Oh, hi! I didn’t see you standing there.
What’s that? You want to know all about the secrets of Hyde Park in London, England?! Well, how about you settle for one interesting fact and a couple of licks right on the kisser? Deal?
Okay then – well, follow me! I’ll be your historical guide dog as we stroll into the past and uncover the Secrets of…Jurassic Bark!
I mean, the Secrets of…Hyde Park!
Hyde Park (as well as the adjoining Kensington Gardens) was, of course, my favorite place to hang out while Jo and I were in London, and we went there pretty much every day. We walked for hours, enjoyed a scrumptious Christmas dinner at a café, hit on Santa at the Winter Wonderland Festival, even tried our first taste of kangaroo! And ran into our fair share of well-to-do older ladies wrapped in fur coats and jewels while walking their spotless dogs.
But let’s not beat around the bush…
THERE ARE DEAD BODIES IN HYDE PARK.
* Skeleton: “Care to dance, little lady?” Woman (screaming): “I hate daaaancing!” Geez, fine then.
* No, no…there aren’t these kinds of dead bodies in Hyde Park. HOWEVER, during the plague, many poor bastards fled to Hyde Park as a last resort in escaping the inevitable. So, yes, there is a “plague pit” filled with victims right beneath Hyde Park. But no zombies. 😉
Well, what kind of bodies then, man?!
* No, definitely not. Well, maybe. Ahhh, the suspense is killing me!!
Behind Victoria Gate Lodge, virtually hidden from view and unknown to a fair share of people, is a Victorian era pet cemetery! It opened in 1881 by accident and officially closed in 1903, when there were some 300 animals buried there. According to George Orwell, the cemetery was “perhaps the most horrible spectacle in Britain.”
Um, no, George – that creepy caterpillar on your lip you called a “mustache” was the most horrible spectacle in Britain.
The cemetery isn’t open to the general public, save for the rare tour here n’ there. So Jo had to contact the Royal Parks services and ask for permission for us to enter…in addition to paying a hefty entrance fee. Oh, well. Jo thought it was worth it to catch a glimpse of this fascinating piece of history.
Jo honestly was stunned to learn of this place, having thought that pet cemeteries were more of a contemporary concept.
I didn’t even know I could die. So I guess we were both surprised.
The first dog to be buried here was “Cherry,” a Maltese Terrier. The family of Cherry was close to the gatekeeper at Victoria Lodge, Mr. Winbridge. So, when Cherry (in his ripe old age) won a one-way ticket to the big open field in the sky, where rawhide bones and smiley-faced sausages run right into dogs’ open arms, they asked Mr. Winbridge to use his garden as Cherry’s final resting place. Permission was granted and a tombstone was erected that stated simply, “Poor Cherry. Died April 28. 1881”
Poor Little “Prince” was a Yorkshire Terrier belonging to His Royal Highness Prince George, Duke of Cambridge’s wife (actually, mistress…but that’s a whole ‘nother story altogether), the actress Louisa Fairbrother. Prince tragically passed away in the gatekeeper’s lodge after being trampled by horse and carriage in the park. He was the second pup to be buried here.
And so began the tradition of prominent locals burying their fur babies here.
Mr. Winbridge usually performed the burials without the presence of the owners, who were often“too overcome with grief to be able to face this last cruel parting”. As a matter of fact, a bereaved Lord Petre, who promised to attend his pet’s ceremony and burial the following morning, could not handle the loss of man’s best friend and actually died during the night.
The tombstones were made of marble, and the graves cordoned off with rope edge tiles, allowing a place for the grieving families to place flowers.
Many of the names we encountered made us chuckle, for we imagined them as characters on a bizarre 70s children’s TV show:
Smut, Scamp, Jack the Dandy (a Sportsman and a Rat), Frizzle, Wobbles, and Freeky.
Others made us stop and wonder, ‘What the hell…??’ Like poor Scum seen above…
…and a cat with the “N” word as a moniker…
…and the tragic ‘Balu. Son of Fritz. Poisoned by a cruel Swiss. Berne – 1899’.
Like, literally…What. The. Hell??
* Not just dogs were buried here…some cats and monkeys too! This 24-year-old cat was apparently “a king of pussies.”
But what really stunned us…okay, I was busy sniffing everything and couldn’t wait to get back to, ya’ know, living and running in the park. Rather, what really stunned Jo was the fact there were so many heartfelt sentiments on the tombstones.
Jo always thought of the Victorian elite as giving off an air of restraint, being priggish and prim. Show emotion? Don’t be silly! Marrying for money, then secretly (or not so secretly) amassing a slew of lovers not unlike a collection of Beanie Babies. Too busy worrying about how they appear to society than to provide a lap for an animal to rest their weary head upon.
To peer through these little windows of time, where it was quite obvious many of these humans actually cared for another living being, was fascinating!
* This one’s a little hard to see, but it says: “for six years our loving and most devoted friend… so lonely without our darling sweetheart…
when our lonely lives are over and our spirits from this earth shall roam, we hope he’ll be there waiting to give us a welcome home.”
There were so many other touching inscriptions such as:
‘Darling Dolly – my sunbeam, my consolation, my joy’
‘Here lie two faithful creatures, Snap and Peter. ‘We are only sleeping master.’
‘My Ba-ba – never forgotten, never replaced.’
‘The sunshine of the house is gone.’
‘In life the firmest friend, the first to welcome, foremost to defend’ – Byron
‘These little lives, so short in years are as the flowers that bloom awhile, are gone and we are left in tears. In faith and hope of reunion.”
‘To our gentle lovely little Blenheim, Jane – she brought the sunshine into our lives, but she took it away with her.’
‘In memory of Jim – a little dog with a big heart.’
This was a really cool piece of Victorian London history to experience up close and personal, and a great reminder that, hey, we animals really are the bee’s knees, and we don’t live neeearly as long as we should. It’s precisely that reason why we love harder, play longer, listen better, and are more loyal than any human out there, and we ask very little from the world in return. So take a page from the animal book, humans…because we only get one shot at this life.
And on that note…I leave you with the rest of our Hyde Park/Kensington Garden series of photos. 🙂
* Just sporting this season’s hottest fashion trend, the Christmas jumper. 😉
* Jo and I went to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park! This festival was INSANE. It had the UK’s largest outdoor ice rink, circus shows, Cinderella on ice, and rides out the wazoo.
* Bavarian Christmas market? Check! Glühwein (mulled wine)? Check! Jo buying a Viking drinking horn to enjoy her Scotch in? Double check!
We even tried kangaroo for the first time! And it was pretty. damn. tasty.
* Outside of the ice sculpture exhibit. Was waaay too cold for this lil doggie, so I hung out with this lovely lady
* Inside the ice exhibit
* Jo being so short she can’t even pull off being an ice mermaid properly
* After the exhibit, we waited in line fooorever to see Santa so I could give him my wish list. A little boy who was waiting in line said straight to my face, “I hate you, dog!”
So I told Santa I wanted him turned into sausages.
* Just some talented folks performing “Hitchcock in the Park” 😀
* We had many people ask us if I was wearing
Furberry Burberry. Jo had no idea what that was and had to Google it. The answer is no. She’s too cheap to buy me that stuff.
* Kensington Palace!
* Queen Victoria statue, which was sculpted by her daughter
* Prince Albert Memorial…can you see lil ol’ me?
* This was right after I was hot on the trail of a squirrel…sniffing everywhere…an intense episode on Investigation DOGscovery!
* George I used to keep his edible turtles in this pond
* Peter Pan statue: J.M. Barrie used to walk his dog in Kensington Gardens, and it’s also where he met the five boys who were inspiration for the “Lost Boys” and whose guardian he eventually became