The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 3 St. James's and Green Parks

Charles II Baroque Canal

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But to return to Charles II.'s time, when the cows were undisturbed. The great feature of what Pepys calls the "brave alterations" was the canal. He mentions more than one visit when the works were in progress. In October 1660 he went "to walk in St. James's Park, where we observed the several engines at work to draw up water, with which sight I was very much pleased." The canal, when finished, was 2800 feet long and 100 broad, and ran through the centre of the Park, beginning near the north end of Rosamund's Pond. An avenue of trees was planted on either side, passing down between the canal and the duck decoy to a semicircular double avenue near the tilting-ground. Deer wandered under fine old oaks between the canal and the avenues of "the Mall." These old trees have gradually disappeared, as much through gales as from the wanton destruction of the would-be improver. At the hour of Cromwell's death, when the storm was so fierce the Royalists said it was due to fiends coming to claim their own, much havoc was wrought; and from time to time similar destructions have taken place, one of the most serious being in November 1703, when part of the wall and over 100 elms were blown down. Another notable gale was on March 15, 1752, when many people lost their lives. "In St. James's Park and the villages about the metropolis great numbers of trees were demolished."