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Victoria Park

Victoria Park (119)

Known as Royal Park until 1887, Londoners now refer to this park as Vicky Park, or People's Park, due to its popularity among the working classes of London's East End towards the end of the 19th century. 

If you enter through the main entrance, the Bonner Gate on Sewerdstone Road, you will be met by some unusual guardians, the Dogs of Alcibiades, which have flanked the entrance to the park since 1912. The figures you see today are actually replicas of the originals that guarded the entrance to the park from 1912 to 2009, when they had to be removed due to repeated vandalism. Visitors to the park may also come across original remains of Old London Bridge, which was demolished in 1831. And not far from here is the Hackney Wick Memorial, an obelisk erected in memory of the World War I victims from the neighbouring district of Wick, an industrial area that was highly populated during the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Neither should you miss the Burdett-Coutts Fountain, which is named in honour of the philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts, who commissioned this beautiful fountain in 1862 as a gift to visitors to Victoria Park. This Victorian fountain is flanked by columns and sculptures in granite and pink marble and is notable for both its dome and its slate roof decorated with a clock on each of its four sides. With this fountain, Angela Burdett-Coutts not only sought to add a decorative touch to the park, but was also committed to supplying drinking water to East End residents with few economic resources. The fountain has been restored recently, having suffered damage from vandalism. 

Without a doubt, the park is one of the best-kept secrets of Londoners who make the best of the 86 hectares for sporting activities, relaxing and walking. There's room for just about everything here. It is both the largest park in the East End and the oldest public park in the city, with almost 200 years of history.

Speaking of history... that of Victoria Park begins somewhat curiously in the mid-19th century. It first opened in 1845 in the municipality of Tower Hamlets, which is located to the east of the City of London and north of the Thames and occupies much of the East End. It owes its existence to the tenacity and insistence of a local MP, who managed to collect 30,000 signatures requesting the opening of a park. A request that managed to arrive at the hands of Queen Victoria. The MP's idea was that residents of the East End should have a park similar to Regent's Park. So similar was it, in fact, that initially it even had its own Speaker's Corner.

The park enjoyed its period of maximum splendour in the latter part of the 19th century, when it became a meeting place for political rallies and demonstrations of all kinds and, in terms of importance, even outshone other celebrated parks the like of Hyde Park. Located between Tower Hamlets (a poor area of socialist tradition and strong revolutionary character) and Hackney (slightly better off but linked to centuries of religious dissent), it is not surprising that Speaker's Corner was the liveliest corner of the park. 

However, the advent World War II brought decline, as much of the park was closed to the public and became the site for a formidable anti-aircraft battery.

Over the course of the years the park has changed its appearance somewhat, and now houses a great variety of trees such as oak, cherry or chestnut, in addition to a cricket pitch. In addition, the functions of the park have also been altered according to current needs, and while in the past it served as a meeting place for political rallies, today it is also a meeting place for crowds, but in this instance with other, more leisure-oriented ideas in mind, such as the numerous summer concerts and outdoor music festivals that take place in the park. And as if this wasn't enough, as a result of the 2012 Olympic Games, it is now just a pleasant few minutes' walk from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. 

Victoria Park is one of the parks most revered by Londoners, who have not hesitated to bestow it on three occasions (2012, 2014 and 2015) with the green flag, an award for the city's most popular green area. A merit that only Victoria Park can boast, since no other park in the United Kingdom has managed to win the prize on more than one occasion. The curious thing about this award? Without a doubt that would be the jury, which is formed by the citizens themselves. Such is its popularity that an estimated 9 million people enjoy the park every year. Now it's your turn.

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