hyde park ~ the place to be seen
Hyde Park, Mayfair
"The district between Bond Street and Park Lane, a street about 3/4 M. in length, connecting the W. end of Piccadilly with Oxford street, is known as Mayfair, and is one of the most fashionable in London."
"Park Lane forms the eastern boundary of Hyde Park , which extends thence towards the W. as far as Kensington Gardens, and covers an area of 390 acres (with Kensington Gardens, 630 acres). Before the dissolution of the religious houses the site of the park belonged to the old manor of Hyde, one of the possessions of Westminster Abbey. The ground was laid out as a park under Henry VIII."
"At a later period the park was neglected, and was frequently the scene of duels [...]."
"Queen Caroline, wife of George II, caused the Serpentine, a sheet of artificial water to be formed. The Serpentine was originally fed by the Westbourne, a small stream coming from Bayswater, to the N., but is now supplied by the Thames."
"Hyde Park is one of the most frequented and lively scenes in London. It is surrounded by a handsome and lofty iron railing, and provided with nine carriage-entrances, besides a great number of gates for pedestrians, all of which are shut at midnight."
"The entrances most used are Hyde Park Corner at the S.E., and Cumberland Gate at the N.E. angle. At the latter rises the Marble Arch, a triumphal arch in the style of the Arch of Constantine[...]."
"No carts or wagons are allowed to enter Hyde Park, and cabs are admitted only to one roadway across the park near Kensington Gardens. The finest portion of the park, irrespectively of the magnificent groups of trees and expanses of grass for which English parks stand preeminent, is that near the Serpentine, where, in spring and summer, during the 'Season' the fashionable world rides, drives, or walks. The favourite hour for carriages is 5-7 p.m., and the fashionable drive is the broad, southern avenue, which leads from Hyde Park Corner to the W. , past the Albert Gate. Equestrians, on the other hand, appear, chiefly in the morning, but also in the afternoon, in Rotten Row, a track exclusively reserved for riders, running parallel to the drive on the N., and extending along the S. side of the Serpentine from Hyde Park Comer to Kensington Gate, a distance of about 1 1/2 M."
"The scene in this part of Hyde Park, on fine afternoons, is most interesting and imposing. In the Drive are seen unbroken files of elegant equipages and high-bred horses in handsome trappings, moving continually to and fro, presided over by sleek coachmen and powdered lackeys, and occupied by some of the most beautiful and exquisitely dressed women in the world. In the Row are numerous riders, who parade their spirited and glossy steeds before the admiring crowd sitting or walking at the sides. It has lately become 'the thing' to walk by the Row on Sundays, and on a fine day the 'Church Parade', between morning-service and luncheon (i.e. about 1-2 p.m.), is one of the best displays of dress and fashion in London."
(Excerpt from Baedeker's London and its Environs 1900, p. 286)