The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 8 Pall Mall and St. James's

St. James Street

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ST. JAMES'S STREET, which ascends to the north from the west end of Pall Mall to Piccadilly, with the picturesque gateway of St. James's Palace closing the vista for those proceeding in the opposite direction, traverses the select district that is more particularly known as 'St. James's.' Besides many attractive shops it contains several well-known clubs, and the fashionable bachelor nowhere finds lodgings more to his liking than in this and the adjoining streets. From the days of Charles II. the coffee-houses of St. James's St., of which the clubs are the successors, were the resorts of the wits and poets, and the literary associations of the district are very numerous. Byron House, on the east side, replaces the house (No. 8) in which, in 1811, Lord Byron 'awoke one morning to find himself famous.' In 1813-14 he lived at No. 4 Bennett St. , near the top of St. James's St. Most of the clubs in St. James's St. are on the west side. No. 86, near the foot of the street, is the Thatched House Club, taking its name from an old tavern; No. 74, the Conservative Club, stands on the site of the house in which Gibbon died in 1794; No. 69 is Arthur's Club. In St. James's Place, which here diverges to the left, is Spencer House, the property of Earl Spencer, built about 1760, overlooking the Green Park. The St. James's Place facade was designed by 'Athenian Stuart,' the park facade by Vardy. Addison, Wilkes, Fox, Lord Cochrane, and Warren Hastings all lived in this narrow street, but perhaps the most noted house is No._22., where Samuel Rogers, the wealthy banker-poet, lived from 1802 till his death in 1855, entertaining at his famous breakfasts the most eminent literary men of his day. A narrow passage beside this house gives upon the Green Park. King Street leads from the opposite side of St. James's St. to St. James's Square, passing the St. James's Theatre. Almack's Rooms, opened at No. 26 in 1765 by a Scotsman nanred MacCall; were long famous for their exclusive assemblies and balls, managed by a committee of ladies of rank, admission to which conferred the cachet of fashion. The balls ceased in 1863 and the place, under the name of Willis's Rooms, was used for meetings and dinners, and as a restaurant. It is now occupied by one of the many art dealers in King St. At No. 8, nearly opposite, is 'Christie's.' the well-known auction-room, where the chief sales of works of art are held (usually on Friday afternoons in the Season). The collections on view here from time to time attract many art-lovers. At No. 1c Louis Napoleon (afterwards Napoleon III.) resided in 1830-40, immediately before his disastrous descent upon Boulogne. Bury Street and Duke Street run to the north from King St. to Jermyn St. (see below). In the former, Swift occupied a room at eight shillings a week ('plaguy dear') in 1710 and other lodgings in 1726. Steele, Moore, Crabbe (at No. 37), and O'Connell (at No. 19) also lived in this street. In Duke St., the first street in London to have a pavement, lived Edmund Burke and Thomas Campbell. Returning to St. James's St., we proceed to the north. On the left is the Cocoa Tree Club (No. 64), which was named from a chocolate-house of Queen Anne's reign, and became about 1745 a centre for the English Jacobite party. No. 63 is the Royal Societies Club. In Park Place (1.) is the Over-Seas Club. At. No. 60 St. James's St. is Brooks's Club, founded in 1764, the leading Whig Club in the 18th century and the rival of White's (see below). Close by is the New University Club. On the opposite side of the street is Boodle's (No. 28), founded in 1762, in an Adam house of 1765, subsequently altered. Gibbon belonged to this club. On the same side is White's, founded in 1697, the oldest club in London. In the 18th century this was the chief Tory club, in opposition to Brooks's. The present house dates from 1755, but the famous 'bow-window at White's,' in which the fashionables sat to show themselves off and to quiz the passers-by, was not added until 1811. Brooks's, Boodle's, and White's were all distinguished in the 18th century for fashion and gambling. The Devonshire Club (No. 50), opposite White's, occupies the building once known as 'Crockford's,' a fashionable gambling-hell, built in 1827. A few steps farther on we reach Piccadilly. JERMYN STREET, diverging to the east from St. James's St. to the south of White's Club, runs parallel with and a little to the south of Piccadilly to Regent St. and Haymarket. In this street, named after Henry Jermyn who laid out St. James's Square, are several comfortable hotels and numerous lodgings. Near its east end is the Geological Museum. Many distinguished men have lodged in this street, including Bishop Berkeley, Newton (at Nos. 87 and 88), Gray, Scott, and Thackeray.