London's Open Spaces
Thames River Sightseeing have returned to service today (Read Our Coronavirus Update Here) & will be operating from Westminster Pier, Embankment Pier, St. Katharine Pier & Greenwich Pier. While much of London remains closed we’re taking the opportunity to explore some of our favourite outdoor spaces in the capital.
From Royal Parks such as Greenwich & St James to hidden gems like Crossrail Place & 120 Fenchurch Street London has an extensive range of gardens, parks & outdoor spaces we can’t wait to visit again.
Gardens & Spaces
Greenwich Park is the oldest of the Royal Parks & has strong ties to the Tudor & Stuart monarchs. In the 15th century Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (brother to Henry V) was granted 200 acres of land & permission to construct a stone tower which later become known as Duke Humphrey’s Tower.
After the Duke’s death the land passed to the Crown & his riverside manor house was remodelled by Henry VII into what became the Tudor Palace of Placentia. The Tudor palace was the birthplace of Henry VIII, Mary I & Elizabeth the I & was a favourite residence of the Tudor monarchs due to its close proximity to the river & ample hunting ground. Henry VIII introduced deer to Greenwich Park & their decedents remain to this day.
The Stuart period saw great changes to the park with the demolition of the Palace of Placentia, the construction of the Queens House, Royal Hospital for Seamen (Now the Old Royal Naval College) & the Royal Observatory Greenwich. The Tudor hunting grounds & pleasure gardens made way for a more formal landscape designed by André Le Notre, gardener to Louis XIV of France.
Today Greenwich Park spans 183 acres & forms one of London’s most magnificent landscapes. Greenwich Hill offers views of the Queens House, Old Royal Naval College, the River Thames & Docklands.
St James Park
St. James Park is London’s oldest royal park & is surrounded by three royal palaces, the Palace of Westminster, St. James Palace & Buckingham Palace. In 1536 the royal court was based at the Palace of Westminster & King Henry VIII purchased land at St. James to build St. James Palace & a new deer park. After his accession to the throne in 1603 James I had the park drained, landscaped & filled with exotic animals including camels, crocodiles, birds & an elephant.
St. James Park underwent further alterations when Charles II opened it to the public & had it re-landscaped in a more formal style with a large canal. St. James Park saw another makeover in the 1820’s when the Prince Regent (later to become George IV) commissioned the architect & landscaper John Nash to give the park a more natural look. The canal was shaped into a lake & an iron bridge was built offering excellent views across the lake. The current bridge (The Blue Bridge) was built in 1957 & is the third bridge to span St. James Park Lake.
Victoria Tower Gardens
Victoria Embankment Gardens
During the construction of Victoria Embankment (complete in 1870) the landscape architect Alexander McKenzie designed a series of public gardens parallel to the river Thames between Westminster Bridge & Temple Stairs Arch. Whitehall Gardens (the furthest stretch West) were designed by George Vulliamy who also designed the pedestals & sphinxes for Cleopatra’s Needle (located 6 minutes downriver on the embankment). Villiamy designed Victoria Embankments camel benches & sturgeon lamps which can be seen along the riverfront.
Victoria Embankment Gardens are well kept & are home to a large number of memorial statues. The gardens are also home to the York Water Gate which would have sat on the bank of the river before the construction of the embankment.
The Garden at 120 (120 Fenchurch Street)
One Fen Court is a modern office complex located at 120 Fenchurch Street. Designed by Eric Parry Architects & completed in 2019 the building stands 15 storeys high & features London’s largest rooftop garden. The Garden at 120 is a spacious, open air rooftop garden which is open to the public free of charge between Monday – Friday. 14 Hills, a restaurant, bar & deli is located just below the garden on the 14th floor.
Crossrail Place Roof Garden
The Crossrail Place Roof Garden is a hidden oasis perched atop the Crossrail train station in Canary Wharf. The garden sits almost on top of the historic prime meridian separating East from West. The plants in the garden are arranged to WORDWORDWORDWORD the meridian line, Asian plants including bamboo are located in the East of the garden & plants from the Americas including ferns are located to the West of the garden. Numerous paths wind through the garden & visitors can spend plenty of time exploring, a perfect escape from the busy financial & shopping district located outside.
Crossrail Place is partially covered providing shelter in inclement weather & is also home to an 80 seater performance space.