Like Regent's Park, this area was once part of a great chase, appropriated by Henry VIII. Primrose Hill, with its clear rounded skyline, was purchased from Eton College in 1841 to extend the parkland available to the poor people of north London for open-air recreation.
At one time this was a place where duels were fought and prize-fights took place. The hill has always had a somewhat lively reputation, with Mother Shipton making threatening prophesies about what would happen if the city sprawl was allowed to encroach on its boundaries.
At the top of the hill is one of the six protected
viewpoints in London. The summit is almost 63 metres above sea level and the
trees are kept low so as not to obscure the view. In winter, Hampstead can be
seen to the northeast. The summit features a York stone edging with a William Blake inscription, it reads:
I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill.
An oak tree, known as "Shakespeare's Tree" stands on the slope of the hill, planted in 1864 to mark the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth. A large crowd of workmen marched through London to watch the planting ceremony in 1864. A replacement tree was re-planted in 1964.