The Garden Guide

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

Charles II Court and the Royal Park

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The most brilliant days of its history began, however, in Charles II.'s reign. He entirely remodelled it, and began the work soon after his return from exile, imbued with foreign ideas of gardening. It has always been supposed that Le Notre was responsible for the designs, and it has often been asserted that he himself came to England to see them carried out. But close investigation has furnished no proof of this, and it is practically certain that, although invited, and allowed by Louis XIV, to come to Kngland, he never actually did so. Other "French gardeners" certainly came, and one of them, La Quintinge, made many English friends, and kept up a correspondence with them after his return to France. Perrault probably visited London also, and may have superintended the "French gardeners" who were employed on St. James's Park. They transformed the whole place. Avenues-the Mall and "Birdcage Walk "-were planted. A straight canal passed down the middle, and at the end, near the present Foreign Office, was the duck decoy. The " Birdcage Walk " is no fantastic title, for birds were literally kept there in cages. These were probably aviaries for large birds, and not little hanging cages, as has been sometimes suggested.