The Garden Guide

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

Queen Caroline improvements to St. James's Park

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About 1730 Queen Caroline, who was then busy with the alterations in Hyde Park, turned her attention to what is now known as the Green Park also. It had all formed part of St. James's Park, and was known as the Upper Park or Little St. James's Park. It was enclosed by a brick wall in 1667 by Charles II., who stocked it with deer. In the centre of the Park an ice-house was made, at that time a great novelty in this country, although well known in France and Italy. In his poem on St. James's Park Waller alludes to it:- Yonder the harvest of cold months laid up Gives a fresh coolness to the royal cup; There ice like crystal firm and never lost Tempers hot July with December's frost. No further alterations were made, except that, in 1681, Charles effected an exchange of land with the Earl of Arlington, on which, a few years later, Arlington Street was built. The path which runs parallel with the backs of these houses was Queen Caroline's idea, and she used it frequently herself, and it became known as the "Queen's Walk." The houses overlooking the Park went up in value as the occupants could enjoy the sight of the Queen and the Princesses taking their daily walk. The line of this path is no longer the same, as a piece was cut off the Park in 1795 and leased to the Duke of Bridgewater to add to the garden of his house. The Queen also built a pavilion known as the Queen's Library in the Park, where she spent some time after her morning promenades. Although Queen Caroline took to the Upper Park, the world of fashion did not follow at once, and it was not until about 1786 that the Green Park for some reason suddenly became the rage. The only incident of historic interest between this date and the making of the road was the celebration of the end of the War of Succession in the spring following the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. A great pavilion like a Doric temple, 410 feet long and 114 feet high, was erected near the wall separating the Green Park from St. James's, and on the 27th of April a grand display of fireworks was arranged. A fire, however, broke out just as the performance was beginning, when a grand overture composed by Handel had been performed, and the King and dense crowds were watching the illuminations. The flames were got under, but not before much of the temporary building had been destroyed, and the greater part of the fireworks perished in the flames, and several fatal and serious accidents further marred the entertainment. Near the top of the Park was a reservoir or "fine piece of water" belonging to the Chelsea Waterworks, and the path round it was included in the fashionable promenade by those who paraded in the Queen's Walk after dinner. Lower down, where there is still a depression, was a little pond, originally part of the Tyburn stream. The "green stagnant pool" was abused by a writer in 1731, who regretted that trees had just been planted near it, which probably meant that the offensive pool would "not soon be removed." The prophecy was correct, for it was more than a hundred years later before this was filled up. The Park wall ran along Piccadilly, and here and there, as was often the case in the eighteenth century, there were gaps with iron rails, through which glimpses of the Park could be obtained. Some persons had private keys to the gates leading into the Park from Piccadilly. Daring robberies were by no means uncommon, and thieves, having done mischief in the streets near Piccadilly on more than one occasion, were found to be provided with keys to the gates, through which they could make their escape into the Park and elude their pursuers. The Ranger's Lodge stood on the northern side, and was rebuilt and done up in 1773. It was made so attractive that there was great competition, when it was completed, to be Deputy-ranger and live there. The two stags which now stand on Albert Gate, Hyde Park, once adorned the gates of this Ranger's Lodge. It is described in 1792 as "a very neat lodge surrounded by a shrubbery, which renders it enchantingty rural." When George III. bought Buckingham House, then an old red-brick mansion, he took away the wall which separated the Green Park from St. James's, and put a railing instead. In this wall was another lodge, and a few trees near it, known as the Wilderness.