The Garden Guide

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

St. James's Square

Previous - Next

Behind the Junior Carlton Club lies St. James's Square, originally laid out by Henry Jermyn, Lord St. Albans, in the reign of Charles II., though nearly all the houses have been rebuilt since. The square, one of the earliest parts of the West End to be built, at once became a fashionable place of abode, and so continues, though offices and clubs have begun to intrude. In the garden in the centre is an equestrian statue of William III., by John Bacon (1808). Round this garden young Samuel Johnson and Savage once walked for several hours one night, 'for want of a lodging,' not at all depressed by their situation but 'brimful of patriotism, and resolved they would stand by their country.' Norfolk House, at the south-east corner of the square (No. 31), was built in 1751 on the site of old St. Albans House, once occupied by Lord St. Albans and purchased by the Duke of Norfolk in 1723. In 1738-41 the house was lent to Frederick, Prince of Wales, and in a house still existing behind the present mansion George III. was born in 1738. No. 32, from 1771 till 1919 the town-residence of the Bishops of London, was built in 1820, superseding one in which Lord Chesterfield was born in 1694. With No. 33, a building on the site of Derby House, it is now occupied by the Caledonian Club. Lord Avebury (Sir John Lubbock) lived at No. 2 and at No. 6. No. 8, originally built for the French ambassador and now the Sports' Club, was the show-room of Josiah Wedgwood from 1796 till 1830. The Portland Club occupies No. 9. No. 10 has been occupied by three prime ministers: Chatham (1757-61), Lord Derby (1837-54), and Gladstone (1890). Lady Blessington also lived here (1820-29). It is now the home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, presented to the Empire by Col. and Mrs. Leonard, of Canada. Nos. 9, 10, and 11 occupy the site of Ormonde House, a splendid mansion built for himself by Lord St. Albans, but named after the Duke of Ormonde, who bought it in 1684. It was pulled down in 1736. No. 12 is the British Empire Club, No. 13 the Windham Club. The London Library occupies No. 14. No. 15, with a classic facade by 'Athenian Stuart' (1765), was originally tenanted by the Duchess of Richmond (La Belle Stuart), who sat as model for the 'Britannia' on the British copper coinage. The East India United Service Club has absorbed Nos. 16 and 17. Queen Caroline lived at No. 17 during her trial in 1820, while Lord Castlereagh, then Foreign Secretary, lived next door (No. 18). No. 20 is a pleasing specimen of Robert Adam's work. Amongst the first tenants of No.21 (rebuilt in 1791), known as Winchester House because it was the residence of the Bishops of Winchester from 1829 till 1875, were Arabella Churchill (1676-78) and Catherine Sedley, Countess of Dorchester (1685-96), both mistresses of James II. It is now the Centaur Club. Mary Davies, the actress, lived next door (1676-87). During the War the gardens of the square were occupied by the 'Washington Inn,' a club-house and hostel for American officers. Returning to Pall Mall we observe on the south side, adjoining the Carlton Club, the long front of the Royal Automobile Club , built in 1911 in a French Renaissance style, which contrasts with the heavier Italian facades of the older and staider clubs. This club occupies the site of the Old War Office, which had incorporated Schomberg House, once the residence of Marshal Schomberg, who fell at the battle of the Boyne (1690). The west wing of this house, which still stands (No. 80), was occupied by Gainsborough, the artist, from 1774 till his death in 1788. No. 79, next door (rebuilt as offices), belonged to Nell Gwynn, who used to talk over the garden-wall with Charles II., as he stood below in the Mall. Farther on is the Oxford and Cambridge Club (71-76), and opposite is the Marlborough Club (52), of which Edward VII. was a member, at the corner of Pall Mall Place. This narrow street passes below No. 51 Pall Mall, once the office (the 'Tully's Head') of Dodsley (died 1764), who published for Johnson, Young, Pope, Goldsmith, and other famous authors. The sentries at the west end of Pall Mall guard the unassuming entrance to Marlborough House, beyond which the line of street is continued, past the north facade of St. James's Palace, by Cleveland Row to Stable Yard (on the south) and Cleveland Square (on the north). In the former is Lancaster House, containing the London Museum (Walk 38), and in the latter rises Bridgewater House.