Serpentine (lake)
The Serpentine is a 28-acre (11 ha) recreational lake in Hyde Park, London
Hyde Park, London
Hyde Park is one of the largest parks in central London, United Kingdom, and one of the Royal Parks of London, famous for its Speakers' Corner.The park is divided in two by the Serpentine...

, England, created in 1730. Although it is common to refer to the entire body of water as the Serpentine, strictly the name refers only to the eastern half of the lake. Serpentine Bridge, which marks the boundary between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
Kensington Gardens
Kensington Gardens, once the private gardens of Kensington Palace, is one of the Royal Parks of London, lying immediately to the west of Hyde Park. It is shared between the City of Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The park covers an area of 111 hectares .The open spaces...

, also marks the western boundary of the Serpentine; the long and narrow western half of the lake is known as the Long Water. The Serpentine takes its name from its snakelike, curving shape.

Geography of the lake

Originally the lake was fed by the River Westbourne
River Westbourne
The River Westbourne is a river in London, England. It flows from Hampstead down through Hyde Park to Sloane Square and into the River Thames at Chelsea...

 entering at the Italian Garden at the north-western end of the Long Water. The Westbourne ceased to provide the water for the Serpentine in 1834, as the river had become polluted, and it is now supplied from water pumped from the Thames. The Long Water runs south-east from this point to Serpentine Bridge, where the lake curves sharply to the east. At the eastern end, water flows out of the lake via a sluice
A sluice is a water channel that is controlled at its head by a gate . For example, a millrace is a sluice that channels water toward a water mill...

 in the dam, forming a small ornamental waterfall. Historically, the river flowed due south from this point marking the boundary between Westminster
Westminster is an area of central London, within the City of Westminster, England. It lies on the north bank of the River Thames, southwest of the City of London and southwest of Charing Cross...

 and Kensington
Kensington is a district of west and central London, England within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. An affluent and densely-populated area, its commercial heart is Kensington High Street, and it contains the well-known museum district of South Kensington.To the north, Kensington is...

, but since 1850, the river has been diverted into a culvert, running underground to join the Thames near Chelsea Bridge
Chelsea Bridge
Chelsea Bridge is a bridge over the River Thames in west London, connecting Chelsea on the north bank to Battersea on the south bank. There have been two Chelsea Bridges, on the site of what was an ancient ford....


The lake has a maximum depth of 40 feet (12 m).

There are two lakeside restaurants and various recreational facilities on the shore of the Serpentine, as well as the Serpentine Gallery
Serpentine Gallery
The Serpentine Gallery is an art gallery in Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, central London. It focuses on modern and contemporary art. The exhibitions, architecture, education and public programmes attract approximately 750,000 visitors a year...

 and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain
Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain
The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain is a memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales. It was designed to express Diana's spirit and love of children. It is located in the southwest corner of Hyde Park in London, just south of the Serpentine Lake and east of the Serpentine Gallery...



In 1730 Queen Caroline
Caroline of Ansbach
Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach was the queen consort of King George II of Great Britain.Her father, John Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, was the ruler of a small German state...

, wife of George II
George II of Great Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

, ordered the damming of the River Westbourne
River Westbourne
The River Westbourne is a river in London, England. It flows from Hampstead down through Hyde Park to Sloane Square and into the River Thames at Chelsea...

 in Hyde Park as part of a general redevelopment of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. At that time, the Westbourne formed eleven natural ponds in the park. During the 1730s, the lake filled to its current size and shape. The redevelopment was carried out by Royal Gardener Charles Bridgeman
Charles Bridgeman
Charles Bridgeman was an English garden designer in the onset of the naturalistic landscape style. Although he was a key figure in the transition of English garden design from the Anglo-Dutch formality of patterned parterres and avenues to a freer style that incorporated formal, structural and...

, who dammed the Westbourne to create the artificial lake, and also dug a large pond in the centre of Kensington Gardens (the Round Pond) to be a focal point for pathways in the park.

At the time of construction, artificial lakes were long and straight. The Serpentine was one of the earliest artificial lakes designed to appear natural, and was widely imitated in parks and gardens nationwide.

The lake achieved notoriety in December 1816 when Harriet Westbrook, the pregnant wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets and is critically regarded as among the finest lyric poets in the English language. Shelley was famous for his association with John Keats and Lord Byron...

, was found drowned in the Serpentine having left a suicide note addressed to her father, sister and husband. Shelley married Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin
Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley was a British novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus . She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley...

 less than two weeks later.

The lake formed a focal point for the 1814 celebrations commemorating the British victory at Trafalgar
Battle of Trafalgar
The Battle of Trafalgar was a sea battle fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French Navy and Spanish Navy, during the War of the Third Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars ....

, and of the 1851 Great Exhibition, with the Crystal Palace
The Crystal Palace
The Crystal Palace was a cast-iron and glass building originally erected in Hyde Park, London, England, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. More than 14,000 exhibitors from around the world gathered in the Palace's of exhibition space to display examples of the latest technology developed in...

 standing on its southern shore. Following the introduction of more stringent regulations to protect the environment in the park, the relocation of the Crystal Palace, and the construction of the nearby Albertopolis
Albertopolis is the area centred on South Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, London, England, between Cromwell Road and Kensington Gore, which contains a large number of educational and cultural sites, including:*Imperial College London...

 complex of museums and exhibitions, large-scale events ceased to take place on the banks of the Serpentine. However, it was the location for the 1977 Silver Jubilee
Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II
The Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II marked the 25th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other Commonwealth realms...

 celebrations, and will serve as a venue for the 2012 Olympics.

In the 1820s, the park was extensively redesigned by Decimus Burton
Decimus Burton
Decimus Burton was a prolific English architect and garden designer, He is particularly associated with projects in the classical style in London parks, including buildings at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and London Zoo, and with the layout and architecture of the seaside towns of Fleetwood and...

. At the same time, John Rennie built the Serpentine Bridge to carry the newly built West Carriage Drive along the boundary between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, formally dividing the lake into the Serpentine (east) and the Long Water (west).

The Long Water

At the northern end of the Long Water are five fountains surrounded by classical statuary and sculpture, the area is officially known as the Italian Gardens. A large bronze memorial to Edward Jenner
Edward Jenner
Edward Anthony Jenner was an English scientist who studied his natural surroundings in Berkeley, Gloucestershire...

, the developer of modern vaccination
Vaccination is the administration of antigenic material to stimulate the immune system of an individual to develop adaptive immunity to a disease. Vaccines can prevent or ameliorate the effects of infection by many pathogens...

, dominates the area; it was originally located in Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is a public space and tourist attraction in central London, England, United Kingdom. At its centre is Nelson's Column, which is guarded by four lion statues at its base. There are a number of statues and sculptures in the square, with one plinth displaying changing pieces of...

 in 1858, but four years later was moved to its present site. In recent years there has been an ongoing campaign for the memorial to be moved to the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square.

The Long Water is surrounded by dense overgrowth for much of its length, and is relatively undeveloped in comparison to the Serpentine. Due to its undisturbed nature, it forms a significant wildlife habitat and is designated as a bird sanctuary. A 2005 survey showed it as home to 90 species of moth alone. On the western bank of the Long Water, deliberately hidden in foliage, is a bronze sculpture of Peter Pan
Peter Pan
Peter Pan is a character created by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie . A mischievous boy who can fly and magically refuses to grow up, Peter Pan spends his never-ending childhood adventuring on the small island of Neverland as the leader of his gang the Lost Boys, interacting with...

 by George Frampton
George Frampton
Sir George James Frampton, RA was a notable British sculptor and leading member of the New Sculpture movement.-Early life and career:...

. The "real world" elements of the play and novel were set in the park and in the surrounding streets.


A rectangular swimming area on the southern bank was opened in 1930. It is known as Lansbury
George Lansbury
George Lansbury was a British politician, socialist, Christian pacifist and newspaper editor. He was a Member of Parliament from 1910 to 1912 and from 1922 to 1940, and leader of the Labour Party from 1932 to 1935....

's Lido, and is partitioned off from the rest of the lake by a perimeter of buoys. There is a fee for entering the lido, and changing rooms are available. It is normally open only in the summer, typically between 10:00 and 17:30, although members of the Serpentine Swimming Club may swim all the year round from 06:00 to 09:30. The Peter Pan Christmas Day Race is only open to regular participants of the Saturday swimming competitions during the winter.

The Serpentine will be used as the venue for the Open Water Marathon (10 km) Swim and the swimming leg of the triathlon at the London 2012 Olympics
2012 Summer Olympics
The 2012 Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the "London 2012 Olympic Games", are scheduled to take place in London, England, United Kingdom from 27 July to 12 August 2012...


The Peter Pan Cup

Since 1864, the Serpentine has hosted a 100 yard (91.4 m) swimming competition every Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 morning at 9 am. In 1904, author J. M. Barrie
J. M. Barrie
Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM was a Scottish author and dramatist, best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan. The child of a family of small-town weavers, he was educated in Scotland. He moved to London, where he developed a career as a novelist and playwright...

 awarded the Peter Pan Cup to the winner of the race, a tradition which has continued ever since. Due to the hazards of swimming in freezing water, the race is open only to members of the Serpentine Swimming Club.


Rowing boats are available for hire. Until the 1970s pleasure boats were able to use the whole lake. Since that time The Long Water has been separated from The Serpentine by chains and is no longer accessible. In 2002, the Serpentine hosted the World Rowing Sprints, in which several international crews raced over 547 yards (500 m).

The Solarshuttle

In the summer months, the Solarshuttle solar powered boat ferries passengers between the northern and southern banks of the Serpentine. At 48 feet (14 m) long and carrying 42 passengers, it is the largest wholly solar powered passenger boat currently operating in the UK.


London's Holocaust Memorial
Holocaust memorials
A number of organizations, museums and monuments are intended to serve as memorials to the Holocaust and its millions of victims. They include:-Argentina:* Museo del Holocausto de Buenos Aires -Australia:...

 is situated at the eastern end of the Serpentine, immediately beyond the dam, and a memorial on the northern shore of the lake commemorates the Norwegian Defence Force
Norwegian Defence Force
The Norwegian Armed Forces numbers about 23,000 personnel, including civilian employees. According to mobilisation plans , the strength during full mobilisation would be approximately 83,000 combatant personnel. Norway has mandatory military service for men and voluntary service for women...

s' role in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain
Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain
The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain is a memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales. It was designed to express Diana's spirit and love of children. It is located in the southwest corner of Hyde Park in London, just south of the Serpentine Lake and east of the Serpentine Gallery...

 is sited on the southern shore of the Serpentine near West Carriage Drive. It currently receives approximately one million visitors per year.

There is another fountain, 'The Diana Fountain', on the north side of the Serpentine Road, at the north-east corner of the lake. This, much earlier, fountain is dedicated to the Roman Goddess. It is much eroded and has not worked for many years. It now resembles a bird-bath.

Ranger's Lodge is one of a group of buildings to the north of the lake. The most prominent of these is the 1903 Metropolitan Police Station ('AH'). Hyde Park is/was the only Royal Park policed by this force. The 'Met' were first housed, from 1867–1903 in 'The Magazine' at the north end of the Serpentine Bridge. Policing was,in the 1970s, passed to the Royal Parks Constabulary
Royal Parks Constabulary
The Royal Parks Constabulary was the police force formerly responsible for the Royal Parks in London and a number of other locations in Greater London, England and Edinburgh, Scotland; it now only exists in Scotland as part of Historic Scotland....

. Following the RPC's abolition in 2004, it is now the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service
Metropolitan Police Service
The Metropolitan Police Service is the territorial police force responsible for Greater London, excluding the "square mile" of the City of London which is the responsibility of the City of London Police...

's Royal Parks Operational Command Unit, although as with the rest of the MPS, command and control of day-to-day incidents has been centralised to the Metcall
Central Communications Command
The Central Communications Command is the largest Operational Command Unit OCU of London's Metropolitan Police Service. It sits within Territorial Policing, the business group within the Met that is responsible for Borough Policing and public contact...


On the northern side of the lake, opposite The Lido, is a grass amphitheatre called 'The Cockpit'. It was here that The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are an English rock band, formed in London in April 1962 by Brian Jones , Ian Stewart , Mick Jagger , and Keith Richards . Bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts completed the early line-up...

 played their 'Stones In The Park' concert in 1969. There is a film of the event and, behind the stage, both the Lido and people in rowing boats can be seen. This area can also be seen in the film, 'Genevieve'. It is the starting point for the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.

The Serpentine Gallery
Serpentine Gallery
The Serpentine Gallery is an art gallery in Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, central London. It focuses on modern and contemporary art. The exhibitions, architecture, education and public programmes attract approximately 750,000 visitors a year...

, one of London's leading art galleries, is not in fact located on the Serpentine, but in Kensington Gardens, on the western side of West Carriage Drive immediately south of the Long Water.

External links

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