Hyde Park was London's first park and was given to London by King James I in the early seventeenth century. The land used to belong to Westminster Abbey but Henry VIII claimed the land in the sixteenth century and it became a Royal hunting ground. The wife of King George II was a keen gardener and it was her scheme to damn the river and create the artificial lake known as the Serpentine. The Serpentine is still used today as a popular boating lake.
Hyde Park was the venue for the Great Exhibition in 1852. A huge glass building known as the Crystal Palace was assembled for the exhibition between the Serpentine and the Prince of Wales Gate. The Crystal Palace was disassembled and moved to South London, the area is still known as Crystal Palace. A horse racing track known as ‘Rotten Row’ was created by William III and is still present in Hyde Park today.
During summer months Sunday concerts are held at the Bandstand and Hyde Park has been the venue for several large scale outdoor performances. Near Marble Arch on the North East corner of Hyde Park is Speakers Corner, a forum for free speech. Every morning the Household Cavalry ride through Hyde Park on the way from Hyde Park Barracks to Buckingham Palace.