London is lucky enough to have a whole array of beautiful parks, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Regents Park. But one beautiful often missed green space is the delightful Holland Park. Nestled to the west of the city, just a short walk from Holland Park station (surprise surprise) this gorgeous walled park has more of a feel of a landscaped stately home than a public London park.
It has the impressive history to go with it too. The park orginally formed the gardens of the grand Holland House. First built in the late 1500s back then the park stretched over 500 acres, all the way to the Thames (today it is 50 acres not a bad size for a city park). In the 1600s the house was expanded and built up into a grand form, even famed Jacobean architect Indigo Jones had a hand in its design (his beautiful gates can still been seen in the park today). So impressive was this mansion that for a long time the house was nicknamed “Cope Castle” after Sir Walter Cope its first famous resident.
The castle also had a whole host of famous residents and visitors across the centuries. Early on it was said that King William III stayed here when the London smog became too much for him.
In the 1800s it was the headquarters of the Whig party, and poets writers used to drop by including Dickens and Byron (who famously met his lover lady Caroline Lamb here). And of course there was the writer Joseph Addison who lived and died here in 1700s.
The castle was grand both inside and out with impressive décor. It could have been a museum for all its quirky titbits lying around including (it is said) a pair of candle sticks belonging to Mary Queen of Scots, a locket which held strands of Napoleon’s hair, as well as halls decorated with numerous famous paintings.
Sadly in the 1900s it became quite unloved and un-lived in and then in 1940 was almost completely destroyed in an air-raid. Its remnants have been beautifully kept and as you walk around you can still see some of its grandeur. If you visit today scenes of the original mansion can be seen on prints around the venue.
In 1878 historian Edward Walford described the house
“Although scarcely two miles distant from London, with its smoke, its din, and its crowded thoroughfares Holland House still has green meadows, sloping lawns and refreshing trees.”
150 years later this is still the case the remains of the house still make a grand centre piece, alongside landscaped gardens most notably the Japanese garden, complete with roaming peacocks.
This park has a different feel to the other London parks, its beautifully peaceful. Rather than a wide open public space, it has lots of nooks and crannies you can hide away from the crowds in.
And if this description of fanciful society living takes your fancy you can experience it for yourself as the eastern wing has been turned into a YHA – you couldn’t find more historic (and budget) accommodation in London if you tried.
I can’t recommend a visit to this park enough, one of the overlooked gems of London.