St. James's Park
Learn more about St. James's Park
|Royal Parks of London|
- For the football stadium in Newcastle upon Tyne, see St James' Park; for the football stadium in Exeter, see St James Park.
St. James's Park is one of the Royal Parks of London in the City of Westminster, London, just east of Buckingham Palace and west of Whitehall and Downing Street. The St James's area, including St. James's Palace, is just to the north. It is 23 hectares (58 acres) in size.
It is bounded by The Mall to the north, Horse Guards to the east, and Birdcage Walk to the south. The park has a small lake, St James's Park Lake, with two islands, Duck Island (named for the lake's collection of waterfowl) and West Island. A bridge across the lake affords a westward view of Buckingham Palace framed by trees and fountains and a view of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, similarly framed, to the east.
The Park is the easternmost of an almost continuous chain of parks that also comprises (moving westward) Green Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. The closest tube stations are St. James's Park, Victoria and Westminster.
In 1531, Henry VIII bought the area of swampy marshland, often flooded by the Tyburn from Eton College. This land lay to the west of York Palace that Henry had recently acquired from Cardinal Wolsey and was purchased in order to turn York Palace into a dwelling fit for a King. On James I's accession to the throne in 1603, he ordered the park drained and landscaped and kept various 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 during the English Commonwealth, the young king was impressed by the elaborate gardens at French royal palaces and had the park redesigned in a more formal style, probably by the French landscaper André Mollet, including the creation of the 850×42-yard canal visible in the old plan shown to the right. 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 sexual degeneracy, of which John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester wrote in his famous poem "A Ramble in St. James's Park."
Further remodelling in 1826–7, 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 be rerouted to more 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, 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.
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