocks ran for 22 years), but his son depicts a miserable childhood dominated by an 'explosive and unpredictable' man whose rages were often frightening. In later life his daughter publicly denounced him as a monster, but she wasn't much comfort either.

'Linda and her best pal took me to the children's animal enclosure of London Zoo, bought me petting food to give the goats and chickens, and then disappeared when a thunderstorm broke overhead, leaving me panicked, surrounded by a pack of jostling, smelly llamas, drenched through, and facing the journey home on my own' (p.101).

The family lived close to the park and there were 'many happy, childhood visits', but the occasions recorded here are all unhappy ones. 'Papa had bought a magnificent, clock-work submarine and taken me into Regent's Park to try it out. After one abortive voyage, Hughie accidentally kicked the motor key into the water, to the amusement of some onlookers. He strode off towards Chiltern Court seething with rage, and on entering 169, told Claire, "Your fucking cretin of a son lost the key of my submarine and humiliated me."' (p.152). On another fateful day, 'damp and overcast...I sat with Mama beside the Regent's Park tennis courts while she filled out the [divorce] papers...In my favourite park that day, I was a naive thirteen-year-old, wounded and confused. Parents are not supposed to behave like this' (p.138).


Lupins from Minsk, Faber & Faber, 2003.

'"That girl's uncomfortable just being inside
her own skin." Wolves comforted me.
I grew up within earshot.

Their howls would climb the hill
like tall spikes of blue flowers,
as if the zoo's iron railings

had unfurled beneath their spell.
Traffic gets up across the canal.
Some slip through lights

like golden baby tamarisk monkeys.
Others wait, baffled clownfish
behind glass.'

The author lived near Primrose Hill as a child and remembers hearing the wolves when she walked there with her father. The Zoo is the subject of A Strange Barn, a sequence of seven poems that relate individual buildings to what was going on at the time of their construction (p.21-27).

An Irresponsible Age. Fourth Estate, 2006.
'Like others walking towards the hill that night, Juliet imagined that she and Theo would be alone up there. She envisaged the pale green slope up to the black bushes and the steeper green beyond where they would stand at the top and declare themselves to the city. Theo might build a fire. As she crossed the footbridge she saw a group of people ahead, and beyond them more people. From every side of the hill, they were converging...There were several fires already and those who had found the spot they wanted, settled firmly into place...At five to twelve, she was at the front of the hill and stopped to look where everyone else was looking, across the city. She would not give up. Theo was back down here on earth and coming towards her (p.326-327).

New Year's Eve, 1990: Theo, back in England after an absence abroad, has phoned from the airport, and they have arranged to celebrate their reunion on Primrose Hill. (It isn't named, but in an interview with the author it was mentioned as one of the locations in the novel.) Midnight strikes, but Theo has not appeared.

'Juliet lingered, wanting to know what it might have been like had they been alone, had Theo been there. There are not many people left on the hill now. She turns and climbs further, looks down and sees him running...They stand at the top, alone as she had imagined - above the city, below the sky. It is one o'clock. "An hour west of here it is midnight and you made it on time," she says' (p.327-328).


From Studio to Stage: Reminiscences of Weedon Grossmith. John Lane, 1913.
'I had arranged with a boy from a school in Mornington Crescent to go to Primrose Hill, and when on our way there I picked up sixpence on the pavement, our delight was unbounded...We marched into the next sweetstuff shop, and I bought the whole round [of French Almond Rock] for sixpence. We went over Primrose Hill and round the side, where there was a pond, and bushes and fields...

I suddenly felt curious pains that compelled me to sit down for a while. The pains increased. The bitter almonds (and there were many) in the French Rock were doing their work; my friend commenced to cry, he too was suffering, but I couldn't be bothered with him. My thoughts were entirely concentrated on myself. I rolled on the grass in agony, I drew my knees up to my chin, and shot them out again...At last...I ran home, crying all the way, and confessed all to my dear mother...As for the other boy, I never saw him again; perhaps he died behind the bushes' (p.6-7).

The author is best known now for his collaboration with his brother George on The Diary of a Nobody, for which he did the illustrations. As the title of his autobiography indicates, he had also pursued a career as an actor. Hard up after returning from a tour of America, he agreed to appear in a revival of Woodcock's Little Game but came to regret it: 'I laboured under the great disadvantage of making my first appearance in London in a silly old-fashioned play.' It features an off-stage duel on Primrose Hill, which proves no more fatal than the French Almond Rock.


An Embassy to the Court of St. James's in 1840. Richard Bentley, 1862.
'Regent's Park particularly pleased me. It is separated from the crowded districts; the space is immense, the verdure fresh, the waters clear, the clumps of trees still young. I found there two qualities combined which rarely associate, extent and grace. I seldom encountered or recognized any one. In complete solitude and in presence of nature, we forget isolation. On Sundays, Regent's Park was more animated; there were many promenaders, generally all silent; open air preachers, surrounded by thirty or forty listeners, expounding a text of the Bible, or a precept from the Gospel' (p.168).

The author was ambassador for less than a year, returning to France to become Foreign Minister and later Prime Minister. He is probably best known for the saying, 'Not to be a republican at 20 is proof of want of heart; to be one at 30 is proof of want of head.'

'I paused one day before two of these groups. In one, the preacher held a book in his hand, Travels in Africa, from which he read an account of a missionary who had cured himself from a long illness by living soberly and drinking water: "You see plainly from that," concluded he, "that drinking water cannot be injurious to health." The other orator, a rigid Calvinist, maintained, against an opponent who argued with him, that man is not a free agent, and has no free will; "Look at this tree," said he, "you would like to think that it is a house; you cannot think so; you have therefore no free judgement." The common sense of his auditors was confounded, but they still continued to listen attentively. These do not include, by a great number, all the people of London, and all their recreations; but amongst them there are many families who have no other' (English Society in 1840, p.168-169).


Primrose Hill, a Poem: to which are added, The Queen's Jubilee, and other metrical effusions. Printed for the author, London, 1838.

The book was published anonymously: the copy held by the British Library has 'Jane Gwilliam' added by hand on the title page. The name is not listed anywhere else and may well be a pseudonym of John Gwilliam, who appears as an 'added name' in the catalogue. He published several volumes of verse: one is dedicated to Punch magazine, without which 'the double-faced rogues of society would carry on their schemes of imposture unmolested.' The rogues in this poem would have been clearly identifiable, which may be why he chose anonymity. After a conventional apostrophe to the beauties of Primrose Hill there is a sharp change of tone:

'Beauties which, I'm griev'd to say
Seem to lessen day by day,
As thy foes, with head-long speed,
In their guilty plans succeed;
Foes that nature rightly fears,
Builders, lawyers, engineers...
And, though last not least in crime,
Members wanting cash, or time,
By the devil shrewdly sent
Into Melbourne's parliament,
Just to aid their damn'd intent' (p.3).

Conservationists will warm to this, but may feel the later verses a bit excessive:

'Primrose Hill! There was a time
When thy scen'ry look'd sublime,
Ere they marr'd thy verdant ridges
With their ugly locks and bridges,
Or the dull canal became
Honor'd with the Regent's name...' (p.12).

The Regent's newly opened park is not spared either:

'Where the rosy children play'd,
And their lively nurses stray'd,
Chattering nonsense with their beaux,
We have nought but ugly Rows,
Lines of terraces that make
Contemplation's vision ache,
As the light of Phoebus falls
On their beastly stuccoed walls...' (p.9)

The new landscape, 'plann'd for empty fashion's sake', has swept away the old taverns and farm houses and now excludes the common folk:

'Have we not, for many a year,
Seen the Jew's Harp gardens throng'd
With the people Might had wrong'd
Of each green suburban shade...

Primrose Hill! When I survey
The Regent's Park, I sigh and say,
Can this conceit presume to claim
The shadow of improvement's name?' (p.10-11)

top of page


Selected Poems, 1965-1990. W.W. Norton, 1994.

'The Regent's Park Sonnets

"That was in another country," but the wench
is not yet dead, parks the red-striped pushchair
near the Rose Garden and turns loose her fair
Black Jewish Woman Baby; picks a bench
scoured by warm winds...
squints, focusing on the child, not yours,
who plays explorer.

...Above the play-
ground, like a capsuled world, a plane
heads, fortunately, north. Fresh after rain
the sky is innocently blue. Away
from frisking kids, including mine, I write
stretched on a handkerchief of pungent dry
grass, wishing I could take off my shirt...'

From Sonnet 1 in a sequence of eight, previously published in Taking Notice, 1980. There are brief mentions of the park in some of the later sonnets.


The Dirty Squad. Little, Brown. 2000.
'My second outing with them was on the afternoon following the IRA bomb explosion in Regent's Park, in July 1982. The bomb went off under the bandstand while the Band of the Royal Green Jackets were playing. Several people were killed and many were injured. We were called in to help the Anti-Terrorist Squad to search the park and recover evidence. When I arrived with fifty cadets I briefed them as well as I could about what they were going to deal with, and I tried to prepare them for the terrible things they would see. I kept the briefing as dispassionate as I could' (p.90).

The author was later to become head of Scotland Yard's Obscene Publications Branch, known as the Dirty Squad, but at this time was in charge of the Police Cadet School at Hendon. They had previously assisted in searching for the dismembered remains of the serial killer Dennis Nilsen's victims. This was to prove even more gruesome.

'It was a scene of absolute carnage. There were limbs and chunks of bloodied flesh in all directions for a distance of 100 yards from the bandstand. There was a crazy jumble of chairs, hats, tree branches and people's clothing. The cadets formed a line across the park, then they knelt, and began a fingertip search...They crawled through pools of congealed blood, holding their hands up when they found anything and passing it back to the officers with their plastic bags...The cadets also performed a sweep of the bushes at the side of the park and found more evidence, including a leg from one of the dead. None of them showed any sign of distress. They acted impeccably' (p.90-91).


Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky: A London Trilogy. 1934. Hogarth/Chatto & Windus, 1987.
Bob, barman at a nearby pub, goes for 'eighty-pound strolls' in the park on his days off, absorbed in his dreams and his savings (The Midnight Bell, p.44-47). Ella, barmaid at the same pub, goes reluctantly for a walk with her monster-bore of a suitor, 'up the main avenue towards the Zoo amidst the winter-gripped flowerbeds and the rippling murmur of a post-prandial Sunday crowd disporting its undistinguished self in the sun' (The Plains of Cement, p.439-445). There is a similarly dyspeptic view of the park during an evening walk (The Plains of Cement, p.413-424).

HARFORD, HENRY (pseudonym of W.H. Hudson)

Fan: the Story of a Young Girl's Life. Chapman & Hall, 1892. 3 vols.
'They were now close to the southern entrance to the Zoological Gardens. "Let's go in through this gate," he said...He had tickets of admission in his pocket, and passing the stile Fan found herself in that incongruous wild animal world set in the midst of a world of humanity. A profusion of flowers met her gaze on every side, but she looked beyond the variegated beds, blossoming shrubs, and grass-plats sprinkled with patches of gay colour, to the huge unfamiliar animal forms of which she caught occasional glimpses in the distance' (Vol.2, Chapter XVI, p.250).

Fan Affleck has agreed to meet Mr. Eden in Regent's Park to discuss the strange behaviour of some mutual friends.

'"Do you know that it is beginning to rain?" he said, holding his umbrella over her head. "We must go in there and wait until it pauses." It was one o'clock, and the refreshment rooms had just opened. Fan was conducted into the glittering dining-saloon, and was persuaded to join her companion in a rather sumptuous luncheon, and to drink a glass of champagne' (Vol.2, Chapter XVI, p.254-255).

Readers will be relieved to know that Mr. Eden's intentions, on this occasion at any rate, are fairly honourable; but Fan is in for a nasty surprise on a subsequent outing to Kew Gardens.


Settling the World (1975). Reprinted in Things That Never Happen. Gollancz, 2004.
'Regent's Park was full of cool, laconic breezes, but beneath them there moved a heaviness, a languor, a promise of the Summer to be. In my absence, cherry blossom had sprung in every corner, the waterfowl had put on a fresh, dapper plumage and were waddling importantly about in the white sunlight that scoured the newly painted boards of the boat house' (p.20).

God has been discovered on the far side of the Moon and brought back to Earth 'to start His reign anew...a period of far-reaching change.' The narrator has just been discharged from hospital after an intelligence-gathering mission in one of the Realm of God's forbidden zones. Venturing into the Insect House at the Zoo, he has a disturbing encounter.

'It was resting on a twig, almost invisible and quite immobile, and perhaps this very quality of stillness - this perfectly alien perception of the passage of time - was sufficient; as I stared into the hot yellow recesses of the vivarium, I remembered the Mystery that lies at the end of God's Motorway, and I thought: what possible emotion could this thing have in common with us?' (p.21). A final scene in his chief's office, a place 'that it frightens me now to visit', provides the answer.


Instructions to Young Sportsmen in All that Relates to Guns and Shooting
. 1814. Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans & Roberts, 11th edition, 1859.
'I sent a dozen French ducks to the Regent's Park; and, three winters ago, I observed that they had there decoyed at least thirty wildfowl: wigeon – tufted ducks – and dunbirds. This was of course a great novelty in the very smoke of London. But on my return to town, after the following winter, I do not remember to have seen any. Perhaps the skating may have driven the wild birds off or perhaps the following winter was too severe for them to remain in fresh water' (p.445).

In his Preface the author tells us that 'the original edition, which led to the publication of the following pages, was hastily written, and printed in the year 1814, at the particular request of some sporting friends of the Author.' He had retired from the army the previous year after being severely wounded in one of the Peninsular War campaigns. A keen musician as well as a sportsman, he later studied harmony and composition at a London academy and wrote several pieces himself.

'The only note I ever heard from the wild swan in winter is his well-known hoop. But, one summer's evening I was amused with watching and listening to a domesticated one, as he swam up and down the water in the Regent's Park. He turned [sic] up a sort of melody, made with two notes, C and the minor third (E flat), and kept working his head as if delighted with his own performance' (p.269).


A Land. 1951. David and Charles, 1978.
'When I have been working late on a summer night, I like to go out and lie on a patch of grass in our back garden... Not far below the topsoil is the London Clay which, as Primrose Hill, humps up conspicuously at the end of the road' (p.7).

The author – an archaeologist and historian – was living at 39 Fitzroy Road when she wrote this story of Britain from the geological shaping of the land to the development of its civilization. Summing up at the end of the book she writes:

'I began to ponder these recollections lying in darkness on the empty tray of my garden. Now I have left a hollow for an eminence. On Primrose Hill I command the heart of London, a grey-blue morass of trees and houses, and, thrusting through it, many of the buildings whose creation I have recalled...' (p.221).


Notes on a Scandal. 2003. Penguin Books, 2004.
'Afterwards the group split into two – one lot in my car, the other in Richard's – and we drove to Primrose Hill. As I say, I have never been a big fan of firework displays. All that brightness falling, the sad, smoke smell, the finale that is never quite as magnificent as it should be...I suspect that only the tiniest fraction of the crowd gathered on the top of Primrose Hill was genuinely invested in the spectacle, but we all stayed there for a full frigid hour, dutifully manufacturing sharp intakes of breath and other symptoms of ingenuous wonderment' (p.157).

Barbara had been invited to a large family dinner but had 'expressed some reservations about participating in the second part of the evening.' Her hostess however had insisted, not anticipating that it would lead to the discovery of her affair with a 16-year-old boy.

'At the end of the display there was a terrible crush as the crowd surged towards the park exits. Richard got panicky and tried to get us to stay at the top of the hill until the crowd had dispersed. But it had grown extremely cold by then and everyone was eager to get home, so he was overruled. We descended the path on the north side of the hill without too much trouble, but when we got to the flat where the people on the paths were attempting to move in two directions, the congestion was a lot worse...The long snaky line moved slowly. We were about two hundred yards from the Regent's Park Road exit when off to my left, between the trees, I glimpsed Sheba. She was standing with a young male' (p.157-158).


Irish Days: Oral Histories of the Twentieth Century. Kyle Cathie Ltd., 2002.
'Our hospital was in St. John's Wood...One day we went down, another sister and myself, went down to Regent's Park to study. We were heading for our final. And this bobby came along and he said, "I'm very sorry, now, sisters," he said (he knew we were from the hospital), "but I must ask you to leave because the people in the flats are unhappy about you here." This was the time people came down dressed as nuns...they were dropped from the 'plane...D'you remember that? Germans disguised as nuns. The people in the flats were naturally very frightened. They saw us and they thought, "Here's more of it. Here's two more," you see.'

Sister Carmel Walsh, born in Kerry in 1918, was sent to London in 1944 to train as a nurse. Germans disguised as nuns was one of the many rumours that circulated in wartime Britain, but it was a shock to find oneself under suspicion. 'I had my textbook open and I was studying the heart and the other nun had the kidneys, and I said, "Gracious! We're only studying." But he said, "Sister, I know exactly what you're doing, but the people in the flats, they don't understand. So I'd be very grateful if you'd move." So we did move - out of their way, anyway; we went for a walk.'

The nuns had the last laugh though. 'That night there was an incendiary bomb fell at the hospital gate...He was on duty, and he got a broken ankle. And he was admitted to my ward!..I looked at him, and I said, "D'you remember me? "God," he said, "I do and I don't." "Well," I said, "you were the man that sent us out of the park yesterday!" Well! "Well," he said, "Sister, I hope you won't take that out on me"' (p.160-161).


Beyond Seduction. Jove Books, New York, 2002.
'Thomas led Merry and the horse through the gate to Regent's Park. From there they clumped past St. Dunstan's chapel and around the boating lake. Finally, on a quiet stretch of lawn near the wintry remains of the botanical gardens, Nic directed them to stop. Even now, with a frosting of snow on the ground, visitors strolled the park. Workmen hurried to jobs, servants walked dogs, and nannies from Cumberland Terrace guided their bundled charges towards the zoo.'

Nicolas Craven, 'London's most sought-after artist', is about to start on his portrait of Lady Godiva. '"This spot will do"...He jerked his head at the bright, ice-skinned lake. "Plenty of ambient light." By now, she was used to this being important' (p.143-144). The painting is a succès fou - '"When Alma-Tadema finishes turning green, he's going to slap your bloody back"' - though Ruskin advises him to "cultivate a bit more spiritual meaning."

The spiritual is not much in evidence in this mix of Regency Romance and erotica: 'super steamy' in the words of the author, who likes to make jokes about 'the thrust of the plot (haha).'


Return to Groosham Grange. Originally published as The Unholy Grail, Walker Books, 1999. Reprinted in Groosham Grange. Walker Books, 2004.
'He glanced behind him. Although the pavement had been empty before, there was now a single figure, staggering about as if drunk...He was beginning to feel uneasy but he still didn't know why. The path he was following crossed a main road and then continued over a humpback bridge. Suddenly he was out of the hubbub of London. The darkness and emptiness of Regent's Park was all around him, enclosing him in its ancient arms' (p.237-238).

David has stolen a statuette from the British Museum, following the clues in a competition set by the masters at Groosham Grange School. The 'drunk' who is following him turns out to be a waxwork of Adolf Hitler, leading a posse of fellow escapees from the Chamber of Horrors. David realizes that the other contestant in the competition, Vincent, must have followed him from the museum 'and conjured up the spell as he walked past Madame Tussaud's. Of course, he had cheated. Vincent had broken the single rule of the contest – not to use magic.'

'The field was dotted with trees and he made for the nearest one, grateful at least that it was a dark night. But even as he ran, the clouds parted and a huge moon broke through like a searchlight...In the white, ghostly light, the whole park had changed. It was like something out of a bad dream. Everything was black, white and grey....Another half dozen waxworks had somehow found their way to the park and were spreading out, searching...David crouched behind a tree, trying to lose himself in it. He was surrounded and knew that it was only a matter of time before he was found' (p.241).

The coup de grace is delivered by a handbag wielded by a waxwork Duchess of York, which knocks him to the ground. 'David wrenched the statuette out of his pocket and tried to stand up. The park was spinning round him, moving faster and faster' (p.246).


Primrose Hill from Dulwich Poetry Competition Anthology, 1996.
'The name's too good to be true.
For a start, Superballs were banned...

The supersonic boom was exciting
at first, but broke no windows, so
the boys went back to playing Zulu
and the girls showed their knickers
doing handstands on the other side of the wall...

Cochineal was made from crushed
beetles, as everyone knew,
but we still went around with red mouths.
They were probably right about the Superballs:
mine broke a blue and silver vase in Flat 5,
7 Prince Albert Road. GULliver 2770.'

I have not been able to find a copy of the Anthology but the full text of the poem can be seen at the author's website, Low Probability of Racoons: http://www.hphoward.demon.co.uk/poetry/petepoem.htm


Wolfwatching. Faber & Faber, 1989.
In the title poem of this volume (p.13) a young wolf, with 'Asiatic eyes, the gunsights / Aligned effortless in the beam of his power', lies 'bored easy' in the Zoo enclosure beside the Broad Walk:

'...He's waiting
For the chance to live, then he'll be off.
Meanwhile the fence, and the shadow-flutter
Of moving people, and the roller-coaster
Roar of London surrounding, are temporary...'

Birthday Letters. Faber & Faber, 1998.
In February 1963, soon after moving to a flat in Primrose Hill, the author's estranged wife, the poet Sylvia Plath, killed herself. She left two small children. The poems in this collection are addressed to her. This is from
Life After Death (p.183):

'We were comforted by wolves.
Under that February moon and the moon of March
The Zoo had come close.
And in spite of the city
Wolves consoled us. Two or three times each night
For minutes on end
They sang. They had found where we lay...'

Hughes evidently felt a strong affinity with wolves. Earlier in the poem he speaks of

'your son's eyes, which had unsettled us 
With your Slavic Asiatic/Epicanthic fold, but would become
So perfectly your eyes...'

an echo of the 'Asiatic eyes' of the young wolf in Wolfwatching.


Leigh Hunt's Political and Occasional Essays. Ed. L. and C. Houtchens. Columbia University Press, 1962.
In a series of essays for the Weekly True Sun, reprinted here, the author, writing as The Townsman, described a 'Ramble Through Marylebone', and reminisced about 'the dear old fields that once occupied the site of Regent's Park, where we made verses, and saw visions of mythological beauty, from morning till night...In those fields we speak of was Willan's Farm, where we have eaten "creams and other country messes". There it was that the path ran from the New-road [Marylebone Road] all the way to Hampstead through beautiful meadows' (8th September, 1833, p.287).

In a second essay, 'Mr. Nash is a better layer-out of grounds than architect, and the public has reason to thank him for what he has done for Regent's Park. Our gratitude on that point induces us to say as little as we can of the houses there...It is at all events a park, and has trees and grass, and is a breathing-space between town and country' (15th September, 1833, p.290).

Hunt had previously edited his own highly regarded journal, The Examiner, which had first brought Keats and Shelley to public attention. As a poet he is perhaps best remembered for Rondeau ('Jenny kissed me when we met') but he was also an outspoken political reformer. In 1812 he was prosecuted for libelling the Prince Regent, in an article attacking him as 'a man who has just closed half a century without one single claim on the gratitude of his country, or the respect of posterity', and jailed for two years. Not surprising that he had mixed feelings about Regent's Park.

Primrose Hill in The Idler, and Breakfast-Table Companion, Saturday, May 27, 1837.
'There is talk of enclosing Primrose hill, and converting it into a cemetery! Primrose hill! The first green step, north-westward, for the pavement-and-shop-tired-foot of this great metropolis; the first pleasant-sounding word one meets with, that way, better even than "Regent's Park"; a place that once had primroses, and doubtless trees, of which latter there are three or four remaining, or were lately; a hill that plays the part of footstool and introducer to the beautiful hill of Hampstead, first bit of the country outside the town; a spot, in short, beloved by all cockneys, illustrious and obscure, from the times of Geoffrey Chaucer (whose field and daisy-loving eye of course it could not escape), to those of Charles Lamb...

Pleasant indeed...to feel that in this green altitude of Primrose hill, higher than Ludgate, they can enjoy, as it were, home and country together - the sight of their great hive, full of action at least, if not of greater sweets - and at the same time the consciousness of the Sabbath flower, from which they may bear back to it a little sweeter sweet, something like the honey of health, or the notion of it; at least a passing breath of it; a glimpse of the country, if they can go no further; a hovering on the borders of a sensation of ease and retirement' (p.23).


Regent's Park from Nightbus. Adelphi Publishing, 2008.

'...Love does not have to cross my brow,
for a few moments together,
is enough, to feel more right –
when everything else is wrong.

It is a small picnic on the grass
set under a shaded tree,
on a hot summer Sunday
in Regent's Park.

It is the quick kisses of a child
before squirrels are chased,
and you lie there, letting the sun
take away the thought of wasps...'


Once Aboard the Lugger: The History of George and His Mary. 1908. Hodder & Stoughton, 1924.
'In Regent's Park he saw her produce a brilliant pair of scarlet worsted reins, gay with bells; heard her hiss like any proper groom as tandem-wise she harnessed David and Angela, those restive steeds. The equipage was about to start – she had cracked her whip, clicked her tongue – when with thumping heart, with face that matched the flaming reins, hat in hand he approached' (Book 3, Chapter 2, p.93).

George has been smitten by Mary since their first encounter, when her hansom cab had stopped abruptly and she was thrown into his arms. The next day, keeping a discreet watch outside the house in St. John's Wood where she works as a 'mother's help', he has followed her and the two children to the park.

'George said they were fine horses; felt legs; offered to buy them. His words purchased their hearts, which were more valuable. After the drive they would return to the stable, which was this seat, Mary told him; she could not stay to speak to him any longer. George declared he was the stable groom and would wait. Away they dashed at handsome speed, right round the inner circle; returned more sedately, a little out of breath. There had been, moreover, an accident: leader, it appeared, had fallen and cut his knees. "I shied at a motor," David explained, proud of the red blood now that the agony was past' (p.94).

Further meetings in the park follow, in which George proposes and is accepted (Book 3, Chapter 3, p.108-119); George thrashes a cad who has been forcing his attentions on Mary (Book 3, Chapter 5, p.129-137); and the couple decide that Mary must leave her job, since the cad was the son of her employer (Book 3, Chapter 6, p.140-145).

top of page

home / introduction / authors / musicians / tour / maps / links