HYDE PARK LONDON & WALKING TOUR
Combining the magic of history, travel and storytelling by allowing visitors to not just see the sites, but step inside their stories.
The History of Hyde Park
The history of Hyde Park is traceable to early medieval times. It's name is believed to be of Saxon origin meaning a unit of land. A "hide" was a suitable size for the support of a single family and its dependents. During the middle ages, the property belonged to Westminster Abbey providing the abbot and monks ample firewood and game.
In 1536, Henry VIII confiscated the land from the Abbey to use as his private hunting grounds. By 1637, the land had been officially established as a public park - quickly becoming a very popular place to be seen. Queen Caroline made significant improvements in the early 18th century, including the creation of The Serpentine. The park also became somewhat infamous for being the chosen spot for duels among the nobility. One of the most important events to take place in Hyde Park was The Great Exhibition of 1851.
Hyde Park Walking Tour
"Hugely evocative - you can imagine the crowds, displays, and excitement. Both fascinating and moving. Highly recommended!"
Elizabeth Norton, writer, broadcaster and royal historian
"A perfect afternoon stroll into another age, told with capriciousness and verve. Put on your top hats and bring your parasols, Victorian London is just a tap on your phone away!"
Inga Vesper, journalist
"The Great Exhibition walking tour must be the closest thing we have to time travel.”
The years, decades, centuries have fallen away, and here you are on the 1st of May 1851. Tens of Thousands of people have descended upon London’s Hyde Park. At nine o’clock the turnstiles will open, and you will find yourself at the opening day of The Great Exhibition, a vast, temporary glass museum.
The Crystal Palace, as it has been nicknamed, was built to house more than a hundred thousand exhibits of culture and industry from around the globe. You will behold all of Great Britain’s achievements and that of the countries surrounding it – machines and presses, taxidermy and clothwork, ceramics and ironmongery.
It is the first World’s Fair - the project of Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert. His reputation rides on its success or failure. The Queen is alive with excitement and will, of course, be in attendance.
Step back in time on our immersive audiovisual walking tour and witness this dazzling spectacle that was to become a symbol of the Victorian era.
More on The Great Exhibition
In 1840, at the age of 20, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha married the 21-year-old Queen Victoria. Constrained by his role as consort and lack of responsibility, he turned to public causes such as the worldwide abolition of slavery, the welfare of the working classes, technological progress, and educational reform – particularly in the sciences.
As the President of the Society of Arts, Prince Albert became one of the main architects behind an idea to create a platform in which countries from around the world could display their achievements in modern technological process and design. He believed it was an opportunity to show Britain’s prowess across culture, science, and industry and cement their position as the greatest imperial power in the world.
He was met with almost constant criticism. Opponents of The Great Exhibition prophesized that “foreign rogues and revolutionists would overrun England, subvert the morals of the people, and destroy their faith.”
Instead, at the age of 31, Prince Albert had been instrumental in creating one of the most successful, memorable, and influential cultural events in Britain’s history. It opened on the 1st of May 1851, and over the course of the following six months was visited by over six million people (equivalent to a third of the British population at that date).
Visitors included the famous such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Michael Faraday Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, George Eliot, Alfred Tennyson, and William Makepeace Thackeray. Factory workers and agricultural laborers also poured into London from all over Britain – arriving on excursion trains and paying just a shilling (5p) to enter.
We invite you to step back in time and experience The Great Exhibition as one of those visitors…