Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building which you might have passed without noticing.
Cumberland Gate Lodge on North Carriage Drive must rank as London’s most nomadic building. Designed by architect Decimus Burton, it started its adventurous life on the roundabout at the end of Oxford Street and at the time could possibly have been called New Lodge.
[I]n 1851 it was taken down to make way for Marble Arch which had stood outside the east flank of Buckingham Palace, too narrow to accommodate the large carriages of Royalty the arch was moved to its present location. By 1857 Cumberland Gate Lodge had become a rather ornate public convenience for Park Lane; a function is was to provide for the well-heeled for over one hundred years.
A print [above] by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd for a series of drawings of London, originally produced for Shepherd’s ‘Metropolitan Improvements; or London in the Nineteenth Century’ titled One of the other New Lodges, Hyde Park, shows a remarkable similarity with Cumberland Gate Lodge. With its classical composition of central door flanked by Doric columns and elegant proportions it could come straight from a scene in a Jane Austin adaption.
The word ‘Hide’ was used many times in the Doomsday Book and means the amount of land needed to support a family, this gave way to some confusion – how fertile was the land, how big the family and so on. In due course it came to mean 49 hectares. Being nearly three times the size, at 140 hectares, naturally the park adopted the name and changed it to Hyde. Since Charles II’s reign it has been a public park and once was the place for the fashionable to walk, ride or drive their carriages to show off their new clothes.
Keeping Hyde Park and its smaller siblings, Green Park and St. James’s Park requires considerable skill and dedication. So when a disused public convenience became available in 1961 relocating it to its present location to house the assistant manager of St. James’s Park seemed the perfect solution.
At some time in its adventurous life Cumberland Gate Lodge’s elegant proportions have been ruined with a brutally heavy entablature needed to accommodate a clock (now not working) and as a final crime again fashion unsightly uPVC windows adorn its frontage.