Nash's London
Sir John Summerson


Sir John Summerson, 1981

©Monica Pidgeon

John Nash is famous for his creation of Regent's Park and Regent Street in London. He not only made the designs but conducted the whole enterprise from beginning to end. He was, of course, an architect. But to pigeon-hole him in a profession is to belittle him. He was a man of extraordinarily wide vision and multiple capacity. That vision was not Utopian; it was intensely realistic. Nash was only interested in the possible; but what was possible in his mind was often nothing but a vague foreshadowing in the minds of others. Physically, Nash was short, snub-nosed, bullet-headed - a tough little man who could be delightful company, good-humoured, a wonderful host. But, at the same time, a man ruthlessly intent on his objectives. His genius worked most power- fully when he was in Opposition. Obstruction provoked and stimulated him. It brought into play that unique combination of courage and invention which was the making of his career - and you might say, the making of Regency London.


Nash's London Superimposed On Modern Tourist Map

©Monica Pidgeon

On a modern map,Nash's performance is easily identified. Going from north to south you have: Regent's Park and the Regent's Canal; then Regent Street, with Oxford Circus, the curve of the Quadrant, Piccadilly Circus, Waterloo Place, Pall Mall East, Trafalgar Square; if you like, from Waterloo Place, down the Duke of York's steps to the Mall with the Carlton House Terraces and finally Buckingham Palace. That is Nash's London as he shaped it between the years 1812 and 1832, starting in his sixtieth year and ending in his eightieth. Only one architect before his time had proposed a London re-planning on this scale and that was Wren. Wren's proposals failed. Nash's succeeded.

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