The Royal village of St James is an exclusive and historic London enclave through which a labyrinth of alleyways and passages snake their way between and behind some of London’s grandest houses, shops and palaces.
In short it’s an absolute joy of an area to discover and, once you’ve experienced it, you’ll most certainly return at your leisure to uncover the wonderful, and secret, places that are featured on our walking tour around the Old Palace quarter.
Beginning with a stroll onto the picturesque tufts of Green Park,your guide will, straight away, begin breathing life into the history that surrounds you. You will hear several of the explanations as to how this delightfully rural space in the heart of the busy West End became a “green” park.
Having learnt of the history of the park, you will then make your way via a gas lit pathway to enter a truly secret passage that passes beneath some of the area’s most exclusive residences and delivers you into the village of St James.
Instantly the buildings and streets of the 21st century fade into the future to be replaced by houses and thoroughfares that are firmly rooted in London’s past.
A truly eclectic mix of houses and characters awaits your discovery on the first section of your walk through the Royal village of St James. You will see the ancestral home of the late Diana, Princess of Wales and hear the gossip about some of the illustrious bygone members of her family. You will stand outside the former home of the man who holds the dubious distinction of being the first person to be run over by a steam train. You will see the favoured resort of the America author James Thurber and learn about those of whom he once commented that “they have nothing to say, but say it anyway”!You will encounter one of London’s greatest, and funniest, caricaturists, the man who created the original Tom and Jerry. And all this within a few short streets after entering this remarkable and fascinating village.
Next up, you will enter a gloriously antiquated cobblestone courtyard where the stables from one of the area’s old, old inns are the esteemed guardians of long ago tall tales of hair raising journeys along the highways and byways of bygone Britain.
Then, it’s time to enter gentlemen’s club land as the tour wends its way past some of the most exclusive and elegant clubs to grace the London streetscape. You’l hear some remarkable tales about the excesses and debauching to which their time-worn walls have borne silent witness. Tales of gargantuan binges on food and wine. Tales of aristocratic fortunes made or lost on the turn of a card or the roll of a dice. Not one morsel of salacious gossip will be denied you as you witness the British upper classes at their worst!
A return to elegance next as we encounter a row of truly exclusive shops that have been supplying the likes of cigars, hats, shoes and fine wines to Royalty for many generations. Gazing in through their windows will be just like looking back in time and your guides commentary will complete the kaleidoscope on the past by peopling their interiors with those who have shopped and worked there over the last 100, 200 and 300 years.
A true surprise awaits you next as your guide makes a sudden turn into a dark and narrow passageway that leads to a tiny courtyard that will take you as far back in time from the rush and bustle of the 21st Century as it is possible to go. A curious mix of properties will surround you and an even curiouser mix of tales from the past will assail your ears as your guide regales you with tales of duals and psychopathic prize fighters.
Then comes a true highlight of the tour as you gaze in wonder at the rough brick Tudor gatehouse of St James’s Palace, built by no less a King than Henry V111 himself. A thousand tales will come tripping from its eventful past as a veritable cavalcade of royal history cavorts before you. The tale of a doomed King dressing in two shirts on the morning of his execution, lest his subjects should see him shiver and think he was afraid to die. Tales of Royal marriages that hit the rocks even before the vows had been spoken. Tales of Royal mistresses and misfit monarchs; of royal murders and succulent scandals. All this, and much much more, will be paraded before you on a roller coaster ride through London’s Royal history.
The final section of the tour will meander through a delightful medley of mews, squares and narrow passageways in which you will learn more of the area’s fascinating history, smattered with many a juicy tale and tid bit about those who helped shape it.
So join us for a delightfully exuberant journey that celebrates the glorious, and occasionally scandalous, past of one of London’s grandest and most exclusive neighbourhoods.