Newsletter ‐ Summer 2019

Celebrating our 100th issue!

Congratulations to all who’ve helped produce the FRP&PH newsletter, especially to Ivor whose layouts and art have always been exemplary.

My first newsletter/magazine, was 1992 when the Friends were initiated and I have kept every issue since.
Valerie St Johnston (past chair of the Friends)

From the Chair

Regent’s Park

I hope you are all enjoying the Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill this spring.

This edition of the Friends’ newsletter is the 100th, which is something to celebrate, and we have a bumper edition for you. Many thanks to the tireless Anne‐Marie Craven, editor, and Ivor Kamlish, designer who prepare these quarterly delights.

I was very pleased that so many of you responded to the survey which I sent out before the AGM and with the responses at the AGM this year. Out of some 700 members we had over 130 responses. We normally get about 70‐80 people attending the AGM and the End of Season Review.

The first questions were designed to find out whether there were reasons why people didn’t choose to come to the AGM. Many simply had not registered the date or had conflicting engagements on the night. A few asked that we change the day of the week from our regular Thursdays.

So, we have listened, and we are going to have the next one on a Monday. May I urge you to put the date in your diary now!

28 October 2019 ‐ End of Season Review

The Newsletter is our main way of communicating, and the next one will have more detail, although those on email do also get reminders.

The next group of survey questions was about what you liked or would like the Friends to do. It was very pleasing that 88% of responders put the newsletter among the top three things they liked about the Friends. 60% enjoyed the discounts, and 35‐40% enjoyed bandstand concerts and other events.

Regent›s Park Bandstand

This is a good thing as bandstand concerts are being organised this year with two concerts each Sunday afternoon from 23 June to 1 September, and on the August Bank holiday. SeeBand Schedule 2019 for details.

We asked what different people would like to see. The most popular was more walks (60%), and 54% were interested in a trip to Westminster Archives to see what they have on the Park. So, you will see we have fixed a date for that visit. SeeWestminster Archives for details.

Not surprisingly 90% of respondents thought our top priority should be supporting the park to preserve its beauty. The next highest at 50% was preventing cycling on footpaths (except the Broad Walk where it is permitted). There was a range of thoughtful suggestions which I will be taking up with the park over the next quarter.

The final question was whether you might wish to volunteer. If you are keen to site supervise for the bandstand concerts and have not yet been in touch, please
Feel free to make yourself known if you would like to make any other offers.

Don’t forget that the Open Air Theatre and Taste of London, both have special price arrangements for us. Use the code ROYALPARKS when booking for Taste of London.

Ianthe McWilliams, Chair

Back to top

The Matilda Fountain

The Matilda Fountain

The weather was unfavourable on 3 August 1878 for the grand ceremony of the opening of a new bridge at Gloucester Gate and the sculpture of Sunshine holding an overflowing pitcher. She is there shielding her eyes from the sun but, more importantly, supplying a drinking place for dogs. She was modelled by Joseph Durham 1814‐77 and is standing on Cornish rocks.

Guards of honour from the 20th and 29th Middlesex volunteers held the ground awaiting the arrival, to the royal salute of 21 guns at 1 p.m. of His Royal Highness, the Duke of Cambridge, as Ranger and Commander in Chief.

Gloucester Gate Bridge poster

He was welcomed by the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Highways and Public Works Committee and members of the St Pancras Vestry including Richard Kent, churchwarden. Then it was off to lunch at the zoo scheduled for 2 p.m.

The occasion was such that advance tickets were provided for the spectators ‐ those with red tickets were requested to arrive no later than 12.30 for their seat allocation, while those with blue tickets took potluck after 12.45. However, Mr Horner of the York and Albany offered seats, no doubt in order to sell his ale!

A cordon of police was posted at the various avenues leading to the bridge to prevent undue pressure from the crowd. This important event was to celebrate one of the 700 drinking fountains (in 1878) supplied for animals and ‘Human Beings’ provided by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain Association, and all of them through the generosity of private donors.

The Association was founded by Quaker banker, MP and philanthropist, Samuel Gurney, and the first fountain, funded by Gurney’s wife was unveiled on 21 April 1859 in the boundary railings of St Sepulchre’s church in the City of London. Fresh drinking water was a huge issue, particularly in London, where cholera had taken its toll.

Every year the Association would report on its financial position, listing the donors. It is interesting to note that £100 was donated yearly by the monarch and £105 by the City of London.

But our fountain was donated by Matilda Kent, wife of Richard, the St Pancras churchwarden who was a retired builder. They lived in Patshull Road, Kentish Town. Her generosity was praised in the vestry minutes and remembered in the inscription, and it is not surprising that the young girl is known as Matilda.

A Grade II listed Building, on which some restoration work was undertaken in the early 1980s after years of neglect, it is now in dire need of more care and attention. Chairman Ianthe said, “I am delighted to say that The Friends have agreed to contribute to a scoping report to identify a practical proposal for restoring the fountain”.
Anne-Marie Craven

Back to top

Report on the AGM

The AGM of the FRP&PH was held on 21 March and was very well attended. Guests included Nick Biddle, Park Manager; Heather Johnson, Camden CC; PC Richard Taylor, who had taken over as Regent’s Park Designated Police Officer from Rebecca England; Justin McKie, Chair of Safer Parks Police Panel; and Tom Jarvis, Director of Parks at The Royal Parks (working for CEO Andrew Scattergood); past Chairs; and James Wren, ZSL.

The Chair, Ianthe McWilliams, gave special thanks to John and Patricia Glasswell. The proceeds from the sale of their engravings of Regent’s Park, totalling £380, was donated to the Friends.

Membership is continuing to grow with 168 members joining on the new website. She thanked Alan Martin and Stella Davies for their support in its maintenance as Membership Administrators.

The financial position is very healthy, so several donations have been made to the park, including a contribution to the Bandstand refurbishment.

Andy Locke, Commercial Director of the Open Air Theatre, gave a fascinating talk about the history and development of the theatre since its inception in 1932. Much of the story can now be accessed via the Open Air TheatreDigital Archive.

Questions from the floor included the usual problems with rough sleeping, certain issues with cyclists and the lack of ethnic membership of the Friends. Andy Locke was asked if a youth theatre was a possibility and he replied that they were hoping to do so in August.

The Survey was available for Friends to fill in. SeeFrom the Chair for the results. The meeting closed with thanks to all who attended.

Back to top

In the Gardens

Primrose Hill Café
The small café at Primrose Hill, located between the playground and the Trim Trail is scheduled to open in early August.

Gloucester Gate Playground
We hope to be able to start work on site in June to open the new playground for the autumn half term, but work may be delayed until the autumn because of other activities around the site.

The feeding by visitors of the wildlife in the park has resulted in large populations of some species, especially crows and magpies, preying on our songbirds and water birds. These birds and squirrels have shown aggressive behaviour to park visitors.

Wild Life in Regent’s Park

Offspring of a wide range of bird species fail to disperse to new territory as they would normally, leading to overcrowding, disease and in‐breeding with resulting and genetic abnormalities. Leftover food attracts vermin and food left in lakes and ponds damages water quality.

The unnaturally high numbers of some of the geese or birds are also detrimental to the quality of the landscape around the main lake. Consequently, we have posted signage in key locations asking visitors not to feed, and a page has been added to the Park’s website explaining the problems associated with the volume of feeding we have been experiencing.

I am really pleased to report that we have seen a significant reduction in feeding. SeeFeeding Birds and Animals for further information.
Nick Biddle, Park Manager

The hedgehog surveys continued during two weeks in May and will resume for two weeks in September. The reedbed at Long Bridge was extended over the winter. Every reedbed currently has at least one pair and some multiple pairs of reed warblers either displaying or nesting.

There has been a good number of heron chicks fledging and whitethroats breeding in the cricket pen and chat enclosure. And there are two families of great crested grebes on the lake.
Dave Johnson, Wildlife Officer

Back to top

Zoo News

ZSL Launches Mother Thames Campaign
ZSL (Zoological Society of London) has launched a public‐awareness campaign called Mother Thames to inform Londoners about the incredible wildlife that calls this famed river their home.

Love Mother Thames

Declared biologically dead in the 1950s, the River Thames is now a hub of life thanks to dedicated conservation efforts.

Encompassing ZSL’s annual grey and harbour seal census, European eel monitoring and oyster restoration projects, as well as many citizen‐science initiatives, the Mother Thames campaign will culminate in the publication of the first report into the status of the River Thames in more than 60 years. This State of the Thames Report is supported by the Royal Bank of Canada.

This will enable ZSL and its partners to demand action and commitments from the UK Government, business and industry ‐ from shipping and fishing to development ‐ and communities working in or along the river to protect the Thames.

VisitLet’s Protect Mother Thames to find out more.

Zoo Welcomes World’s Largest Amphibian
A rescued Chinese giant salamander made its debut at ZSL London Zoo in April, after ZSL wildlife experts helped Border Force identify four of the critically endangered amphibians and offered them a new home.

Chinese giant salamander

Having prevented an attempt to illegally import the mysterious looking animals, Border Force asked the Zoo’s keepers to look after the Chinese giant salamanders (Andrias davidianus) ‐ protected under CITES regulations ‐ because of their previous experience of looking after the aquatic giants.

Now, one of the surprisingly charismatic amphibians, named Professor Lew, which means dragon keepers in Chinese, has moved into a state‐of‐the art tank in the Zoo’s Reptile House. Depicted in Chinese culture for thousands of years, the iconic species is thought to have inspired Chinese dragon legends and even the iconic yin‐yang motif, but is facing the threat of extinction after becoming a highly coveted delicacy in China.

They are now ranked No.2 on ZSL’s EDGE of Existence amphibians list, which puts unique and threatened species at the forefront of conservation attention. Currently measuring 30cm in length, keepers estimate Professor Lew to be four years old but the salamander could eventually grow up to 1.8 metres in length and weigh up to 54kg, which prompted the creation of a home that could accommodate the slow growing youngster.

Into the Wild
Endangered birds bred at ZSL London Zoo travelled to Spain in February to be released into the wild as part of an international conservation project to reintroduce a species that once spanned Europe.

Northern Bald Ibis

Four northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita), which hatched last year at ZSL London Zoo, travelled to a holding aviary in Jerez Zoo in February, ahead of a planned release in Southern Spain. The juvenile ibis, nicknamed Iris, Indigo, Igor and Ivan by ZSL keepers, will join birds bred at other zoos across Europe, before being gradually introduced to life in the wild.

Celebrate Summer in the City at Zoo Nights
Sell‐out success Zoo Nights is making a comeback this summer serving up its unique mix of wildlife and city life afterhours every Friday in June and July.

A limited number of Zoo Nights tickets are also available for upgrade to an overnight stay, giving guests the opportunity to sleep within roaring distance of the lions in one of nine, colourfully luxurious cabins nestled in the heart of the Zoo.

Tickets are strictly limited so be quick to grab yourself a place at this unmissable summer event. Book tickets now atZoo Nights.
Stephanie Deas, Press Officer, ZSL

Back to top

Get Fit

Walking Football

The hub has teamed up with Chelsea FC Foundation to deliver free walking football sessions in the park. Walking Football allows you to still enjoy the great game of Football, but at a slower pace.

The sessions are designed to help people get fit or maintain an active lifestyle no matter what their age and fitness.

They also support people getting back into football if they have given it up due to age or injury.

There are many benefits to Walking Football including: Lowering heart rate and blood pressure, increasing muscle strength, better mobility and meeting and socialising with new people. Whether you are a complete beginner or have stopped playing football due to fitness level, age or injury, this is one sporting activity that is suitable for all.

Walking Football is on Tuesdays 11.15 a.m. to 12.15 p.m. at The Hub, Regent’s Park, NW1 4RU

Turn up and play for free. To find out more, contact Tom Weller. Tel: 0300 061 2324 or

Back to top

Farewell to Some Great Friends

Ann Saunders MBE (1931‐2019)
She was born at a time when girls were considered not to be worth educating, at least at university level, before they got married. Her younger brother went up to Oxford before a career as a Merchant Banker and Ann visited him there, meeting his friend Bruce Saunders at a party.

Bruce was an engineer with an interest in sports cars, although their early travels together were on a Lambretta. Ann’s work as Librarian and Archivist to the borough of Marylebone suggested Regent’s Park as the subject of her mature student PhD and the resulting book, published fifty years ago, is still the standard work.

She was also a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and of the London Topographical Society, Honorary Fellow of University College, London and liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Horners.
Roger Cline

Dame Anne Griffiths DCVO (1932‐2017)
She lived for 34 years in Prince Albert Road with her husband David and their five children. After David died in 1982 Anne continued to live there until 2006 when she moved to Cumberland Terrace.

Dame Anne Griffiths

For some 65 years she worked as archivist and librarian to HRH Prince Philip, having started her royal connection as a lady clerk to help with Coronation correspondence in 1952. Prince Philip attended her Service of Thanksgiving at St Mark’s Church.

The family recently commissioned a beautiful stained‐glass roundel window designed by Graham Jones. It was installed in the south aisle of St Mark’s by local Primrose Hill glazier, Andrew Moor, in her memory. In late February 2019, there was a small family gathering for the planting of a black poplar tree on Primrose Hill donated by HRH Prince Philip in her memory.

The tree is said to be the first of a new grove of poplars to be planted on a site close to the north‐east corner of the waterworks. It was sourced from Richmond Park, and by coincidence was planted by Phil Edwards, who recently moved from Windsor Great Park to take over running Primrose Hill.
Hilary Bach

David Conville OBE (1929‐2018)
He gave the air of being a patrician stage director and manager of the old school, but his colonial army background in India, followed by public school and Oxford, was in some ways a mask for a convivial and genuine theatrical all‐rounder.

David Conville

He was immensely popular with the actors who appeared under his management at the Open Air theatre in Regent’s Park.

When he handed over the reins of the theatre to one of those loyal actors, Ian Talbot, in 1987, he resumed his career as a television actor in Richard Eyre’s film Tumbledown (1988), in which Colin Firth played a wounded Falklands war veteran, and in the sitcom Surgical Spirit (ITV, 1989‐95) as George Hope‐Wynne, a consultant surgeon caught in the crossfire between Nichola McAuliffe’s senior surgeon and Duncan Preston as the anaesthetist, she eventually marries.

Conville rescued the Open Air theatre, which had opened in 1932, when it had succumbed in 1961 to financial crises and declining standards. Conville, together with the director David William, applied successfully to take on a lost cause at worst and a great challenge at best. They found a scene of dilapidation, no fixed seating or lighting, no office and no records.

At a time when Peter Hall was in charge of the fledgling Royal Shakespeare Company and Laurence Olivier launching the National Theatre, Conville rolled up his sleeves, raised money, signed up actors, fixed the lighting, brought in Clement Freud to do the catering and created the New Shakespeare Company.

It opened in 1962 with a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Patrick Wymark as Bottom, David William as Oberon and Heather Chasen as Helena. One critic described Heather’s portrayal of Helena “Like a piece of animated Dresden china”.

Back to top

Membership Reminder

If anyone still has a Standing Order for the old subscription rate of £10, please remember to cancel it and pay your subscription through our online membership system. SeeMembership for details.

If you are not a computer user, or don’t know someone to do it for you, please amend your Standing Order to the new rate of £20.

Back to top