St. James’s Park

St. James's Park .—This is so called from St. James's Palace, which partly bounds it on the north.  Originally these grounds were a marshy waste, which was drained and otherwise improved by Henry VIII.; who also took down an ancient hospital dedicated to St. James, and built on its site the palace now called St. James's.  Charles II. improved the grounds by planting the avenues of lime-trees on the north and south sides of the park; and by forming the Mall , which was a hollowed, smooth, gravelled space, half a mile long, skirted with a wooden border, for playing at ball.  The southern avenue was appropriated to aviaries;hence it derived the appellation Birdcage Walk.  The centre of the park was occupied by canals and ponds for aquatic birds.  William III. threw the park open to the public for their recreation.  Within the last thirty years the park has been greatly improved.  It is nearly a mile and a-half in circumference, and covers about 90 acres; and the avenues form delightful shady promenades.  In the centre is a fine piece of water, interspersed with islands, and dotted with swans and water-fowl; a bridge was built across this water in 1857.  On each side are spacious lawns, enriched with lofty trees and flowering shrubs.  The lawns are separated from the avenues by iron railings, and at different parts are keepers' lodges.  There are nine or ten entrances to the park, the Queen's Guard doing duty at each, day and night.  At the east side is a large gravelled space, called the Parade , on which, about ten o'clock every morning, the body-guards required for the day are mustered—and here the regimental bands perform for a time in fine weather.  Here also guns are fired on state occasions.  At the south side of the parade is placed a huge mortar, brought from Spain, where it was used during the Peninsular war; it can propel a bombshell nearly four miles.  At the north end of the parade is a piece of Turkish ordnance, of great length, brought from Alexandria, in Egypt.  A little farther north from the parade is a broad flight of steps, giving entrance to the park from Waterloo Place, constructed by order of William IV.; these steps are surmounted by a lofty column, commemorative of the late Duke of York, which occupies the spot where formerly stood Carlton House, the favourite residence of George IV. while Prince Regent.  (Near here the band of the Commissionaires plays on summer evenings.)  Farther along the Mall, or avenue, is Marlborough House; next to which is St. James's Palace, separated by Stafford House from the Green Park.  At the western end is Buckingham Palace; and on the southern side, Birdcage Walk, and the Wellington Barracks.  This park, all things considered, is one of the greatest ornaments to the metropolis.  The lake or water is a famous skating-place in winter; and having been brought to a maximum and nearly uniform depth of four feet, there is little danger of drowning by the breakage of the ice.