Friends of Regent's Park Newsletter 81
Friends End of season review 21 October 6.30 for 7pm
This will take place as usual at St John’s Wood Church Hall, Lord’s Roundabout, St John’s Wood, London NW8 7NE
We are thrilled that Todd Longstaffe-Gowan will speak to us about the review he is undertaking on behalf of the Crown Estate Paving Commission
on the strategy for the landscape of the park and its future management.
There will be particular reference to the plan envisaged by John Nash in the 1820s.
We gave a brief introduction to this review in Newsletter 80.


Two delightful gardens opened for the National Gardens scheme on August 2 and 3. One bijou-sized at 70 Gloucester Crescent, Primrose Hill (left) and and the other definitely grander and substantial, that of the Holme in Regent’s Park (right).

Concern about police funding

Owing to the fact that there was an unfortunate clash of dates between the committee meeting of the FRP&PH and the Safer Parks Panel on 10 September, I stood in for our chairman, Conall Macfarlane, at the latter meeting.

Unfortunately, the meeting was poorly attended. Inspector Chris Churchman and Sergeant Ben Edwin from the Regent’s Park police presented their six-monthly report and were pleased to be able to say that overall crime figures for the six months beginning March to end August 2014 were down compared to the same period in 2013 – a move in the right direction. They were still not satisfied with the situation on Primrose Hill where gangs of youths were meeting at night and causing trouble. The police’s late turn and night duty shifts continues on a daily (nightly) basis to try to solve this, which was one of the three priorities that had been set in consultation with other panel members and feedback from the Friends. Of the other two objectives, traffic offences and unauthorised cycling, a formal report was made on 306 vehicles, including trade vehicles, of which 18 were issued with PND/PFN*; likewise 188 were issued for unauthorised cycling and many more cyclists were stopped and warned. The police also addressed the issue of dangerous dogs, which resulted in one owner being given a summons.

The very great concern is next year’s cut from the parks’ police grant which the Metropolitan Police contributed, because the Met’s own budget is being cut. This shortfall needs to be met from somewhere in order to preserve a dedicated Parks Police Force. Since the parks are now under the aegis of the Mayor of London, it is to be hoped that some money will be forthcoming from that source. Any help in the form of writing to the Mayor of London, the Police Commissioner, Westminster/Camden Councils or local MPs to bring this important issue to their attention is urged. The fact that the parks show a low crime level is a reflection of the fact that an independent unit is able to police the parks at all times.

It is a tribute to the police that the Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill are extraordinarily safe; witness the fact that so many people walk their dogs on Primrose Hill well after dark and very late in the evening.

The next meeting will take place on Wednesday 11th March 2015 in the Regent’s Park Police Station.

*PND is a Penalty Notice for Disorder: PFN is a Penalty Fixed Notice. They are issued on the spot and the culprits have 21 days to pay the fine.

Angela Macfarlane

Hail to St Mark’s

There has been a considerable amount of activity in recent months at St Mark’s Church, Regent’s Park both within the church itself and in its beautiful garden. This has been both practical and creative. On the practical side there has been a reconfiguration of the west end of the church and the installation of an eighteenth century Italian organ built by the Neapolitan organ builders Michelangelo and Carlo Sanarica. A reredos by Ninian Comper has also been installed, donated by the St Luke’s Hospital Trust. (Ninian Comper’s association with St Mark’s goes back to 1938 when he created one of the most beautiful altarpieces in London for the church. This was destroyed in the bombing of September 1940. But he created a new altarpiece (at the high altar) which was installed in 1959 when he was 95 years old. He died a year later.)

The reredos by Ninian Comper

In the church garden a new fence has been installed at the foot of the garden on the east side of the church together with a gate and path leading from the canal towpath up into the garden, in addition a garden shed has been erected for storage purposes. On the creative side the church has been host during the week to a variety of events including creative workshops, fashion shoots and theatre groups. A series of organ recitals preceded by refreshments also took place. With this weekday opening the church has welcomed an increased number of visitors from home and abroad who have enjoyed the beauty and history of the building.

In spite of the onslaught of a high explosive bomb that fell in the chancel in 1940 and the arson attack of November 1994 St Mark’s remains in essence the church that was originally built in 1851 possessing a Victorian calm, strength and dignity whilst at the same time embracing modern technology with its newly developed website and current creativity.

Rosamund Miskin, Parish Clerk, St Mark’s

First World War – Home Depot

A temporary sorting office was erected in Regent’s Park at the beginning of the war to ensure that mail was accurately sorted and thus would be successfully delivered to the army units or ships. By December 1914 the depot managed all outbound mail to the troops. Covering five acres, the building was thought to be the largest wooden structure in the world At its peak it could handle 12 million letters and 1 million parcels a week and much of the mail was turned around in 24 hours, often allowing it to be delivered to front-line trenches the next day, sometimes even before the troops themselves arrived. “…so rapid is the service between channel ports under existing conditions that the London morning newspapers are delivered in many instances on the day of publication and reach the trenches on the following day.” So reported the Postmaster General Herbert Smith.

A huge variety of mail was sent to the troops, by ship and later by air. Alongside letters and cards, foodstuffs and newspapers were popular items to receive. For much of the war women were the main workforce in the Home Depot. Before the war, women working as permanent staff in the Post Office were required to leave when they got married. During the war this rule was reversed, allowing women to continue in their roles after marriage. This was done as women and girls were needed to take on many of the jobs traditionally reserved for male employees. By November 1916 over 35,000 women were employed in temporary positions within the Post Office, an increase of 33,000 since March 1915.

So what about the men who left their jobs in the Post Office to join the war effort? They were actively encouraged to join up and over 75,000 of them did so. Of these, 12,000 joined the Post Office’s own battalion, the 8th Battalion City of London Regiment known as the Post Office Rifles. The regiment had existed since 1868 and was made up almost entirely of Post Office staff. In fact so many men were keen to enlist that a second battalion had to be created after war broke out. They fought at many of the major battles including Ypres and the Somme but only one VC to Alfred Knight was awarded and this was to Alfred Knight, Sergeant and later 2nd Lieutenant. He was born in Birmingham in 1888 and worked at the Post Office Engineering Department in Nottingham. He enlisted in the Post Office Rifles in October 1914 but his unit did not move to France until January 1917. He distinguished himself first in the second battle of Bullecourt in May 1917 when he rescued a number of wounded men under heavy fire. Then in September 1917 at Alberta Section, Ypres, when once again his platoon came under very heavy fire from an enemy machine-gun, he rushed through the barrage of his own troops and captured the gun single-handed.

The citation continues: “He performed several other acts of conspicuous bravery single-handed, all under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire and without regard to personal safety. All the platoon officers of the company had become casualties before the first objective was reached, and this NCO took command not only of all the men of his own platoon but of the platoons without officers and his energy in consolidating and reorganizing was untiring.”

Alfred Knight was decorated with the Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace by King George V on January 3, 1918. He had already become a minor celebrity when he returned to Nottingham in 1917.

Three other members of Post Office staff were awarded the VC: Major Henry Kelly for action at Le Sars, October 1916, Sergeant John Hogan for action at Festubert, October 1914 and Sergeant Albert Gill at Delville Wood July 1916.

Armistice day at the depot

Sorting room at the depot

Sorting for Australis and West end dumps!

The arrival platform

Dump 1917 (images ©Royal Mail Group)

At the end of the war in November 1918 the depot was dismantled and sadly there seems to be no knowledge of its exact location in the park.

Zoo news

ZSL London Zoo has welcomed the first ever Philippine crocodiles (Crocodylus mindorensis) to be bred in a UK zoo.

Weighing in at a tiny 37 grams when hatched, the first of the young crocodiles emerged from its egg on the 16 June, followed by its five siblings over a 48 hour period. One of the world’s rarest reptiles and native to the Philippines, the baby crocodiles have been named after the islands that they inhabit - Jolo, Luzon, Mindoro, Samar, Sulo, and Mindanao.

Classified as critically endangered due to habitat loss and being hunted for their skins, the six hatchlings are a huge cause for celebration at ZSL London Zoo and the UK, helping to boost the numbers of this rapidly-declining species. The parent crocodiles were born at a conservation centre in the Philippines and were matched as the founding animals for the European breeding programme which ensures that the most genetically-diverse animals are placed together.

All creatures great & small

Mighty silverback gorillas, rare baby crocodiles and minuscule snails are just some of the animals who were weighed and measured by ZSL London Zoo’s keepers at the annual weigh-in 2014.

As well as being a key indicator of an animal’s overall well being, regular weight checks and waist measurements can also help keepers to detect pregnancies of endangered species that are part of the Zoos’ international conservation breeding programmes.

Dirk being measured - photo Russell Winch/ZSL

Keepers at the world’s oldest scientific zoo spend hours each year dutifully noting down the vital statistics of the creatures in their care. But they do have to get creative when it comes to encouraging the animals to be measured up - from tempting tortoises to stand on a scale to persuading flighty birds to stand still on a customised perch. Each and every measurement is then recorded into the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), a database shared with zoos all around the world, helping zookeepers to compare important information on thousands of endangered species.

James Wren, ZSL Development Manager

Park News

Landscape Maintenance

The Landscape Group took up the landscape maintenance contract from 9 June and has made a very good start. You may have seen some great new kit and standards improving in many areas. Mike Turner has moved to a full time permanent post as assistant park manager at St James’s Park. Formerly the Tree Officer for The Royal Parks he had been looking after the park for Andy Williams while he was seconded to project manage the landscape maintenance contract re-tender. Andy is now park manager for Kensington Gardens and Brompton Cemetery. He was at Regent’s Park for eight years, and made significant improvements and while we shall miss him, he remains a valuable colleague within the wider Royal Parks’ team. Regent’s Park is recruiting to fill the role vacated by Mike which is currently being looked after by Paul Meek on a temporary appointment. Paul has a wealth of horticultural experience and has managed landscape maintenance contracts for a number of boroughs in the south east over many years.

Catering – your views please!

The new caterers, Benugo, are in the process of refurbishing the catering outlets with the exception of The Boathouse Café which remains with Company of Cooks under a separate contract. Benugo has made a number of improvements and The Royal Parks have also invested in the catering infrastructure. I am delighted with the improvements to The Espresso Bar and look forward to the full refurbishment at The Garden Café over the coming winter. The recently opened Smokehouse on the Broad Walk, formerly known as The Honest Sausage, is reviewing its menu to add a wider vegetarian offer and has replaced the oversized sign which arrived and was erected at twice the specified dimensions! The outlets are proving popular and we have seen a significant increase in customers enjoying our facilities. I realise that change never pleases everyone and that we have some way still to go to achieve the full range of improvements we seek. I can report however that Benugo are very keen to receive feedback, particularly constructive criticism, and if there is anything you think could or should be better please let them know, they really do aim to please. I would also be pleased to hear from you. Comments and suggestions can be e-mailed to Benugo and please copy me in at . If you are not on line you could write directly to The Garden Café, Inner Circle, Regent’s Park, NW1 4NU. Again it would be helpful if you could copy me in at The Park Office, Inner Circle NW1 4NR.

(Note from editor, please copy the Friends if you have any comments at )

We are delighted to have been awarded the Green Flag again this year and, for the first time the Green Heritage Award, sponsored by English Heritage, which recognises the conservation of the history and heritage of a green space and its accessibility to users. As noted in the previous newsletter, this is the first time in many years that we have received a full day’s judging having in recent times been only “mystery shopped” by an unannounced judge who makes no contact with the park team.

Nick Biddle, Park Manager

The Hub

Regent’s Park continues to be the most popular outdoor sports venue in London and summer 2014 was another hugely busy one for The Hub team. Between April and August The Hub hosted hundreds of school PE sessions, four adult sports leagues playing 1000 plus fixtures, 20 charity running events and 25 local school sports days.

September 6 sees the start of our winter sports season with football, rugby and lacrosse.

Engaging young people in sport continues to be a priority and seven junior sports clubs now call Regent’s Park ‘home’. Regent’s Park Royals rugby club is one of those junior sports clubs. The club was founded by the sports team at Regent’s Park and trains every Sunday morning throughout the winter.

An amazing event took place on 28 August. Organised by LGN Wellbeing, 693 runners took part in a five kilometre corporate run to raise money for the Samaritans. The hub hosts a number of charity running events. One took place on Sunday 14 and another on 18 September for The Prince’s Trust organised by Arup the architecture and engineering practice in Fitzrovia.

The Hub exercise timetable continues to offer yoga and pilates. New attendees very welcome! Call for more information – 0300 061 2323.

David Ellis, Sports Manager

Friends meeting up at the Hub

The second get together of some Friends took place at the Hub on Wednesday September 3 see group beyond glass wall! We would love to see more of you on Wednesday October 11.

Full houses for Gershwin’s Porgy

This summer has provided a fest for Friends who dropped in on their vast local open-air theatre in the park. With more than 1,240 seats, one or two people can even sometimes have the luxury of being able to leave a decision to the day itself, check on the computer to make sure there are seats and then turn up at the box office. The seats may not be central or near the front but my side view of Porgy and Bess, bought at 7.30pm for 7.45pm three nights before the end of the highly successful run was fine (except for a rail at eye level which I had to duck to avoid).

The music and production were magic from start to finish – great singing of great songs, a moving story involving fights, murder, ‘happy dust’, the community’s disapproval and gradual acceptance of Bess, the apparently reformed sexy bombshell, and Porgy’s love, so overwhelming that he is prepared, a limping former cripple, finally to follow and hope to find her to the labyrinthine city of New York. Bess by then believes he will not return from questioning in jail about the death of her former lover and yields to the snake-like blandishments of the drug dealer. Dressed in a snappy yellow suit, Sporting Life bewitched the audience as well whenever he came on stage. But then all the main characters were totally compelling, the choreography exciting. I forgot the strange crinkled backdrop, wrapped my legs in a rug and, totally absorbed, almost forgot to sip my hot chocolate through the second half.

As for the earlier repertoire, All our Sons and Hobson’s Choice were both gripping, especially the former, with great teams of actors, but a little dated and certainly not the potential and emotional actual draw of this year’s summer musical – or the return of To Kill a Mockingbird, which proved a sell out regardless of the early September weather.

P.S. Just seen the Mockingbird, again a rug round my knees for the second half. The theme is lack of justice in the American deep south as a young black man is convicted of rape regardless of facts. However the real perpetrator does get his comeuppance and is killed. The events, words and marvellous acting by the three young children, who judge right and wrong without racial prejudice, the wise lawyer father and the cast as a whole produced a standing ovation. It now goes on tour.

Judy Hillman, Patron

For the diary

Friends End of season review This will take place as usual at St John’s Wood Church Hall, Lord’s Roundabout, St John’s Wood, London NW8 7NE 21 October 6.30 for 7pm
Coffee at the Hub The committee plan to arrange a coffee morning at the Hub for Friends first Wednesday of the month, starting on Wednesday 6 August from 11am. We hope to see many of you there
The Royal College of Physicians is staging an exhibition on Denys Lasdun the architect of the Regent’s Park building and the National Theatre. It includes letters from Ronald Searle and photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson. The Royal College of Physicians 8 September 2014 – 13 February 2015


We need a new membership secretary!

Please do not be shy about volunteering. The role involves:

  1. Welcoming new members with a letter and a badge, £15 per annum
  2. Adding new membership details to the database
  3. Recording the subscriptions from standing orders on the bankstatements
  4. Sending out renewal letters to those paying by cash or by cheque
  5. Responding to requests for a lost badge (to obtain the discounts at the cafés etc
  6. Attending committee meetings which are bi-monthly

This should not take more than 2-3 hours a week.

Your email address

Would all members with email addresses please send an email with their name, postal address and email address to the current secretary, Linda Johnson
We would like this information so that we can communicate more efficiently with our members.

Technical Help

Technical note for our readers - if the font used is too small please use the zoom feature on your browser (if available) to adjust the size (typically Control-key and "+" symbol) as much as you need.

Welcome to our touch-compatible style site

Use the touch-friendly grey navigation buttons in the left column to jump directly to sections within this page and any of the buttons to return the to top of this page or the to visit the main index page which provides information on how to join the Friends of Regent's Park. The next section provides contact links for committee members...

Friends of Regent's Park & Primrose Hill

Contact Links

Conall Macfarlane -
Linda Johnson -
Richard E Portnoy -
Anne-Marie Craven -
Neil Manuel -

Site created on Friday 25th February 2011, last edited Tuesday 21st October 2014.
Errors & Omissions excepted