The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 2 Whitehall

Whitehall 1

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Near the corner to the left as we approach Whitehall from Charing Cross, at No. 16, is 'Cox's,' the well-known military agents and bankers. In Craig's Court, immediately to the south of Cox's, Harrington House, an interesting house of 1702, still lingers. Farther on, on the same side, opens Great Scotland Yard (now a mere side-street), which derives its name from a mansion once occupied by the kings of Scotland and their ambassadors during their residence in London. Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren had official quarters in the 'Yard' as Surveyors of the Crown Work, and John Milton resided here when Latin secretary to the Council of State (1649-52). In more recent times the name of Scotland Yard became so familiar as the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police that it was transferred to the new police headquarters opened in 1891 (New Scotland Yard). The Chief Recruiting Depot for London is now situated here. We have now reached Whitehall proper. On the west side of the street is an interesting series of public offices, dating from Georgian times. The first of these is the Old Admiralty, built by Ripley about 1725, with a tall classic portico in a small courtyard masked from the street ('deservedly veiled,' remarks Horace Walpole) by an attractive stone screen designed by the brothers Adam in 1760, This was the Admiralty of Nelson's time, and here his body lay in state in 1805. Immediately behind, in St. James's Park, and connected with the Old Admiralty, rises the much larger New Admiralty, built since 1887, which is connected on the north with the Admiralty Arch. The wireless telegraphy installation on the roof of the new building keeps the authorities in touch with the British fleets at sea. The Old Admiralty is separated by the Paymaster-General's Office, on the south, from the Horse Guards , an unpretentious structure, with a low clock-tower and archway, designed by Kent about 1751 to succeed a previous building erected here in 1641 as a guard-house for the palace of Whitehall. It is now the office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Forces. Two mounted troopers of the Life Guards or Royal Horse Guards are posted here daily from 10 to 4 o'clock, and two dismounted sentries at the other side of the archway. The former are relieved hourly, the latter every two hours. At 11 a.m. (at 10 a.m. on Sunday) the Guard on duty is relieved by another Guard, a military ceremony (+ hour) of some interest. The passage beneath the clock-tower (open to pedestrians but closed to carriages except those of royalty and a few privileged persons) leads into St. James's Park. The wide gravelled space immediately beyond the archway, bounded on the north by the New Admiralty and on the south by the Treasury, occupies the site of the old tilt-yard of Whitehall Palace. It is known as the Horse Guards Parade, and here the ceremony of 'trooping the colour' is annually performed by the Guards on the King's birthday (June 3rd). On the east side, close to the Horse Guards buildings, are equestrian statues of Field-Marshal Viscouni Wolseley (1833-1913), by Goscombe John (1917), and Field Marshal Earl Roberts (1832-1914), by H. Bates (original in Calcutta). Here also a Turkish cannon, captured at Alexandria in 1801, and a large mortar, abandoned by Soult at the siege of Cadiz in 1812, are posted. On the west side of the Parade is the Guards' Memorial for 1914-19, by G. Ledward and H. C. Bradshaw, with figures representing the five regiments of Guards; and on the south side is a statue of Field-Marshal Earl Kitchener (1850-1916), by John Tweed. On the opposite (east) side of Whitehall we note the Office of Woods, Forests, and Land Revenues, and (immediately to the south of Whitehall Place) the War Office, an imposing building on a slightly irregular site, by William Young (1906). In the roadway in front is an equestrian statue, by Adrian Jones (1907), of the Duke of Cambridge (1819-1904), commander-in-chief of the British armies from 1856 till 1895. The duke was succeeded by Lord Wolseley (1895) and Lord Roberts (1900), but in 1904 the office of commander-in-chief was abolished and its powers vested in the Army Council, of which the head is the Secretary of State for War. At the beginning of Horse Guards Avenue, which leads to the Thames Embankment, is a statue, by H. Hampton (1911), of the eighth Duke of Devonshire (1833-1908), eminent as a statesman.