Victoria Park stands entirely in Tower Hamlets and extends to some 218 acres. It was originally laid out by Sir James Pennethorne between 1842 and 1846. Its creation was inspired by a petition to Queen Victoria from 30,000 local residents, complaining about the mortality rate in the East End. The population had doubled and fields, market gardens and orchards had disappeared in the cause of urbanisation. The people of the East End asked for a Royal Park to be created in the Queen’s name – ‘a Monument to future generations; of your Majesty’s taste and patronage of Public improvements; and still more, of the anxious desire of your Majesty to contribute to the happiness of your loyal and devoted subjects.’ Amongst the fine features of ‘Vicky Park’ as it is known locally, are the Bonner gates and bridge (built in 1840) at the main entrance to the park, and named after Bishop Edmund Bonner, last Lord of the Manor of Stepney. These fine old gates have not been restored or changed and are as Queen Victoria would have seen them in 1873. Other gates in the park were rebuilt in 1990. Other features of the park include the old ‘Bathing Pond’ where until 1936 regular bathing took place. This was popular in an area where many public baths were the equivalent of communal washing facilities. In 1936 Herbert Morrison opened the park lido there, but this eventually closed. Now it is popular with anglers.During the Second World War, the park was closed and became an Ack-Ack (anti-aircraft) site, and a prisoner-of-war camp for German and Italian prisoners. Since those days, the park has been used for open-air music festivals and other performances.
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