History surveyed from a hilltop

IT IS A SURPRISINGLY tiring climb to reach the summit of Primrose Hil, just north of London’s Regents Park. Yet, it is well worth making your way to the top, which is 210 feet above sea level and considerably high than much of the rest of London.

From its lofty peak, you get to see a wonderful panorama of central London and its environs. One thing struck me as I stood on the hill on New Years Day 2022. In one field of vision, without moving my eyes, I saw both St Pauls Cathedral and the Shard that stands next to London Bridge station. The former was consecrated in 1697 and the latter, the glass clad Shard was completed in 2013. Thus, in one view, I was able to see just over 300 years of history. And with all of the construction cranes that can be seen from aloft, it seems that history continues to be made, for better or for worse.

A long way from Wales

Primrose Hill is south of Hampstead village and southeast of Swiss Cottage. It is a delightful place to take exercise and has been home to several notable figures. From its summit at 210 feet above sea-level, it is possible to enjoy a superb panorama of London when weather permits. At its summit, a low concrete construction is inscribed with some words by the poet William Blake (1757-1827).

In the centre of the circular concrete platform at the summit of the hill, there is a round commemorative metal plaque surrounded with words in the Welsh language. It was placed to remember Iolo Morganwg (1747-1826), who was born in Wales as ‘Edward Williams’. He was a poet and antiquarian, who both wrote and collected poetry in the Welsh language. He had a great interest in preserving the literary and cultural heritage of his native land. His integrity as a scholar was somewhat undermined by the fact that he had forged several manuscripts that he claimed were of mediaeval origin. Nevertheless, he was involved in the early revival of Druidism. In 1792, he founded the ‘Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain’ (Gorsedd of Bards of the Island of Britain). The Gorsedd, which still meets today, is a society of poets, writers, musicians, artists, and other individuals, who have made  notable contributions to the Welsh nation, language and culture. Every year, the Gorsedd assembles at a festival of Welsh culture, now known as the Eisteddfod. According to the website of the Royal Parks, Primrose Hill was the site of the first ever Gorsedd, which was held on midsummer’s day, 21 June, 1792, a long way from Wales.