Highlights at The Athenaeum in 2018
In 2019 we’ll be enjoying the fruits of our labour after an epic 2018. Here’s what happened.
6th August 2018
The elegant and affluent locality of St. James’s occupies an enviable position in the heart of London. With the greenery of Green Park and St. James’s Park providing a vast and beautiful border on two sides of the neighbourhood, the other boundaries of the locality are marked by the well-known roads of Piccadilly and Haymarket. Each and every building, road, garden and square has a story to tell in this historic part of the city.
St. James’s Palace is the place to stroll past first for a sense of the area’s history. The location was originally home to a 12th century leper hospital called Saint James the Less, from which St. James’s gets its name today. The palace itself was built by King Henry VIII in the 1530s in a red-brick Tudor style. It is now home to some members of the royal family and the offices of various organisations, such as the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood, responsible for administering orders of chivalry for the UK.
At the heart of St. James’s district is St. James’s Square – a garden square surrounded by buildings of Georgian and Neo-Georgian architecture. St. James’s was historically known as London’s ‘clubland’ due to the number of gentleman’s clubs located in the area. The locality around St. James’s Square keeps some of this spirit alive today, with a number of the buildings here still used as private members’ clubs and vocation-specific clubs such as the Naval and Military Club at number 4. Also look out for the house at number 7 – built by famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, and number 10, where three former Prime Ministers lived. The gardens in the square itself are open to members of the public on weekdays between 7:30 and 16:30.
Pall Mall is another historic street known for its private clubs, royal connections and grand architecture. In particular, be sure to take in the 300-year old Grade I listed Marlborough House, originally designed by the architect, Sir Christopher Wren.
Lancaster House is another fascinating building to walk past during a stroll around St. James’s. Built in 1825 by the Duke of York – known as the ‘grand old Duke of York’ in the nursery rhyme – Lancaster House has a colourful history, having been used for royal and political events over the centuries. Fascinatingly, the building has held the Government Wine Cellar since 1922 and is estimated to contain 39,000 bottles of wine! Lancaster House has also been used as a location in a number of films and TV series, including The Young Victoria, The King’s Speech, Downton Abbey and The Crown.
Elsewhere in St. James’s, Jermyn Street is the perfect place to explore for fans of fashion and high-end tailoring. A street first established by the 1st Earl of St Albans, Jermyn Street has gained a global reputation as being a centre for gentleman’s tailoring. Many tailors and high-end male fashion retailers are still located along the street to this day. There are also plenty of other points of interest along the street, including the former homes of Sir Isaac Newton, who lived at both number 87 and 88, while a number of art galleries have put the street on the map as part of St. James’s Art District.
Another famous landmark in St. James’s is Christie’s, the auction house that has been located on King Street since 1823. This has been the site of many notable auctions over the years. More recently, this includes Elton John’s sale of 20 cars in 2001 raising £2 million, and the sale of Lot and his Daughters by Peter Paul Rubens for almost £45 million in 2016 – the highest price an Old Master painting has ever been sold for at Christie’s.
There are plenty more fascinating nooks and crannies to be found in St. James’s – take a stroll and see what you discover.
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