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St James’s Park
St James’s Park is the oldest Royal Park in London, The park was originally a piece of marshland, then in the 13th century a leper hospital was built. It was after the hospital dedicated to St James the Less that the park was named, In 1532 Henry VIII acquired the land and turned it into a deer park and then built St James’s Palace. Subsequent Kings and Queens made minor changes until Charles the II redesigned the park and opened it to the public. Charles entertained his mistress Nell Gwynne in the park and for a while the park had a reputation as a sordid sexual playground. This was captured in the Earl of Rochester’s sexually explicit poem ‘A Ramble in St. James’s Park.’
Horse Guards Parade which is still part of St James’s Park was created in the 18th century by filling in the end of a canal and was generally used for parades. In the 19th century John Nash redesigned the park and transformed the canal into a lake, birds were added to the lake in 1837 and a cottage built for the Birdkeeper.
St James Park is unique because it is surrounded by three palaces, The Palace of Westminster, St James’s Palace and Buckingham Palace.
Another unusual aspect of the park is the Pelicans, they were first introduced to the park in 1664 as a gift from the Russian Ambassador, there are currently six pelicans in the park.
For more information, visit the Royal Parks website here
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