Category Archives: St James’s Park

Perambulations Through Late Georgian London or, All the Best Sights in One Week. Day One

In 1836 Nathaniel Whittock’s The Modern Picture of London, Westminster, and the Metropolitan Boroughs. Containing a correct description of the most interesting objects in every part of the Metropolis; forming a complete Guide and directory for the Stranger and Resident… was published by George Virtue & Co.

I have half a dozen late Georgian & Regency London guidebooks, but this, on the verge of Victoria’s reign, is the only one that sets out itineraries for the visitor as well as describing the various buildings, parks and institutions of the Capital. I thought it would be interesting to follow his advice, and visit London right at the end of the Georgian era.

Mr Whittock begins by discussing whether it is better to take lodgings or stay at a respectable inn (not a coaching inn, or the visitor will be constantly disturbed, day and night). He concludes that:

The visitor whose time is limited, will find it better to have lodgings without board, as he can take his meals at any time or place, according to his own convenience. The visitor to the metropolis, that has no particular friends to greet him on his arrival, and whose business will only allow him to devote a few days, to the survey of the architectural beauties and splendid exhibitions which surround him on all sides, on his arrival in London, will feel the necessity of so regulating his time, that he may see the various objects that are contiguous to each other on the same day; and, supposing him to have only a week that he can spare for this purpose, we will endeavour to point out the best mode of regulating his hours, so that he may have an opportunity of seeing the greatest number of objects within that time. We will therefore suppose the visitor to have taken apartments near Charing Cross.

In the…directions, it is supposed that the party is in the middle rank of life; the same route would be pointed out to those who kept a carriage, but they would, in consequence, be enabled to visit more objects in the same time, from the facility of conveyance from one place to another.

Monday

A crowded day first ending with a visit to the theatre.

The visitor is advised to commence his perambulation of the metropolis on Monday morning, at half-past nine o’clock.

He will have ample time to see Whitehall, the statue of King James behind it, the Horse Guards, and the Admiralty. 

The bronze statue of King James II now stands in front of the National Gallery. It was produced in the workshop of Grinling Gibbons and erected at the Palace of Whitehall in 1686, two years before James was deposed and fled the country. It stood behind the Banqueting House until 1898 when it was removed and spent some time being shuffled around the Capital before ending up in its present position in 1947. According to A Picture of London For 1807 it is ‘Superior to any statue in any public place in England.’

Walk into St. James’ Park, stand a few minutes to observe the military parade, which always takes place at ten o’clock.

Just such a parade can be seen in the print above of 1809, and one can still do this by walking into Horse Guards between the mounted sentries, under the arch and into Horse Guards Parade.

 Walk through the Park to Storey’s Gate (the point where Horse Guards Road now meets Birdcage Walk); thence, down Princes Street (now Storey’s Gate), and he will see Westminster Abbey, and the New Westminster Hospital, to the greatest advantage. 

The new Westminster Hospital opened in 1834 on the site now occupied by the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. It was immediately struck by serious problems with its water closets and baths which failed to drain properly and caused frequent outbreaks of disease and a terrible stink.

Passing through St. Margaret’s church-yard (Above: Westminster Abbey with St Margaret’s church in front, seen from the north (1810)), he will observe the beautiful entrance to the north transept of the Abbey. The next object that will present itself, is the chapel of Henry VII., and he will arrive at Poet’s Corner at about half-past ten o’clock: the entrance to the Abbey will be open, and he will have an opportunity of hearing the cathedral service performed, and likewise of seeing the beautiful choir of the Abbey; the service is ended about eleven o’clock, and he can then survey every part of this venerable pile, which will occupy about an hour. 

This seems a very short time to view the Abbey! The visitors above, seen in 1805, appear to be taking rather more time to look around.

On leaving the Abbey, at half-past twelve, the stranger may cross the road, to the Houses of Lords and Commons and Westminster Hall, see the interior of them –

The greater part of the Houses of Parliament were destroyed by fire in October 1834, two years before the publication of this guidebook and the main text describes the makeshift debating chambers that had been made out of what remained. Westminster Hall survived the fire and was attached to the new Houses of Parliament when they were begun in 1840.  The watercolour of the House of Lords from Old Palace Yard, 1834, by Robert William Billings shows the devastation. (Parliamentary copyright)

and at one o’clock find himself on Westminster Bridge, surveying the buildings on the banks of the Thames. If this survey should engender historical reminiscences, the stranger would probably wish to visit the scene of Wolsey’s greatness, and the residence of the primate of England, Lambeth Palace; should he do so, he will find his time occupied till two o’clock. 

This image of 1784 shows Morton’s Tower, the entrance to the Palace with Westminster bridge (opened 1750) in the background.  The tower is instantly recognizable today, even though the embankment has been built up between it and the river and the traffic now thunders past on Lambeth Palace Road.

To get to Lambeth Palace at this time the visitor would either have to cross Westminster Bridge and travel south down the southern bank of the Thames or go down the northern bank and take the ferry across: there was no Lambeth Bridge until 1862.

On leaving the palace, if he continues down Canterbury Place, he will, in a short time, arrive at Bethlem Hospital; to some, the interior is interesting, if so, it will occupy half an hour.

This was the New Bethlem Hospital moved from Moorfields in 1815. It was closed in 1930 and the site became a park with the centre of the old building retained as the Imperial War Museum.

 Near the same spot, is the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb,

This was a pioneering institution, founded in 1792 to educate two hundred children who, up until then, had been dismissed as ‘idiots’, incapable of learning or earning their living. They were taught lip-reading, reading, writing, arithmetic and useful trades. It lay between Mason Street and Townsend Street and its modern incarnation as The Royal School for Deaf Children moved to Margate in 1902.

the Philanthropic Asylum –

The Royal Philanthropic Society built the asylum in 1792 in an attempt to help the children of convicted criminals and street children who had resorted to begging or crime.

and other charitable foundations, the whole of which may be visited, and the party return home over Waterloo Bridge, (This was the original 1817 bridge. The present one was opened in 1942) observe the grand front of Somerset House, and arrive at their lodgings by half-past four o’clock, dine, and finish the day by visiting Drury Lane Theatre.

Hopefully the intrepid tourist was not so worn out by their hectic sightseeing that they could not appreciate the atmosphere at Drury Lane Theatre, shown here.

If you wish to follow this route yourself you will find more details in Walking Jane Austen’s London Walk 6 or Walks Through Regency London Walk 8. The area around the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb is described in Driving Through Georgian Britain in the section on the Dover Road.

To be continued…

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“One of the Most Agreeable Walks in London” – a stroll through The Green Park

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“No inhabitant of the metropolis, and scarcely any person who has visited it, needs to be told that the spot delineated in the annexed view [above] forms one of the most agreeable walks in London.” (Ackermann’s Repository October 1810).

This shows the eastern end of The Green Park (these days ‘The’ is always dropped) from Piccadilly, looking south. It seems the artist would have been somewhere between Clarges Street and Bolton Street. Westminster Abbey can be seen in the distance and on the left are the houses looking out onto the Queen’s Walk. St James’s Palace is hidden behind them at the far end. Nowadays Green Park tube station would be just out of sight on the left with the Ritz (on the site of The White Horse Cellar) just beyond that.

“In summer the eastern end of the Green Park forms a favourite promenade for the inhabitants of the metropolis: and in fine weather, on every evening and on Sundays in particular, is always extremely crowded with genteel and well dressed company. At the north-east corner of this park there is a fine piece of water, which is supplied by the water-works of Chelsea [The reservoir was built in 1775 and filled in in 1856] and forms at once a beautiful embellishment and a useful reservoir. The guards parade every day between ten and eleven o’clock, and a full band of music renders this spectacle cheerful and attractive.” (John Wallis London: Being a Complete Guide 1810)

Green Park is a triangular space of about 53 acres. To the south Constitution Hill divides it from the gardens of Buckingham Palace and St James’s Park butts up to it in the south-east corner with the Mall. In the 17th century it was part of St James’s Park, the Tudor hunting grounds, which swept around the south and west of the palace, but by the time of Roque’s map of 1738 the tree lined avenue of the Mall leading up to Buckingham House cut it off and it is labelled The Green Park. The gardens of Buckingham House were much smaller and the park crossed Constitution Hill, occupying the area that is now the large roundabout of Hyde Park Corner. The second print is from The Beauties of England & Wales Vol. 1 (1801) and shows the view west from the southern edge of the park towards Buckingham House which, by that time, had become The Queen’s Palace or House.

Green Park Q House

Before Henry VIII seized monastic properties St James’s Palace was the site of a religious foundation and a leper hospital and the legend persisted that Green Park was so green (and without flowers) because it was the burial place for the lepers. There is no evidence for this! Charles II was responsible for the park’s lay-out and Constitution Hill is thought to be named because it was a favourite walk, or ‘constitutional’ of his. He also built a snow, or ice, house and the mound can still be seen in the park opposite 119, Piccadilly.

The park, as well as being a fashionable promenade, was also popular for duels in the 18th century. Count Alfieri fought Lord Ligonier the husband of his mistress there and famously remarked (when he returned from the fight to finish watching the play at the Haymarket Theatre with a wounded arm) “My view is that Ligonier did not kill me because he did not want to, and I did not kill him because I did not know how.” The park was also an excellent location for balloon ascents and firework displays such as the 1814 Peace celebrations.

The gravel walk on the eastern boundary of the park is known as The Queen’s Walk and was created for Caroline, the wife of George II. She had a pavilion built for breakfasts looking out on the park, but no trace of it remains. The most distinguished house overlooking the Walk is Spencer House. It can be seen in the top print, identified by the roof ornaments, and in the print below. (1831  Earl Spencer’s House). It is open to the public  on Sundays (except in August) by bookable guided tours.

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1814 – the Summer of Celebrations

The summer of 1814 – and London is en fete to celebrate not only the victory over Napoleon but also the anniversary of Hanoverian rule. For three months Londoners had the opportunity to view, and enjoy, some of the most lavish celebrations the capital has ever seen.

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On April 20 there was a triumphal procession for Louis XVII from Hyde Park to Grillon’s Hotel in Albemarle Street where he was staying with his entourage. On June 7 the Russian Czar Alexander I, King William III of Prussia, Marshal Blucher, Prince Metternich, the Prince of Liechtenstein, and Prince Leopold arrived in London and on June 11 the Prince Regent entertained all the Allied Leaders at the opera at Covent Garden. On June 16 they were the guests at a dinner held by the merchants and bankers of London in the City and on June 18 the Prince Regent, Marquess of Wellesley, Lord Liverpool, Marshal Blucher, Prince Metternich, Czar Alexander I, and Catherine Grand Duchess of Oldenburg were guests of honour at a dinner given by the Corporation of London.

On June 20, hopefully having had the opportunity for a rest and some digestion, the Prince Regent, the Duke of York, the King of Prussia, the Czar and  Generals Blucher, Lord Beresford and Hill reviewed 12,000 troops in Hyde Park. At 8pm that evening a re-enactment of the battle of Trafalgar was held in the park on the Serpentine with model ships three feet long (one metre) were deployed to recreate the main events of the battle. At the climax the French ships were sunk as the National Anthem was played.

The evening was staged as a popular entertainment and the park was transformed with stalls, arcades, and follies and pavilions. There were refreshments, taverns and fruit stalls and the crowd could listen to military bands as they watched acrobats or enjoyed the swings and roundabouts.

On June 22 the Allied Sovereigns watched a naval review at Portsmouth before leaving for the continent, but in London the celebrations were by no means over.

On June 28 Wellington was formally welcomed at Buckingham House by the Queen, and on July 1 a great ball was held in the Duke’s honour at Burlington House by White’s Club. It cost £10,000 and amongst the 1,700 guests was Jane Austen’s brother Henry. She was thrilled. On July 7 there was a Service of General Thanksgiving for the victory at St Paul’s Cathedral with Wellington carrying the Sword of State alongside the Regent and as a further sign of his pleasure the Regent held a fete in the gardens of Carlton House to honour the Duke on July 21.

Pagoda

August 1,1814 was the hundredth anniversary of the accession of George I of Hanover to the British throne. The Battle of the Nile was represented by rowing boats on the canal in St James’s Park which was crossed by a new ‘Chinese’ bridge with, in the centre, a seven-storey pagoda. According to Ackermann’s Repository “It appeared a blazing edifice of golden fire, every part being covered in lamps, and glass reflectors at proper intervals relieving the splendour with their silver lustre.” At the height of the fireworks the pagoda caught fire and two men and a number of swans perished, but the crowd thought it was part of the celebrations and cheered wildly.

Meanwhile in Green Park a castle-like structure was built. After firework display that lasted, according to Ackermann’s, “for more than two hours, a discharge of cannon enveloped the whole building in smoke so dense, that no part of it was visible to the innumerable spectators assembled…but when this obstruction cleared away, it burst upon them, metamorphosed into the Temple of Concord, most brilliantly illuminated… and revolving upon its centre.”

Concord

Many shops and businesses also rose to the patriotic occasion and decorated their premises. Ackermann’s Repository at 101, Strand, was decorated by a ‘transparency’ almost 30 feet (10 metres) high and “brilliantly illuminated” from the back “with carbonic gas.”. The lower section shows the seven Christian and Cardinal Virtues with the Royal arms above and the standards of the Allied nations. The upper part is the Temple of Peace with the word REGENT above and all crowned with the Prince of Wales’s feathers. It is shown at the head of this post.

You can  enjoy these two historic parks by taking Walks 4 and 6 in Walking Jane Austen’s London.

 

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Londoners Take to Their Skates

Everyone has heard of the Thames Frost Fairs where the river froze solid and Londoners could walk across, drive across – and on one notable occasion in 1814, lead an elephant across. The first recorded frost fair was in 1608, the last in 1814, after which warmer winters changes in the river’s flow because of  alterations to the bridges prevented it ever being possible again. Below is a detail from Luke Clennel’s picture of that last fair.

Frost Fair

But the Thames did not freeze every year, even before 1814, and when it did the ice was covered in booths and stalls. More reliably Londoners could take to the frozen ponds and lakes in their parks and skate. Below is a detail from an original pen and ink sketch by George Morland in my own collection and you can see the simple skates laced onto the boots or shoes of the skaters.

Morland skaters crop

The Serpentine, the lake in Hyde Park formed from the Westbourne River, provided a particularly popular venue. The Picture of London for 1807, my favourite London guidebook describes it:

‘In severe winters, when the Serpentine River is frozen over, the ice is almost covered with people. One winter there were counted more than 6000 people at one time on the ice. A number of booths were pitched for the refreshment of the populace; and here and there was a group of six, eight or more, fashionable young men, skating, and describing very difficult figures, in the manner of a country dance, with particular neatness and facility of execution. In general, however, the English do not excel in this very exhilarating and wholesome exercise.
From the number of accidents which happen annually on this river when frozen over, his majesty gave the Humane Society a spot of ground on its banks on which they have erected a most convenient receiving-house for the recovery of the apparently drowned; it cost upwards of £500 and is worthy the inspection of the curious. The society, during the time of frost, keep men on the river to guard the unwary from danger, and to relieve those who may require their aid.’

The lake in St James’s Park was also a good size for skaters as this detail from an undated print shows. Some skaters are obviously far better than others!

St James Park

The building on the far bank is the Queen’s House – Buckingham House – which eventually became Buckingham Palace.

Finally here is the image I am using for my Christmas card this year. The lady in her gorgeously warm-looking crimson pelisse seems very snug as she watches the skaters, especially the gentleman with his frozen fingers tucked into his armpits! Her rather bizarre hat is decorated with holly and there is a full description of her outfit at the end of this post.

Walking dress crop

A Very Merry Christmas and Happy 2016 to all my readers!

A Winter Walking Dress from La Belle Assemblée Feb 1812

A scarlet Merino cloth pelisse, lined with straw coloured sarsnet, trimmed with light coloured spotted fur, and attached with loops of black silk cordon and rich frog tassels; the broad fur in front, forming a tippet, pointed at the back. A narrow fur passes from the top of the sleeve,
is brought down the side seams, and relieved by fastenings of black silk cordon; four loops with frog ornament the shoulders and cuffs; plain standing up collar tied with cordon: a fine cashmire (sic) shawl, with brown ground, and richly variegated border, is generally thrown over the dress, in which is united both comfort and elegance. A Swedish hat of the same materials as the pelisse, lined with straw colour, and fastened up on one side; the crown trimmed with two rows of narrow spotted fur, and one still narrower at the edge of the hat; a bunch of the Christmas holly in front, and two tassels falling from the summit of the crown, of black, to answer the pelisse, which is worn over a white round dress, either plain or corded cambric. Beaver gloves, and demi-broquins of scarlet Morocco,
laced with black, and lined with fur, complete the dress.

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Horse Guards Parade – Crocodiles, Cardinal Wolsey & Beach Volleyball

One of the emptiest, yet most evocative, spaces in London is Horse Guards Parade. In my last post I wrote about the Regent’s Bomb – the fantastical mortar and gun carriage that sits on one side of the Arch. This time I’m writing about a little of the history of the parade ground and another cannon with a wonderful gun carriage.Guardsman
Horse Guards Parade sits between Whitehall and St James’s Park and began life as open land next to the grounds of York Place, the London palace of the Archbishops of York. Its main entrance faced down the road that is now Horse Guards Avenue, the bishop’s route to his landing stage on the river. With the fall of Cardinal Wolsey Henry VIII seized York Place and then set about acquiring “…all the medowes about saynt James, and all the whole house of S.James and ther made a fayre manision and a parke…” according to Edward Hall.
When the king began his work on what was to become Whitehall Palace a willow marsh for the farming of osiers for basketwork, Steynour’s Croft, covered much of what is now Horse Guards, the Bell Inn stood at the southern edge and an old track crossed it from the scrubland that became St James’s Park.
By 1534 the Palace of Whitehall was largely complete. Part of the area, a longitudinal strip running west across Horse Guards became his tiltyard, scene of tournaments and knightly exercises. Under Elizabeth I the Tiltyard was used for animal baiting and tournaments and pageants which were set pieces for state occasions. Under James I elaborate masques were held – including one involving an elephant carrying a castle – but the increasingly theatrical nature of royal masques led to the building of the Banqueting House on the other side of what was then King Street (now Whitehall) and the last masque in the tiltyard was planned for 1624. After that it became known as the Bearstake Gallery and it continued to be used for baiting sports until 1660.
A standing guard was stationed in a specially built guardroom at the tiltyard from 1641 and the area continued to house soldiers throughout the Commonwealth period.
On May 8th 1660 Charles II was proclaimed on the site of the old Tiltyard ‘Green’ and the renovation of Whitehall Palace began. A plan of c1670 shows Whitehall as a wide street coming down from the north and ending at the pinch-point of a Tudor gate. The range of buildings that were the old Horse Guards were built in 1663 with a yard in front and behind the range the open expanse of ground that became Horse Guards Parade.
In January 1698 a great fire destroyed the Palace of Whitehall, sparing only the Banqueting Hall and Old Horse Guards. A letter of the time records, “All parts from near the house my Lord Lichfield lived in to the Horse Guards were yesterday covered with heaps of goods rescued from the flames.”
The king moved to St James’s Palace, across the park, and Whitehall became the location for many government offices and from the 1730s the buildings surrounding Horse Guards were gradually replaced. The dilapidated old building was demolished in 1750 and the new building – the one we see now – was designed by William Kent, with additions by Isaac Ware.

 

Horse Guards

The large open space was referred to as the Parade ground, but the first written reference to “Horse Guards Parade” as a title comes as late as 1817. By then the area looked much as it does today as can be seen in this print of 1809 by Rowlandson and Pugin, published by Ackermann. Only the high brick wall that closes off the gardens at the rear of Downing Street today (to the right of the picture) is missing.
The space is uncluttered now – when it is not being used for events such as Trooping the Colour and the Olympic Beach Volleyball, or in the Victorian era, the marshalling point for the vast funeral procession of the Duke of Wellington. However there are two interesting weapons exhibited there, either side of the arch. On one side is the Regent’s Bomb, on the other a 16th century Turkish cannon brought to the site in 1802 after its

capture in the siege of Alexandria (1801) when the British invaded Egypt to fight Napoleon’s army, an event that formed the setting for my recent novel Beguiled By

Her Betrayer.

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It was made in 1526 and the inscription on the barrel reads:
“The Solomon of the age the Great Sultan Commander of the dragon guns When they breathe roaring like thunder. May the enemy’s forts be razed to the ground. Year of Hegira 931.”
The gun carriage was made at Woolwich and depicts Britannia pointing at the Pyramids and a rather splendid crocodile.                                                                     You can visit Horse Guards Parade both in my Walks Through Regency London (Walk 8 Trafalgar Square to Westminster, which follows the length of Whitehall)
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00HZ35V4K
and Walking Jane Austen’s London (Walk 6 Westminster to Charing Cross, which goes through St James’s Park).
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00CPOT0IC

 

 

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