Sunday, February 4, 2018

St James's Park

St James's Park is the 10th station on the Circle Line that I have visited. As with many stations on the Circle Line it is also served by the District Line. It was opened on the 24th December 1868 by the Metropolitan District Railway (District Line). It is the only tube station on the network that has Grade I protective status. There are 72 other stations that have Grade II status but this one is considered to have far more historical heritage than any of the others.

The building above the station known as 55 Broadway was built as the headquarters of London Underground. Completed in 1929 it was the tallest building in London at 174 feet. It was designed by the architect, Charles Holden who designed a number of tube stations but this was considered to be his best.A number of decorative features were carved into the stone facade by young artists Eric Gill and Eric Aumonier as well as Henry Moore and Jacob Epstein.

This one called 'Day' by Epstein had to be altered as it showed a naked boy. Apparently it was more acceptable when one and a half inches of penis were removed.

This is 'Night' by Epstein

'North Wind' by Eric Gill

'West wind' by Moore (photo from Wikipedia). This was Moore's first public commission and the only one to show a figure in motion.

1920s roundel sign above the Broadway entrance

It is a landmark art deco building, a forerunner of the London skyscrapers. It does need a clean though.

There are many original art deco features in the station.

Across the road from the station is The Feathers public house. The name commemorates the feathers of the Prince of Wales.When the pub was built, the then Prince was to become the future Edward VII who reigned from 1901-1910. The present Queen's great grandfather.

Across the road is The Ministry of Justice, a major government department. It is responsible for the courts, prisons, probation services and attendance centres

Continue past The Ministry of Justice and you enter Queen Anne's Gate. It dates from the early 18th cent and is the best and most complete street of houses of that period.

Many of the houses have a wooden canopy over the front door. Notice the different faces above the door and windows.

At the end of the street is a statue of Queen Anne (1665-1714) erected in 1705

The old street sign still in situ.

The houses further done the street are much more modest in decoration. This is the house where Lord Palmerston was born in 1784. He was 70 when he became Prime Minister and was still in office when he died aged 80.

Around the corner from Queen Anne's Gate and you are on Birdcage Walk. The name originates from an 18th cent aviary running from Parliament Square to Buckingham Palace. On one side of the walk you have St James's Park and on the other side is Wellington barracks.

The  barracks are home to the Foot Guard Battalions on public duties in London known as Her Majesty's Household Division. The Division is made up of five different regiments - Grenadier , Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh plus two regiments of the Household Cavalry, the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals. These are not just ceremonial regiments but are part of the British Army and have fought in numerous campaigns. There is the Guards' chapel here as well as the Guards' Museum.

This memorial garden outside the chapel is a gift from the people of Flanders in gratitude for British sacrifice in defence of Belgium 1914-1918.
The soil in the garden was gathered and brought here from the battlefields in Flanders where soldiers of the Guards division fought and died.

The Guards' Chapel was not built until four years after the barracks opened in 1834. In June 1944 the chapel was largely destroyed by a bomb, killing 120 people. The apse and the chancel were unscathed and were incorporated into a new chapel which was built in 1962.


Today's chapel, designed by Bruce George in 1962-63 is an enduring memorial to all those who lost their lives.

The Guards Museum opened in 1988 and is full of artefacts from all five regiments.of the Foot Guards. Although a small museum it is full of lots of interesting memorabilia including uniforms and weapons. There is a very good video to begin with, explaining how you can tell one regiment from another and lots of other interesting information. Unfortunately no photography is allowed in the museum.

Just a short horse ride or march from Wellington barracks is Buckingham Palace.
There has been some kind of property here since the 17th cent. Buckingham House was created by the Duke of Buckingham in 1698 when he bought the land and decided to build a much bigger property. It remained in his family until 1761 when George III bought it as a private residence for his family.  When his son George IV became king in 1820 he wanted Buckingham house transformed into a Palace, putting John Nash in charge of the work. During the last few years of the King's life , Nash enlarged the house into a large U shaped building and included a triumphal arch. Although it was considered a masterpiece, on the death of the monarch Nash was dismissed for overspending. William IV who succeeded his brother as king had no interest in leaving Clarence house and moving into the Palace. It wasn't until the reign of Queen Victoria that the Palace became a Royal residence. However Queen Victoria was not happy as the Palace was too small for her expanding family. In 1855 the Palace was redeveloped with the addition of a new wing. The triumphal arch was moved to the north-east corner of Hyde Park and is known as Marble Arch.

Outside the Palace is the Victoria monument, made from Carrara marble. The monument stands 25 meteres high and  was built to commemorate her death in 1901. Surrounding the monument are statues representing courage, constancy, victory, charity, truth and motherhood.

Running directly from Buckingham Palace to Admiralty Arch is The Mall. It was cut through St James's Park in 1660 by CharlesII as a pitch for the game paille maille (ball mallet). It was from this game that the name of The Mall and Pall Mall arose. Today the road is used for ceremonial processions by the Royal family and state visits by foreign dignitaries.
For these events The Mall is lined with national flags.

A short walk along The Mall from Buckingham Palace there is another much older Palace, St James's Palace. Built  in the 1530s by Henry VIII, much of the original red bick building survives today including the Chapel Royal, the gatehouse, some turrets and two surviving Tudor rooms in the State Apartments.

 It  was built on the site of St James's Hospital, a former leper colony. Charles II, James II, Queen Anne and Queen Mary were all born at the Palace and Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in the Chapel Royal in 1840. Many family events are held here including the christening of Prince George in 2013.

Today the Palace is the London residence for Prince Charles, Princess Anne and Princess Alexandra.

Friary Court where the St James's detachment of the Queen,s Guard mounts daily guard. It is from the Proclamation Gallery overlooking this court that the accession of a new Sovereign is proclaimed.

Just before you get to the end of The Mall at Admiralty Arch you can see the Admiralty Citadel on your right. It was constructed in 1940-41 as a bomb-proof operations centre for the Admiralty. It is linked by tunnels to government buildings in Whitehall. It is still used today by the Ministry of Defence.

Next to the Citadel at the corner of The Mall and Horse Guards is the National Police Memorial, commemorating police officers killed in the course of duty in the UK.


The memorial has a glass chamber with a book listing the names of those killed. The pages are turned every two weeks by the Police Memorial Trust.

Between Whitehall and St James's Park is Horse Guards Parade. It is a large parade ground where changing the Queen's Life Guard takes place daily as well as the annual Trooping of the colour  which commemorates the Queen's Birthday. The parade ground used to be the site of the Palace of Whitehall's tiltyard where tournaments were held in the time of Henry VIII.

St James's Park is the oldest Royal Park in London. In 1532  Henry VIII acquired the land as a deer park and built the Palace of St James on the land. But it was Charles II who was born in St James's Palace in 1630 who redesigned the park.with avenues of trees and lawns.

There have been pelicans in the park for nearly 400 years. They were originally presented as a gift from the Russian Ambassador to King Charles II.

This cottage was built in 1841 as a home for the bird-keeper of the park. Later it became a store for bicycles and is now used as offices.

On the way back to Victoria Street from the park via Storey's Gate you will pass the huge Methodist Central Hall. It opened in 1912 not only as a church but also a conference, concert and meeting place.

Inside the hall is this magnificent staircase.

From the Methodist Hall I walked round the corner on to Tothill Street and back towards the station. There is so much to see within a short radius of St James's tube station. Turning left onto Broadway, it was a short walk to Caxton Street to have a look at Caxton Hall.

Built in 1878 it was originally Westminster Town Hall. Its claim to fame and the reason it is a listed building though is its role as a meeting place for the Suffragettes. From 1907, the Women's Social and Political Union held a 'Women's Parliament' here before every parliamentary session. After which they would march down the road to the House of Commons in the hope of handing a petition to the Prime Minister asking for the vote to be given to women. It was many years before that happened in 1918.

During the WW2 the building was used for press conferences by Winston Churchill and his Ministers.

After the war it was used as a  Registry Office for Belgravia and Mayfair and many famous people were married here, including Diana Dors, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Sellers, Roger Moore, Joan Collins, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. The registry office closed in 1979 and the building fell into disrepair. The building was listed in 1984 as being of historic interest, consequently the facade and front of the building have been restored and retained. The remainder of the building was redeveloped and converted into luxury flats in 2006.

Opposite Caxton Hall is Christchurch Gardens with a sculpture by Edwin Russell  in the form of a bronze scroll. It was erected in 1970 as a tribute to the Suffragette fellowship. It reads.' commemorate the courage and perseverance of all those men and women in the long struggle for votes for women who selflessly braved derision, opposition and ostracism, many enduring physical violence and suffering.'

Also in Christchurch Gardens is this strange sculpture by Glynn Williams as a memorial to Henry Purcell (1659-1695) an English composer. The sculpture is entitled 'The flowering of the English Baroque'. Purcell was a child prodigy but died at the age of 36.

Crossing over Victoria Street from Christchurch Gardens is  Strutton Ground with numerous stalls selling a variety of hot food from around the world. At lunchtime it is alive with crowds of office workers queuing for food.

At the end of the road you can see this wonderful building, The Greycoat Hospital, a comprehensive school for girls.

It was founded in 1698 when eight parishioners of the parish of St Margaret's each invested 12/6 (65p) towards the founding of the school. The aim of the founders was to give an education to the poor of the parish so they could be '...useful workers and solid Christians.' An old workhouse was purchased from Westminster Abbey and established as a school for both girls and boys. The school became a day school for girls in 1874.

Around the corner on Horseferry Road is the headquarters of the TV channel 4.

Behind the Greycoat Hospital school are the Royal Horticultural Halls. This one is Lawrence Hall, with its vaulted ceilings and Art Deco features it was  registered as a Grade II listed building in 1983. It has now been leased to Westminster school for 999 years at a cost of £18 million with the Horticultural Society allowed to hold four RHS flower shows here each year. Westminster School has converted the building for use as a sports centre.

On the way back to the station I passed these almshouses on Rochester Row. The almshouses were built in 1708 and rebuilt in 1882 and are still in use today. There are various plaques on the buildings acknowledging the contribution of Emery Hill.

'These buildings are the United Westminster Almshouses erected in 1882 following a scheme of the charity commissioners dated 11th July 1879 for the consolidation of the almshouses in Westminster founded by the rev James Palmer 1656, Mr Nicholas Butler 1675 and Mr Emery Hill 1708. Further particulars of this charity are inscribed on the stone tablet above.' Inscribed on a stone tablet below the above.