Often, protests and debates regarding free speech are not confined to single locations and instead burst out into streets and across landscapes.
Nestled in the North-East corner of Hyde Park though, you will find a spot that is dedicated solely to the staging of vocal outbursts, where everyone is welcome to take part or listen as individuals voice their opinions on modern society and other contemporary issues.
Speaker’s corner is one of the most iconic parts of Hyde Park, so when you are walking through and staying nearby it is well worth a visit.
After spending the afternoon engaging in an open debate and marvelling at the confidence of the public speakers on display, head back to your room at the Grand Royale Hyde Park for a quieter and more relaxing evening.
What is Speaker’s Corner?
Located on the North-East edge of Hyde Park nearest to Marble Arch and Oxford Street, Speaker’s Corner is a designated area where people congregate to listen to speeches and debates. The area came to prominence between 1196 and 1783 when gallows were installed for public executions. Everyone that was chosen to be put to their death here would have the opportunity to make a final speech about their lives and circumstances. Some confessed to their wrongdoings while others insisted that they were innocent and criticised the authorities that had put them there.
As morbid as it sounds, the general public were able to buy tickets to attend these events. Often the crowds would become rowdy, with brawls and debates breaking out frequently. It was eventually decided that the public executions were causing too much mayhem and they were abolished and moved inside Newgate prison.
The executions left a mark on the area though, and it quickly became known as a place of protest and public gathering.
A stroll through Hyde Park and a visit to Speaker’s Corner is a great winter’s day activity made better by the thought of your gorgeous room at Grand Royale Hyde Park that you know you can return to once it gets too cold.
Which groups have spoken out here?
Speaker’s Corner has played host to a number of iconic debates by groups and individuals standing up for their rights and those of the public. The suffragettes fought for votes for women here between 1906 and 1914. On Women’s Day in 1908, a total of 250,000 women marched to Hyde Park to hear a number of different speakers. Despite the police imposing bans on the Women’s Social and Political Unions from meeting in the park, the suffragettes continued to do so.
In 2003, a large rally was held here that opposed military action in Iraq and it is estimated that between 750,000 and two million people attended. Speakers included actor Tim Robbins and human rights campaigner, Bianca Jagger.
Once you’ve walked through this picturesque part of the park and envisioned all of the iconic speakers that were once here, retreat back to a Hyde Park Hotels London for a hot bubble bath and a delicious dinner.
When should you visit?
Typically, every Sunday after 12pm there will be some form of speech or debate held at Speaker’s Corner. Whether you are reserved or vocal with your opinions, it’s a great opportunity to gain an insight into the vast array of social and political perspectives that London has to offer.