St James Park is the oldest Royal Park in London and as such is edged by not one but three royal palaces. The most ancient of the three is the Palace of Westminster, known better as the Houses of Parliament then there is St James’s Palace of course, the stunning Tudor styled palace which still retains the title of the Court of St James, even though the monarch has lived in the third palace that skirts the park, Buckingham Palace for over one hundred and seventy years. This beautiful and historic park is accessible from 5am through until midnight every day of the year.
The park is home to four pelicans that are fed every day between 2.30 and 3.30 pm around Duck Island Cottage. These pelicans are descendants of the very first pelicans that were presented in 1684 by a Russian dignitary. St James’s Park is also edged by Horseguards Parade, where the trooping of the colour takes place every year in June, along with the beating retreat.
Inn the Park is a great place to stop for a bit to eat as you explore the park; this fully licensed restaurant is an eco friendly designed building that was built using sustainable timber and has a ‘green’ roof. Even if you only stop long enough for a coffee or a cold drink you will be more than impressed by the style and design of the building.
The Blue Bridge is a perfect place to stop for inspiration, as it offers spectacular views of Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards, Whitehall and the London Eye. This is the perfect place to hire a deckchair and work on that watercolour.
History and Heritage
The park is edged along one side by the Mall which has become a major part of all royal ceremonial proceedings and is part of the route of the London Marathon every year. The memorial gardens to the front of Buckingham Palace are planted out every year with a staggering 12,000 geraniums, all red to match the colours of the uniforms of the guardsmen, in recognition and memory of all of those who have served in the regiment.
A Changing Landscape
The elegant look of the park today is a far cry from how it once looked. The park was once used for the grazing of pigs, as this was an area more famous for its farms than its current sophistication; this was also a rich woodland and home to a female leper hospital.
The park was also an area that was used for deer hunting by the kings and queens of the day, the royal court was then in residence at the Palace of Westminster. It was in 1536 that infamous Henry VIII decided to create a deer park close to the Palace of Westminster. He used the land in St James’s, fenced it all in and created a fabulous hunting lodge which later became known as St James’s Palace. The park was modified by succeeding monarchs each adjusting the park to suit their own needs.