English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

London Royal Parks


London's Royal Parks

Both phrases are used, and I understand that "London" in the first example is acting as an adjective. Whereas in the second, "London", is used as a proper noun and therefore has an apostrophe.

However, which form is the older? I suspect that it is the second and if that is the case, why do only two Royal Parks: St. James's and The Regent's Park, have an apostrophe while four Royal Parks do not? In other words: Why not Hyde's Park, Richmond's Park, Greenwich's Park and Kensington's Gardens?

Please, no answers with:

"The Royal Parks in London"


"The Royal Parks of London."

and claiming the above are "correct" because inanimate nouns and geographic names do not take the apostrophe. That's false. On dates I found this on Wikipedia:

Place names in the United States do not use the possessive apostrophe on federal maps and signs. The United States Board on Geographic Names, which has responsibility for formal naming of municipalities and geographic features, has deprecated the use of possessive apostrophes since 1890 so as not to show ownership of the place. Only five names of natural features in the U.S. are officially spelled with a genitive apostrophe (one example being Martha's Vineyard).

I'd also be interested to know which form is considered "preferable" by linguists, grammarians etc... London Royal Parks or London's Royal Parks and which is more common in everyday speech.

share|improve this question
When referring to them in general, people normally call them "the royal parks". They have a website, here royalparks.org.uk You might be able to get some more information from it. – Tristan Jun 12 '13 at 11:39
@Tristan Thanks, but actually it was that very website which prompted me to ask my question in the first place. Admittedly I didn't read all the website but I remember being struck by the fact that not once were the expressions: London's Royal Parks or London Royal parks used. – Mari-Lou A Jun 13 '13 at 16:58
Mari-Lou A, maybe it's not necessary to say London's Royal Parks or London Royal parks because people normally just call them "the royal parks". – Tristan Jun 14 '13 at 13:14
up vote 2 down vote accepted

To a large extent, this is a matter of idiom.

In Hyde Park, Richmond Park, Greenwich Park and Kensington Gardens, the first words are all place-names.

Hyde Park was enclosed by Henry VIII when he obtained the manor of Hyde from the canons of Westminster Abbey in 1536. Wikipedia

The names of the Parks are their proper names, and it would be almost completely alien to use a possessive. A rather contrived example might be

Greenwich's Park has unrivalled architecture

...but that would only happen if it were to be written by Greenwich Borough Council extolling a local virtue over other Parks. It just isn't done.

With regard to London or London's, it's only used if it's necessary to distinguish the Parks in London from others, in much the same way as the Greenwich example. Either form might be used; it's a stylistic choice.

London's Royal Parks receive more visitors than those outside the capital.
The London Royal Parks ensure that it is the greenest city of its size in the world1.

There are English place names which include an apostrophe (for example Pratt's Bottom) but the Royal Parks are not among them.

1 London Councils

share|improve this answer
Thank you, your answer makes a lot of sense. Could you tell me which expression is currently more in use among Londoners? Or if "The Royal Parks in/of London" is indeed more popular? – Mari-Lou A Jun 12 '13 at 7:37
Again, it's idiomatic. "The Royal Parks in London receive more visitors than those in other parts of the country" (note the two uses of in); "The Royal Parks of London are more beautiful than those created by the Danish Royal Family." I'll have to leave it to linguists to explain why one is preferred over the other in those sentences! – Andrew Leach Jun 12 '13 at 7:46
Without the article, as Andrew illustrates above, the apostrophised version would be far more idiomatic. And if the parks in question had not been mentioned before, or were not being contrasted with others, I'm sure London's Royal Parks would be the clear favourite. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 12 '13 at 7:49
Thank you! I'll wait to see if someone else wants to take up the gauntlet before awarding you the green tick! – Mari-Lou A Jun 12 '13 at 7:50

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.