Ian Visits’ Civil War Fort Error

This is what Ian Visits has to say re the Hyde Park Civil War Fort:

“Once you’re in Hyde Park head southwards again, until you get to the Joy of Life fountain. Installed in 1963 it replaced an earlier fountain that sits on top of a since filled in water reservoir under your feet. However, this is now one of the more interesting bits of the walk. What you might notice looking ahead is how rough the landscape now is. Although not conclusively proved, there is strong opinion that this is in fact the remains of the civil war wall that ran along here. The churned up soil shows up in John Rocque’s Map of London of 1746 as a distinctive land feature along here.”

Okay its not conclusively proved. But why is he then saying look how rough the landscape is and then showing a picture of the mounds in question, ‘its an impressive set of earthworks’ and how the actual wall has collapsed. He says:

“So, if the ground is dry, here’s a chance to not just walk the route, but walk on the actual wall itself. It’s a bit rough to walk over, but really do take the effort as its a chance to see just how large the wall probably was at the time. Even now in its collapsed state it’s an impressive set of earthworks.”

1960s earthworks are very impressive when touted as 1640s vintage!

Here’s his tweet linking to the article in question:

I have been through this before and clearly that hasn’t worked, so this time I am going to have to go further. This time I shall show maps and photographs that indeed do show NO mounds exist in the area in question. Call me a liar if you like, a numpty or whatever. I have disabilities and know too well how we are regularly the target for ridicule.

But I’m still going to do some proving to show the mounds are not English civil war eg 1640’s, but of recent creation.

Right. We starting off with the fact I wrote an investigation on the subject sometime ago. In that I showed a scene from a favourite photographer of mine, E. O. Hoppe. This is Stanhope Gate which is essentially the heart of the area in discussion. The land off The Ring (now the northbound Park Lane carriageway) to the west was in my opinion quite level and showing little sign of any possible mounds. I also referred to aerial pictures from the 1953 coronation which clearly show there were no mounds to be seen.

Perhaps the mounds had been made smaller, that would be a logical explanation for their no-show in Hoppe’s photograph. Okay I accept that. But then the aerial pictures I showed still need to be explained because there wasnt a mound in sight to be seen on these.

Never mind all that, we are going back in time for the first step in this new investigation. This is a link to Paul Sandby’s work on Hyde park in 1780. Sandby was an artist who lived on the edge of the park and knew the area quite well. He depicted it as accurately as he could, like many of his local views. He wasn’t someone who added any old shit to make his pictures look more fantastic. His picture (sadly I cant show but here’s the link again to the picture in the Royal Collection) shows the park at Grosvenor Gate looking south. There are some slight mounds, but very small indeed. They might simply be heaps of earth around the bases of the trees.

Its quite clear any remnants of the Civil War had been most likely been levelled by the late Eighteenth Century. They were probably done so because Hyde Park was becoming more manicured, a place where aesthetic beauty was more important. If we look at maps from the later part of the 18th C onwards the mounds in Hyde Park that were depicted by Rocque are no longer visible. Have a gander at Mapco’s collection of early London maps for a bit of enlightenment.

As one progresses through the maps it soon becomes evident the land any mounds would have been upon was taken over by the relatively modern The Ring (built around the 1820s) this very wide road is the grand parade that was built along the eastern side of Hyde Park. Clearly any possible trace that would have existed of any mounds had thus been built over. I mean even the early OS maps dont show a single mound anywhere!

Running ahead the 20th Century and this picture looking west from Stanhope Gate. This is 1944 during the Home Guard Salutation. I can’t show or even embed the image as its copyrighted, that’s why there’s a link instead. But its clear there’s little sign of any mounds said to have been present since the 1640’s.

Ian Visits says the ground by the fountain (the Joy of Life) is looking rough. Okay. Let’s look at this picture from around the 1930’s of the old fountain that was there before the Joy. Is the ground looking rough? Nope. Perhaps the mounds are right out of sight so this view therefore isn’t valid?

No worries. I’m not giving up!

grosvenor - Ian Visits' Civil War Fort Error
Grosvenor House, prob 1930s. The park’s very flat! No trace of mounds as shown on Rocque’s maps.

Obviously we need to go further south and we are near Stanhope Gate but this time we are actually on the park, right at the spot where there are mounds seen today. Apart from countless seats and completely flat parkland, I cant see any mounds that were present in 1935 on the black and white Getty picture seen below! Either the photographers of the time were cheats or someone’s deliberately altered Getty’s images….

The Getty picture shows the edge of the very wide walkway that once existed along this side of Hyde Park. Comparing old and modern maps, the former walkway alongside the Ring (now Park Lane) were sited where the mounds can be seen today. Take a look at the georeferenced maps and overlays from Scotland which are very accurate – and you’ll see what I mean. This shows absolutely that the mounds are of recent origin.

location1952 - Ian Visits' Civil War Fort Error
The position of the 1935 photographer on a 1952 map overlaid with a 2017 Bing map.

Hence the actual position the Getty photograph was taken is just a few feet away from the memorial. This is very important because it shows us the land the photographer is standing on is absolutely level, where now we have what are claimed to be civil war mounds.

Further it tells us we should be standing near to the top of the mound right by the memorial in order to procure a similar view to that taken in 1935. The Achilles statue is at the very centre of the pictures, both 1935 and 2017 (though its harder to see the statue today because of trees.)

This I have done. And the surprise? There are mounds today where there were none to be seen in 1935.

IMG 1189 - Ian Visits' Civil War Fort Error
This pic is about where I think the the 1935 picture was taken. There are loads of mounds where the park was once flat.

IMG 6525 - Ian Visits' Civil War Fort Error
If we stand where the western edge of the old walkway was, that’s roughly on the very top of one of the touted civil war mounds. Yet in the 1935 view the whole area is as flat as an ironing board! Look at how much the land has been raised up from road level!

If we go back to the georeferenced maps, and switch to the Open Street Map overlay, these clearly shows the mounds in question. Switch back to the OS map overlay and what do we see. The mounds are actually sited upon where the old wide walkway (or parade) ran along this side of Hyde Park. So there couldn’t have been any mounds if the walkway/parade had been there in the first place!

The former walkway was removed under the roads improvement scheme in the sixties. Obviously the mounds were put in place of the walkway. If these mounds had really been 1640s vintage I would have been proud to present them as such. But they are clearly of sixties origin and people should stop touting such fallacies.

To be even more doubly sure, this picture (which I mentioned in my first investigation on the matter) from 1949 shows absolutely no mounds anywhere north, south, or west of Stanhope Gate! If one is a registered user they can zoom in to examine it very carefully just in case there’s any doubt. Here’s a section of the image shown below:

1949pic - Ian Visits' Civil War Fort Error
Please do let me know if any civil war mounds can be spotted in this picture! As far as I can see its absolutely flat!

From what I can deduct, this means even ‘English Civil War Archaeology,’ written by Peter Harrington, and a leading expert on the subject, must also be in doubt with its claims upon the Hyde Park fortifications.

As I have said before the mounds probably come from the 1960s work to rebuild the roads between Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch. That wasn’t just any old roads project, at the time it was one of London’s biggest road building projects. Quite a few acres of Hyde Park were given over to the new roads system and the boundary of the park moved westward in many places.

After evaluating matters and checking maps and photographs, and working out the schema behind the Hyde Park Corner – Marble Arch improvement works, it seems extra parkland was added between Stanhope Gate (the Dorchester) and Mount Street (ironically) in order to make up for the loss of park elsewhere. In the process the old parade was dug up, the park’s boundary moved eastwards and these mounds were created which served to reduce the impact of the then new road system (1960s) upon the park itself.

In a nutshell, previously there was an extremely wide parade (lined with trees down the middle) and then a six lane carriageway (The Ring) – that is before counting in the then much wider centre islands (and not forgetting the footways along both sides of these islands) before meeting the southbound carriageway (the old four lane Park Lane.)

After the works were finished the new northbound carriageway of four lanes had been set much tighter against the old Park Lane (the southbound carriageway.) This allowed Hyde Park to expand eastwards to about where the second lane of The Ring once was. That was done to compensate for the loss of something like 240 acres of parkland elsewhere.

In the process that ensued, the line of trees down the middle of the wide parade can still be seen today, running alongside what are claimed to be these civil war earthworks. It indicates what once stood beneath these supposed civil war earthworks was in fact the aforementioned tarmacadam parade of 19th Century vintage.

Its quite difficult to get round one’s head when it comes to the truth so let’s not be not too cavalier about it. At the same time there’s nothing puritanical about wanting the truth. Have a good day 🙂

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