St James's Square

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St James's Square
St James's Square - - 784007.jpg
The statue of William III at the centre of the square
Location St James's, London
Coordinates 51°30′26″N0°08′07″W / 51.507244°N 0.135299°W / 51.507244; -0.135299 Coordinates: 51°30′26″N0°08′07″W / 51.507244°N 0.135299°W / 51.507244; -0.135299
Open10am – 4:30pm daily [1]

St James's Square is the only square in the exclusive St James's district of the City of Westminster. It has predominantly Georgian and Neo-Georgian architecture and a garden in the centre. For its first two hundred or so years it was one of the three or four most fashionable residential multi-owner estates in London. It is now home to the headquarters of a number of well-known businesses, including BP and Rio Tinto Group; to four private members' clubs, the East India Club, the Naval and Military Club, the Canning Club, and the Army and Navy Club; to the High Commission of Cyprus; and to the London Library. Also based in the square is the premises of the think tank Chatham House. A principal feature of the square is an equestrian statue of William III erected in 1808.

St Jamess district in the City of Westminster, London, England

St James's is a central district in the City of Westminster, London, forming part of the West End. In the 17th century the area developed as a residential location for the British aristocracy, and around the 19th century was the focus of the development of gentlemen's clubs. Anciently part of the parish of St Martin in the Fields, much of it formed the parish of St James from 1685 to 1922. Since the Second World War the area has transitioned from residential to commercial use.

City of Westminster City and borough in London

The City of Westminster is an Inner London borough that also holds city status. It occupies much of the central area of Greater London including most of the West End. Historically in Middlesex, it is to the west of the ancient City of London, directly to the east of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and its southern boundary is the River Thames. The London borough was created with the 1965 establishment of Greater London. Upon its creation, it inherited the city status previously held by the smaller Metropolitan Borough of Westminster from 1900, which was first awarded to Westminster in 1540.

Georgian architecture set of architectural styles current between 1720 and 1840

Georgian architecture is the name given in most English-speaking countries to the set of architectural styles current between 1714 and 1830. It is eponymous for the first four British monarchs of the House of Hanover—George I, George II, George III, and George IV—who reigned in continuous succession from August 1714 to June 1830. The style was revived in the late 19th century in the United States as Colonial Revival architecture and in the early 20th century in Great Britain as Neo-Georgian architecture; in both it is also called Georgian Revival architecture. In the United States the term "Georgian" is generally used to describe all buildings from the period, regardless of style; in Britain it is generally restricted to buildings that are "architectural in intention", and have stylistic characteristics that are typical of the period, though that covers a wide range.



In 1662 Charles II extended a lease over the 45 acres [2] of Pall Mall (St James's) Field held by Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans to 1720 and soon afterwards the earl began to lay out the property for development. The earl petitioned the king that the class of occupants they both hoped to attract to the new district would not take houses without the prospect of eventually acquiring them outright, and in 1665 the king granted the freehold of the site of St. James's Square and some closely adjacent parts of the field to the earl's trustees. The location was convenient for the royal palaces of Whitehall and St James. The houses on the east, north and west sides of the square were soon developed, each of them being constructed separately as was usual at that time.

Charles II of England 17th-century King of England, Ireland and Scotland

Charles II was king of England, Scotland and Ireland. He was king of Scotland from 1649 until his deposition in 1651, and king of England, Scotland and Ireland from the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 until his death.

Lease business contract between two parties, the lessor (owner) and lessee (user), for use of property

A lease is a contractual arrangement calling for the lessee (user) to pay the lessor (owner) for use of an asset. Property, buildings and vehicles are common assets that are leased. Industrial or business equipment is also leased.

Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans English politician and courtier

Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of Saint Albans, was an English politician and courtier. He sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1625 and 1643 when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Jermyn. He was one of the most influential courtiers of the period, constantly devising and promoting schemes to involve foreign powers in the restoration of the monarchy, both before and after the execution of Charles I.

St James's Square circa 1752. J Bowles's view of St James's Square.jpg
St James's Square circa 1752.

In the 1720s seven dukes and seven earls were in residence. The east, north and western sides of the square contained some of the most desirable houses in London. At first glance they do not appear much different from most other houses in the fashionable parts of the West End, but this is deceptive. The windows were more widely spaced than most, the ceilings were high, and deep plots and ingenious planning allowed some of the houses to contain a very large amount of accommodation indeed (see the plans in the Survey of London extract linked below and note that this is not reflected in the extract from Horwood's map shown as he had no access to the interiors). Some of the houses had fine interiors by leading architects such as Matthew Brettingham, Robert Adam and John Soane.

Matthew Brettingham English architect

Matthew Brettingham, sometimes called Matthew Brettingham the Elder, was an 18th-century Englishman who rose from humble origins to supervise the construction of Holkham Hall, and become one of the country's best-known architects of his generation. Much of his principal work has since been demolished, particularly his work in London, where he revolutionised the design of the grand townhouse. As a result, he is often overlooked today, remembered principally for his Palladian remodelling of numerous country houses, many of them situated in the East Anglia area of Britain. As Brettingham neared the pinnacle of his career, Palladianism began to fall out of fashion and neoclassicism was introduced, championed by the young Robert Adam.

Robert Adam Scottish neoclassical architect

Robert Adam was a Scottish neoclassical architect, interior designer and furniture designer. He was the son of William Adam (1689–1748), Scotland's foremost architect of the time, and trained under him. With his older brother John, Robert took on the family business, which included lucrative work for the Board of Ordnance, after William's death.

John Soane English architect

Sir John Soane was an English architect who specialised in the Neo-Classical style. The son of a bricklayer, he rose to the top of his profession, becoming professor of architecture at the Royal Academy and an official architect to the Office of Works. He received a knighthood in 1831.

The southern side of the square was much more modest. The plots were just sixty feet deep and an average of 22 feet wide. They originally faced Pall Mall and had Pall Mall numbers (the modern reconstructions, which are mostly offices, have fronts to both the square and the street). The residents of these houses were not eligible to be trustees of the trust which administered the square or even to use the central garden. The idea of buying them out, demolishing their houses and leaving the space open to the Pall Mall was raised more than once, but never implemented.

Things began to change by the 1830s with the arrival of club-houses, and in 1844 The Builder commented that the square was losing caste and the fashionable were migrating to Belgravia. By 1857 the square contained a bank, an insurance society, two government offices, the London Library, two lodging-houses and three clubs. However, some of the houses continued to be occupied by the fashionable and wealthy into the twentieth century.

Belgravia District in central London, England

Belgravia is an affluent district in Central London, shared within the authorities of both the City of Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Belgravia is noted for its very expensive residential properties; it is one of the wealthiest districts in the world.

London Library independent lending library in London, established in 1841

The London Library is an independent lending library in London, established in 1841. It was founded on the initiative of Thomas Carlyle, who was dissatisfied with some of the policies at the British Museum Library. It is located at 14 St. James's Square, in the St James's area of the City of Westminster, which has been its home since 1845. Membership is open to all, on payment of an annual subscription, and life and corporate memberships are also available. As of March 2015 the Library had 6,708 members.

The Libyan embassy in St James's Square was the site of the 1984 Libyan Embassy Siege. According to a news report of the time:

A police officer has been killed and ten people injured after shots were fired from the Libyan People's Bureau in central London. WPC Yvonne Fletcher had been helping control a small demonstration outside the embassy when automatic gunfire came from outside. She received a fatal stomach wound and some of the demonstrators were also severely injured. WPC Fletcher, 25, died soon afterwards at Westminster Hospital. [3]


St James's Square in 1799 St James's Square 1799.jpg
St James's Square in 1799

The numbering starts with Number 1 to the north of Charles Street on the eastern side of the square and proceeds anti-clockwise as far as Number 21. The Army and Navy Club's clubhouse occupies the former sites of Number 22, a smaller adjacent house which may have had a George Street number, and several former houses in Pall Mall. Norfolk House at the southern end of the square is Number 31, and the two houses to its north are Numbers 32 and 33. A small house in the angle of the square south of Norfolk House, originally numbered in John Street, and the adjacent house in Pall Mall, have been combined and allocated the number 31A.

The smaller houses along the southern side had Pall Mall numbers until 1884. This block is now occupied by a mixture of 19th and 20th century buildings which are fully built up to the pavements on both sides. Some of them have their main entrance in Pall Mall and others in the square, and there are two separate sets of numbers for them. The numbers in the square range from 22A to 30, with some omissions.

The facade of No. 20 as designed by Robert Adam. RobertJamesAdamengravedJohnRobertsfacadeWatkinWilliamsWynnStJames1777.jpg
The façade of No. 20 as designed by Robert Adam.
St James's Square, London - April 2009.jpg
A 360-degree view of St James's Square; from left to right, east, south, west and north. (Swipe left or right)


The gardens St. James's Square, City of Westminster.JPG
The gardens

The gardens in the centre of the square are maintained and cared for by the St James's Square Trust, which receives its financial support from the building freeholders. [11] The Trust was established by the Saint James' Square: Rates Act of 1726 (12 Geo. 1 c. 25), which authorised the freeholders to raise a rate on themselves to "clean, adorn and beautify" the square: this was the earliest statute passed to regulate a London square, and is the only one still in unamended operation. The gardens are normally open to the public on weekdays from 7.30am to 4.30pm, but are kept locked and accessible only to freeholders and residents at other times. They are used on an occasional basis as a venue for art exhibitions, weddings, and other functions.

Other details

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  1. "St James's Square". Westminster City Council. 2010. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  2. Dasent, Arthur Irwin (1895). The history of St. James's Square. New York: MacMillan and Co. p. 4. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  3. "Libyan embassy shots kill policewoman". BBC. 17 April 1984.
  4. "Re-Thinking Pitt-Rivers". University of Oxford. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
  5. Plaque #200 on Open Plaques .
  7. Watt, Holly (16 March 2008). "World's most expensive property sold in London". The Times.
  8. Plaque #258 on Open Plaques .
  9. Plaque #599 on Open Plaques .
  10. Wheatley, Henry Benjamin; Cunningham, Peter (24 February 2011). London Past and Present: Its History, Associations, and Traditions. Cambridge University Press. p. 301. ISBN   9781108028073 . Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  11. "St James's Square Trust" . Retrieved 13 March 2016.

Details of ex-residents taken from