The Garden Guide

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

Whitehall Palace Orchard and Park

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The space between Whitehall and Westminster, acquired from the Abbey, was turned into an orchard. The site of Montagu House was the bowling-green of the Palace, which stretched to the river. A high terrace and flight of steps led to the Privy Garden of Whitehall, so, except for the Palace and the Westminster group, there were no buildings between the river and the Park. It requires some stretch of the imagination to efface the well-known edifices which now surround it, and to see it in its natural state. Flights of wild birds would pass from the marshy ground to the river, unchecked by the pile of Government offices. Behind the Leper Hospital lay fields and scattered houses. The far-off villages of Knightsbridge and Chelsea would scarcely come into sight, while beyond the village of Charing the walls and towers of the City would loom in the distance. Henry VIII. made some alterations, and may have partially drained the ground and stocked it with deer. Old maps show a pond at the west end, near the present Wellington Barracks, called Rosamund's Pond. The origin of the name is uncertain, but "Rosemonsbore, or Rosamund's Bower," occurs in a lease of land near this spot from the Abbey of Westminster as early as 1520. Hard by was a "mount," such as was to be seen in every sixteenth-century garden, probably with an arbour and seat on the top to overlook the pond. The first mention of St. James's as a Park is in 1539, on an occasion described in Hall's Chronicle, when Henry VIII. held a review of the city militia. "The King himself," writes the chronicler, "would see the people of the Citie muster in sufficient nombre...." Some 15,000, leaving the City after passing by St. Paul's Churchyard, went "directly to Westminster and so through the Sanctuary and round about the Park of St. James, and so up into the fields and came home through Holborne."