is one of the central London
parks, in Westminster
. It lies adjacent to that St James's Palace
and to Buckingham Palace
generously demolished the 13th century leper
hospital on the site, having evicted the residents ('fourteen poor leprous maidens'), and made the area a deer park, to go with St James's Palace
, which he was planning at the time. James I
kept his menagerie of animals (all presents from foreign dignitaries - he also had a suit of samurai armour
!) in the park, including an elephant
that purportedly drank a gallon of wine a day.
had a bowling green
put in, but this was disused by the time he walked across the park to be executed. His son, Charles II
, at the Restoration
, had the gardens laid out in a formal manner, probably by André Mollet. Charles had seen similar things at Versailles
, and the work in London included a rectangular canal over half a mile long. However, he left the Rosamund Pond
, a famed meeting spot for lovers, untouched. It subsequently became a favoured spot for jilted maidens to commit suicide.
Indeed, the park has a long association with love and sex. It was for a long time a favoured haunt of prostitutes, and had presumably still got this reputation down to the time when W S Gilbert
wrote (in Iolanthe
'I heard the minx remark
She'd meet him after dark
Inside St James's Park
And give him one!'
(I will just note that the peers who sing this song have not
It was during the reign of William III
and Mary II
that the first of several tea house
s appeared in the park. Around 1700 there was also a Milk Fair
featuring milk served fresh from the various cows whose owners plied their trade at the fair. Horse Guards Parade
was constructed by filling in one end of the long canal at about this time.
In the 1820s the park was completely redesigned by John Nash
, into something like its current form. The starkly artificial canal was reworked into something superficially like a real lake, and the dead straight paths replaced with the winding walks we see today.
The lake is deserving of special mention. At one time there was a pagoda
on a bridge across it, but following Napoleon
's defeat in 1814
(before the hundred days
, history pedants!) it was set on fire by a firework accident and burned down with several fatalities. The bridge across the lake today is a sturdy concrete affair, from which one can see, in one direction Buckingham
Palace, and in the other, the fairy spires of the Liberal Club
. During World War II
, the lake was temporarily drained and the bed used for government staff huts.
The Guards Memorial
, a war memorial
dedicated to the Grenadier
guards and designed in 1922 by Gilbert Ledward
, stands at the edge of the park, opposite Horse Guards
Many people have asked me to say that the bird life in the park is exceptional, with pelican
s that have been there for centuries, as well as rare ducks and the odd raptor
The park is flanked on the north side by The Mall
(named for the game of Paille Maille
, imported by Charles II), on the east by Horse Guards Approach
and on the south by Birdcage Walk
. Buckingham Palace fairly occupies the short western side.
Also a Tube
station beneath 55 Broadway
, the headquarters of London Underground
and Circle Line
trains stop there. The station is not in or even next to the park - one has to pass through Queen Anne's Gate
to get to the greenery - but in Broadway
, within sight of Westminster Abbey