King James I’s London – 2. St James’s Park

March 30, 2011

Although royal connections with St James’s Park, the oldest royal park in London, go back to the time of King Henry VIII – it was he who first purchased the marshy watermeadow in 1532 with the idea of creating another of his many deer parks, it was on the accession of King James I that orders were given for the swamp to be drained and landscaped.

The landscape features included a large pool known as Rosamond’s Pond at the west end and, at the east end, a collection of waterways and islands used to attract birds that could then stock the royal larder. There was also a flower garden next to St James’s Palace (this had been built by King Henry VIII).

Among the other uses King James I had for the park were as a site to keep the royal menagerie which included exotic animals like crocodiles and camels. There were also bird aviaries placed along what is now appropriately named Birdcage Walk.

The layout of the park became more formal during the later reign of King Charles II who had been inspired by what he’d seen while in exile in France.

PICTURE: Looking across St James’s Park toward Whitehall in the snow.

WHERE: St James’s Park (nearest tube station is St James’s Park); WHEN: 5am to midnight daily; COST: Free entry; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.gov.uk/St-Jamess-Park.aspx

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