The Englischer Garten, German for "English Garden", is a large public park in the centre of Munich, Germany, stretching from the city centre to the northeastern city limits. It was created in 1789 by Sir Benjamin Thompson (1753–1814), later Count Rumford (Reichsgraf von Rumford) and extended and improved by his successors, Reinhard von Werneck (1757–1842) and Friedrich Ludwig von Sckell (1750–1823), who had advised on the project from the beginning. With an area of 3.7 km2 (1.4 sq mi) (370 ha or 910 acres), the Englischer Garten is one of the world's largest urban public parks, larger than New York's Central Park but smaller than London's Richmond Park. The name refers to the style of gardening; the term English garden is used outside of the English speaking world to refer to the style of informal landscape gardening which was popular in the United Kingdom from the mid 18th century to the early 19th century, and is particularly associated with Capability Brown.
When the Bavarian electoral prince Maximilian III Joseph, the last Wittelsbach ruler, died childless in 1777, the land passed to the Palatinate archduke and elector Carl Theodor. The new ruler preferred his home in Mannheim and tried unsuccessfully to trade this unwanted inheritance for the Austrian Netherlands. Understandably the people of Munich returned his dislike. In this unhappy atmosphere, Carl Theodor devoted much attention to improvements in the city. Among other things, he created an art gallery in the northern arcades of the Residence's Hofgarten ("Court Garden") and made both the garden and the gallery open to the public (the former in 1780, the latter in 1781)
As the Hofgarten was the only public park in Munich, there was a clear need for something new; but this was not the primary motivation for the creation of the English Garden. Rather it was part of a series of military reforms being pursued under the guidance of Sir Benjamin Thompson, who would later be made Count Rumford and Bavarian war minister. Born in Massachusetts, Thompson had served on the English side in the American Revolutionary War and after the British defeat had moved to Europe, where in 1784 he had entered Carl Theodor's service. In 1788 Thompson proposed that in peacetime the majority of soldiers should be given leave to do other, civilian, work, such as farming and gardening. In February 1789, Carl Theodor decreed that military gardens should be laid out in each garrison city. The gardens were meant to provide the soldiers with good agricultural knowledge and serve as recreation areas, but they were also supposed to be accessible to the public. The planned location for the Munich gardens was the area north of the Schwabinger city gate. This had been the hunting grounds of the Wittelsbach rulers since the Middle Ages, and was thus known as the Hirschanger or Hirschau (both names mean "deer enclosure"), though the latter came to be transferred to the "Lower Hirschau", the northernmost part of the grounds, originally not included in the garden. A more densely wooded part to the south was known as the Hirschangerwald. The whole area had been subject to flooding from Munich's river, the Isar, a little to the east. This problem was soon removed by the construction of a river wall in 1790, which became known as the "Riedl-Damm" after the engineer Anton von Riedl, who had supervised its construction. The construction of the military garden was begun in July 1789, and an area of 800 by slightly less than 200 metres was quickly made ready for cultivation. But soon the idea was extended to the creation of a public park, of which the military garden should be only a small part. On August 13, 1789, Carl Theodor published a decree, devoting the Hirschanger to the amusement of the people of Munich. To advise on the project, the Royal Gardener Friedrich Ludwig Sckell (von Sckell from his knighthood in 1808) who had studied landscape gardening in England and had previously worked for Carl Theodor at Schwetzingen, had been summoned to Munich earlier in August. Various associated projects were made part of the park development, among them the "Elevengarten", a garden for the pupils of the recently formed military academy, a "Schweizerey" (cattle farm), "Schäfery" (sheep farm) and "Ackerbauschule" (arable farming school) to improve farming techniques, and a "Vihearzneyschule" (veterinary school) for the treatment of cattle diseases. Most of these projects did not long survive the creation of the park, but the veterinary school went on to become what is now the Tierärztliche Fakultät (Veterinary Faculty) of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität. The gateway from 1790 can be seen at the Veterinärstraße entrance to the garden. The park was initially named "Theodors Park", but it very quickly became known by the descriptive name "The English Garden". By May, 1790 sufficient progress had been made to allow Carl Theodor to make an inspection tour; but it was first in the spring of 1792 that the park was officially opened to the approximately 40,000 citizens of Munich.