Speaker’s Corner has been a unique and important part of Hyde Park for over a century. While it’s spawned countless replicas around the world, the original Speaker’s Corner in London has a special history and character all of its own. When you’re visiting the city, it’s a great idea to check out hotels near Hyde Park to make sure that you can really experience this memorable part of the capital.
Read on to find out more about Speaker’s Corner, and get an insight into its fascinating story.
Speaker’s Corner has a dark history
Speaker’s Corner represents the importance of free speech, the right to protest and share your views on any lawful subject, and has long been a vital part of the free spirit of the city. The corner was formally established in 1872 when an act of parliament agreed to set aside a corner of the park for public speaking. If you’re staying in Hyde Park accommodation, it’s easy to find the location of the corner, as it can be found in the north-east part of the park. While there are plenty of signs to lead the way, often, it’s easiest just to listen out for the current speakers and to follow the crowds.
Though the Corner’s formal start began in the 19th century, the origins of the corner have a much darker history behind it. Close by to where the corner now stands, you would have once found one of the capital’s most infamous gallows – the Tyburn Gallows, where criminals condemned to execution met their end.
Before they met their death however, all the condemned had a chance to make one last speech, where they could confess, accuse the authorities of injustice, or make any last declarations. Speeches and executions would often attract quite a crowd, with Londoners lining up to buy tickets, and often resulting in a rowdy audience. While the gallows were eventually moved away to another site, the spirit of Hyde Park as a place for open speech remained in place.
The Corner had a rowdy start
Before the Speaker’s Corner was formally established, it was often a popular spot for marchers and protestors in the city to end up, which meant that Hyde Park would often see some major crowds. But in 1866, when the protesting members of the Reform League found that the park had been locked up, demonstrators responded by tearing up the railings, followed by three days of rioting.
The following year saw an even bigger protest, with over 150,000 people marching to Hyde Park, and the government finally conceded with the Parks Regulation Act, which allowed people to meet and speak freely.
Nowadays, the corner is less likely to attract riots and violent protests, but you will probably find a variety of passionate and interesting speakers talking on a variety of current topics, as well as asking all the timeless questions we all wonder about. With some great London hotel offers on right now, it’s the perfect time to stoke your curiosity and listen in to what they have to say.
It’s attracted some pretty important speakers
The Corner has always been an important symbol of free speech due to its origins and central London location, and as a result, it’s attracted some of the world’s biggest thinkers and speakers over the decades.
At the start of the 20th century, the Corner – and Hyde Park itself – was an essential site for the suffragette movement, and meetings were regularly held here. During Women’s Day in 1908, the park saw 250,000 women marching down to the park to see 20 different speakers. The site has also seen other noteworthy historical figures from the last century, including the political writer, George Orwell, and politicians such as Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.
Great speakers also attract fantastic crowds, and it’s not surprising to encounter some famous faces in the audience too. In 2003, when protesters marched against the Iraq war, you’d have found eminent actors and actresses and other cultural figures, both speaking up and listening, alongside the rest of the audience.
Today you’re still likely to come across a variety of impassioned and articulate speakers hitting the soapbox on any given day. Check out some of London’s best hotel offers to secure a great deal to visit the city, and give yourself plenty of time to listen in.
You’ll hear speakers talk on every subject
As long as you’re within the law, anyone is free to speak about any subject at all at Speaker’s Corner. That can vary from the profound to the hilarious, and you’ll often find witty, funny speakers who can talk eloquently on important contemporary issues with a pinch of humour.
The audience is free to join in too, and the regular heckler and supporters are part of what makes the atmosphere of the Corner so unique and special. Even if you don’t feel like piping up, it’s always interesting to listen in to what’s being said around you.
Speaker’s Corner is more than just a corner
While you’ll usually find speakers convened around the area commonly known as Speaker’s Corner, the speaking area of Hyde Park is actually much larger. You’ll see a sign marking the area, and usually, large crowds of listeners and hecklers gathered around various speakers.
As it has done throughout its history, Speaker’s Corner attracts outspoken and passionate speakers from all over the world, of all ages, genders and faiths. Nowadays, you’re also likely to hear a variety of languages in the mix, reflecting the more diverse makeup of the city.
While the Corner is always a stimulating and exciting place to visit, if it ever gets a bit too much, there is always plenty of space for calm and contemplation around the rest of the park. With plenty of nearby Hyde Park accommodation, it’s a great idea to gather your thoughts and reflect on what you might have heard, in some of the more serene areas of the park.