, in the possession of Mr Thomas Willan.
In the Middle Ages the land which became the future Regent's Park
was part of the manor of Tyburn, the property of Barking Abbey. In the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII appropriated the land, and it has been Crown property ever since, except for the period between 1649 and 1660. It was set aside as a hunting park, known as Marylebone Park, until 1649. It was then let out in small holdings for hay and dairy produce.
Marylebone Park Farm and its cow sheds had turned into a large enterprise.
It was previously part of a plan for improvement in 1793 produced by a Mr White, architect to the Duke of Portland. This was exhibited to Mr Fordyce, the
Surveyor-General, who had offered 1000 pounds to the successful author of a plan for the improvement of the estate. White, produced six engraved plans of the estate.
From 1786 to 1792, the additions and improvements in this neighbourhood were carried into effect in quick succession. Almost all of the Duke of Portland's property in Marylebone, except one farm, was let at that period on building leases, and the new buildings in the north-west part of the parish increased with equal rapidity.
When all leases expired in 1811, the Prince Regent (later King George IV) commissioned architect John Nash to create a park.
Mr J. T. Smith, in his 'Book for a Rainy Day,' written in 1772, gives us the following sketch of this locality during that period:-
My dear mother's declining state of health, urged my father to consult Dr. Armstrong, who recommended her to rise early and take milk at the cow-house. I was her companion then; and I well remember that, after we had passed Portland Chapel, there were fields all the way on either side. The highway was irregular, with here and there a bank of separation; and that when we had crossed the New Road, there was a turnstile at the entrance of a meadow, leading to a little old public-house, the sign of the 'Queen's Head and Artichoke;' it was much weather-beaten, though, perhaps, once a tolerably good portrait of Queen Elizabeth. . . . A little beyond a nest of small houses contiguous was another turnstile, opening also into fields, over which we walked to the 'Jew's Harp House Tavern and Tea-Gardens.' It consisted of a large upper room, ascended by an outside staircase, for the accommodation of the company on ball nights; and in this room large parties dined. At the south front of these premises was a large semi-circular enclosure with boxes for tea and ale-drinkers, guarded by deal-board soldiers between every box, painted in proper colours. In the centre of this opening were tables and seats placed for the smokers. On the eastern side of the house there was a trapball-ground; the western side served for a tennis-hall; there were also public and private skittle-grounds. Behind this tavern were several small tenements, with a pretty good portion of ground to each. On the south of the teagardens a number of summer-houses and gardens, fitted up in the truest cockney taste; for on many of these castellated edifices wooden cannons were placed; and at the entrance of each domain, of about the twentieth part of an acre, the old inscription of 'Steel-traps and spring-guns all over these grounds,' with an 'N.B.—Dogs trespassing, will be shot.' In these rural retreats the tenant was usually seen on Sunday evening in a bright scarlet waistcoat, ruffled shirt, and silver shoebuckles, comfortably taking his tea with his family, honouring a Seven-Dial friend with a nod on his peregrination to the famed Wells of Kilburn. William's Farm, the extent of my mother's walk, stood at about a quarter of a mile south; and I remember that the room in which she sat to take the milk was called 'Queen Elizabeth's Kitchen,' and that there was some stained glass in the windows.
Willan’s Farm, Marylebone Park, watercolour
Francis Nicholson (1753–1844)