The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 6 St James's Park

St James's Park

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6. ST. JAMES'S PARK. STATIONS : St. James's Park and Victoria on the District Railway. Victoria Terminus. OMNIBUSES in Whitehall. St. James's Park, 93 acres in area, stretches from the Horse Guards Parade, on the east, to Buckingham Palace, on the west, and is bounded on the north by the Mall, on the south by Birdcage Walk. Charmingly laid out with trees and shrubs, and with an ornamental lake of five acres in the centre, situated in an aristocratic surrounding of palaces and government offices, and commanding a famous view in the direction of Westminster, this park is one of the most attractive in London. The lake, which has a uniform depth of about 4 feet, is spanned near its centre by a suspension-bridge erected in 1857, and is frequented by a variety of ornamental waterfowl, for which Duck Island, at the east end, is reserved as a breeding-place. The site of the park, which belonged to the leper hospital converted into St. James's Palace by Henry VIII. in 1532, was added by that monarch to big grounds at Whitehall and surrounded by a wall. It is first mentioned as a park in 1539. Under the early Stuarts it was the resort of the Court and other privileged persons. In 1649 Charles I. walked across the park on the morning of his execution from St. James's Palace to Whitehall. After the Restoration the park, though no longer the private property of the Crown, was remodelled and beautified by Charles II., and became a fashionable resort, where the King was frequently to be seen strolling unattended and feeding the waterfowl for which he established a 'volary' or aviary. The formerly scattered ponds were united to form a single piece of water, known from its shape as the 'canal.' This fashionable period continued for over a century, until the Green Park became the mode about 1786; through the reigns of Anne and the first two Georges 'here used to promenade for one or two hours after dinner the whole British world of gaiety, beauty, and splendour.' The modern aspect of the park, including the present shape of the lake, dates from the alterations in 1827-29 of the architect Nash. During the War the lake was emptied and its bed was occupied by temporary government buildings.