London – Green Park And St. James’s

Walking along Piccadilly from Hyde Park Corner on the “sulky” side, as Mr. Street calls it in his charming Ghosts of Piccadilly, many people wonder at the meaning of the ledge on the curb of the pavement nearly opposite the entrance to 128, Piccadilly. It owes its existence to a benevolent old clubman who, from his comfortable window armchair, noticed the porters bearing heavy burdens on their backs and toiling up the slope of Piccadilly. The ledge was fixed at the right height, so that they might rest their burdens without unfastening them.

Green Park was once much larger than its present sixty acres or so, but George III. took some of it in 1767 to enlarge the gardens of old Buckingham House. It is now the happy hunting-ground of the gentlemen who love to lie full length on the grass-the not inconsiderable army of people who would dread communism if they ever thought about anything, and would bitterly regret under any other regime the halcyon days when the outof-work dole of a benevolent government of bourgeois permitted these free Britons to lounge at peace.

Their presence is perhaps the reason why the Green Park is not a fashionable rendezvous, like Hyde Park, although some of the great London houses, Stafford House, Bridgewater House, Spencer House, etc., border it on the east side. The wrought iron and gilded gates bearing the Cavendish crest and motto that were formerly used as the entrance to Devonshire House have now been placed in Green Park opposite the building they guarded so long. These beautiful old gates have had a chequered history. Seven generations ago, in the eighteenth century, they began their existence at Turnham Green, where they guarded the approach to the house of the second Lord Egmont and bore the arms of the Perceval family. The house changed owners and was pulled down, and in 1838 the gates were bought by the sixth Duke of Devonshire for his Chiswick house. They stayed there for fifty-nine years, before they came to spend a brief quarter of a century watching the ebb and flow of Piccadilly.

The Duke of Devonshire already had beautiful gates at Chiswick when he bought these, for the Earl of Burlington who got the house in 1727 and whose daughter and sole heiress married a Duke of Devonshire, was also a connoisseur in gates, and had begged a beautiful pair of Inigo Jones design from Sir Hans Sloane, who did not appreciate them. When they were being moved, Pope wrote:

Passenger. Oh Gate! how cam’st thou here? Gate. I was brought from Chelsea last year, Battered with wind and weather; Inigo Jones put me together, Sir Hans Sloane Let me alone, So Burlington brought me hither.

Green Park has another gate, part of which I am sure is unnoticed, for how many people know that in the Wellington Arch at the top of Constitution Hill, at the upper end of the Green Park, sixteen policemen and an inspector have their happy home. Their special task is to direct the traffic at Hyde Park Corner, no easy matter in the season or when the king and queen and other notabilities come driving out to take the air. From their bedroom in the Arch they can climb on to the wide flat top, and under the shadow of the splendid group of Peace in her flying chariot, look over a wonderful vista of park and palace and highway.