London’s parks celebrated in new City exhibition

City Exhibition
Copyright London Met Archives 280691 – A group of children paddling in Whitestone Pond on the edge of Hampstead Heath in 1920

London’s parks and open spaces are being celebrated in a City of London archives’ exhibition.

A new exhibition that highlights the essential role played by London’s parks and open spaces will open next week on the site of the capital’s Roman amphitheatre and end its two-month run at the ancient woodland of Epping Forest.

From playgrounds and picnics to concerts and Sunday football kickabouts, Green City: A Visual History of London’s Parks and Open Spaces will celebrate green spaces and the way in which Londoners have embraced and enjoyed the ‘great outdoors’ since the sixteenth century.

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Copyright London Met Archives 313663 – A bird’s eye view of Grosvenor Square in Mayfair in 1754, on the edge of the city, with pasture and fields rolling away towards the hills of Hampstead.

As well as providing an escape, a place to relax or exercise in, and a habitat for wildlife, plants, and trees, Green City will also acknowledge the hugely important role played by London’s parks and open spaces during ‘lockdown’ at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Curated by the City of London Corporation’s London Metropolitan Archives in Clerkenwell, the exhibition brings together 100 photographs and prints from its collections – from the 1560s to the 1980s – to provide a unique record of these beautiful and varied spaces.

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Opening on July 18 in the Square Mile’s Guildhall Yard, Green City will move to Aldgate Square (August 1-14) and then, Hampstead Heath (August 15-31) before a two-week run at The View in Epping Forest’s Visitor Centre (September 1-18).

Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage, and Libraries Committee, Wendy Hyde, said: “It feels entirely appropriate that an exhibition that celebrates the great outdoors is being held outdoors and, in common with previous exhibitions curated by London Metropolitan Archives, I am sure that it will be engaging, informative, and beautifully presented.

“Over the centuries, our parks and open spaces have played a variety of roles and have become very important to us, never more so than over the last two years, so ‘Green City’ will prove to be a fitting tribute to them.”

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Copyright London Met Archives SC_PHL_02_1129_46364 – A picnic in Coombe Wood, Croydon, in the late 1890s.

The City of London Corporation’s Head of Digital Services at London Metropolitan Archives, Laurence Ward, added: “The sheer number of images of parks and open spaces preserved in our archives demonstrates the importance of green space to Londoners, and we enjoyed rising to the challenge of selecting 100 of our best historical photographs and prints.

“These images offer us an extraordinary glimpse of our Tudor, Georgian, and Victorian ancestors and the role that green spaces played in their lives – as a place for sport, art, entertainment, work, and relaxation.”

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