Royal Parks exhibition at the Mall Galleries

©The Hearsum Collection – White Lodge

An exhibition highlighting the rich history of London’s Royal Parks will open in London at the Mall Galleries from 27th July to 11th August, 2017. ‘Parks: Our Shared Heritage‘ is a collaboration between the Royal Parks, the Hearsum Collection and the Office of Public Works, Ireland.

In addition to the Royal Parks in London, the exhibition includes the history of Phoenix Park, Dublin which was formed in 1662, as Ireland’s only royal deer park.

The Royal Parks that we enjoy today have been free to access by the general public for decades but this was not always the case. When Richmond Park was a private royal hunting ground the public were excluded – copper tokens were issued for the privileged few to access the park!

Great Exhibition ©A.K.Purkiss/The Hearsum Collection

Key moments in the history of the Royal Parks are explored, including The Great Exhibition (pictured above) of 1851 hosted by Prince Albert. There is also a fascinating insight into the parks’ connection with prominent historical figures including the Royal Family and Prime Ministers.

The exhibition not only demonstrates change it also looks at 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.

In 1851 the Royal Parks of London became public parks. They were extensively used by Government to aid the military effort in both World Wars of the 20th century and the exhibition includes photos of soldiers performing drills with rifles in the Serpentine Lake and Hyde Park being used as a salvage depot.(pictured left: four generations christening 1894 ©The Hearsum Collection).

Daniel Hearsum from the Hearsum Collection points out that the exhibition is an unique opportunity to see how these historic parks have evolved: “With hundreds of previously unseen images and unknown stories; including dueling 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,” he said.

Lloyd Grossman CBE, Chairman of The Royal Parks stresses the great opportunity that The Royal Parks and The Phoenix Park share with 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 in 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.

Fleet at anchor Serpentine 1814 ©The Hearsum Collection.

The historic landscape of Phoenix Park is of international significance being one of the largest designed parks in any European City and a wonderful amenity for the ten million people who enjoy it annually.

Kevin Moran, Minister for the Office of Public Works in Ireland is delighted that the exhibition will explore and celebrate the 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,” he said.

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 2017.

To find out more about the exhibition and range of free events, visit

Picture Credit: All pictures used are ©The Hearsum Collection. Banner above is White Lodge before 1816.

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