St. James's Park
|St. James's Park|
St. James's Park, looking west towards Buckingham Palace.
|Area||23 hectares (57 acres)|
|Operated by||The Royal Parks|
St. James's Park is a 23 hectares (57 acres)1 park in the City of Westminster, central London - the oldest of the Royal Parks of London.2 The park lies at the southernmost tip of the St James's area, which was named after a leper hospital dedicated to St. James the Less.
The park has a small lake, St. James's Park Lake, with two islands, West Island, and Duck Island, which is named for the lake's collection of waterfowl. This includes a resident colony of pelicans, which has been a feature of the park since the first gift of the birds from a Russian ambassador in 1664. The Blue Bridge across the lake affords a view west towards Buckingham Palace framed by trees. Looking east the view includes the Swire fountain to the north of Duck Island and, past the lake, the grounds known as the Horse Guards Parade, with the Horse Guards building, the Old War Office building and Whitehall Court progressively behind. To the south of Duck Island is the Tiffany fountain situated on Pelican Rock and past the lake is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with the London Eye, the Shell Tower and The Shard progressively behind.
The park is the most easterly of a near-continuous chain of parks that also comprise (moving westward) Green Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. The closest London Underground stations are St. James's Park, Victoria, and Westminster.
In 1532, Henry VIII purchased from Eton College an area of marshland, through which the Tyburn flowed. This land lay to the West of York Place, recently acquired by Henry from Cardinal Wolsey; it was purchased in order to turn York Palace, renamed Whitehall, into a dwelling fit for a king. On James I's accession to the throne in 1603, he ordered that the park be drained and landscaped, and kept exotic animals in the park, including camels, crocodiles, and an elephant, as well as aviaries of exotic birds along the south.
During Charles II's exile in France under the Commonwealth of England, the young king was impressed by the elaborate gardens at French royal palaces, and on his ascension had the park redesigned in a more formal style, probably by the French landscaper André Mollet. This included the creation of the 775 by 38 metre (850 by 42 yard) canal visible in the old plan. Charles II opened the park to the public, as well as using the area to entertain guests and mistresses, such as Nell Gwyn. The park was notorious at the time as a meeting place for acts of degeneracy, of which John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester wrote in his poem A Ramble in St. James's Park.
The 18th century saw further changes, including the reclamation of part of the canal for Horse Guards Parade and the 1761 purchase of Buckingham House (now Buckingham Palace) at the west end of the Mall, for the use of Queen Charlotte.
Further remodelling in 1826–27, commissioned by the Prince Regent (later George IV) and overseen by the architect and landscaper John Nash, saw the straight canal's conversion to a more naturally-shaped lake, and formal avenues rerouted to romantic winding pathways. At the same time, Buckingham House was expanded to create the current palace and Marble Arch was built at its entrance, whilst The Mall was turned into a grand processional route, opened to public traffic 60 years later in 1887, the Marble Arch having been moved to its current location at the junction of Oxford Street and Park Lane in 1851 and replaced with the Victoria Memorial between 1906 and 1924.
Green Park and St. James's Park c.1833
St. James's Park Lake, looking northwest, with Buckingham Palace in the background.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to St. James's Park.|
- St. James's Park RoyalParks.gov