St James's Park
St James's Park has claim to lay at the very heart of London. The most picturesque of the Royal parks and occupying an area of around half a square kilometre, it is surrounded by some of the nation's most important buildings and institutions. Buckingham Palace, the official home of the Monarch, sits at its western end, while the opposite end is lined by the rear entrance to Downing Street and the imposing facades of the Treasury and the Foreign Office. To the north are a series of important buildings including St James's Palace, Marlborough House and Clarence House, while the Home Office lays to the south. St James's Park is contiguous with Green Park and Buckingham Palace Gardens
Buckingham Palace, the Queen Victoria memorial and the Mall
Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the Monarch, but it has not always been so. The building was originally Buckingham House, built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703 on what was then a country estate outside Westminster. It was originally a three sided structure built around an east-facing courtyard. The newer east wing, the frontage known to the world as the Palace proper and depicted in the photos above, was added by the Regency architect John Nash in 1825. Acquired by George III at that time, it became the official Monarch's residence in 1847 when Queen Victoria moved her court here from the adjacent palace of St James. The east wing, which is of a different coloured stone to the rest of the building, was refurbished in 1913. Seen above is the balcony on which the Royal Family appears on state occasions, and above it is the flagpole that flies the Royal Standard whenever the Queen is in residence. Within the last few years certain sections of the palace have been open to the public for several weeks each summer.
Immediately in front of the Palace is the Queen Victoria Memorial, a splendid statue that is unfortunately rather isolated by its modern position as a traffic island. From the Queen Victoria Memorial a road called the Mall stretches the half mile to Trafalgar Square. The Mall separates St James's Park from Green Park and was designed for use in great ceremonial processions though it is rarely used as such. The London Marathon, run on the third Sunday of April each year, finishes here.
Buckingham Palace and its environs
Not yet pictured here, three imposing buildings line the Mall to the north; St James's Palace, Lancaster House and Clarence House. St James's Palace itself is a rambling collection of buildings dating partly from the mid 1500's. It is not well seen from any surrounding public road but perhaps the best view is of the gatehouse off St James's Street. The palace was the official residence of the Monarch from the Tudor era until 1837, when Queen Victoria moved to the adjacent Buckingham Palace. St James's Palace nowadays consists largely of private apartments occupied by Crown servants and is not open to the public. Next to the palace is Clarence House, another of Nash's Regency constructions, and in use for some time as a private residence for members of the Royal family. The Queen Mother was the most recent occupant until her death in 2002. Lancaster House, further along the Mall, is a 19th century building commissioned by the then Duke of York and is now used by the Government for state functions. It is open to the public.
Buckingham Palace and St James's Park
St James's Park and the lake
St James's Park has not always looked as it does today. Originally an area of marsh straddling the river Tyburn, it was remodelled as a private deer park by Henry VIII when St James's Palace was built, and then remodelled again by Charles II who turned the river into a lake and the park itself into formal gardens. The present layout is largely the work of John Nash, who re-landscaped the park and the lake in 1828. The lake is the only modern remnant of the original Tyburn river, long since enclosed, culverted and built over.
St James's Park and the lake
Nowadays the park and its lake are notable for its flourishing wildlife, particularly its rich variety of waterfowl. The park's birds are remarkably tame and you can easily get pigeons, sparrows and other birds to perch on your arm and take food from your hand. The park's squirrels are also friendly little fellows. The park has facilities such as cafes, kiosks and toilets. Come here on a spring or summer afternoon, bring your camera, and enjoy!
A St James's Park scrapbook
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This page last updated 23rd October 2002