2003 Discovering Britain & Ireland – Day 28

LONDON – guarding the horses

Saturday – today’s plan of attack – something different – back into London for some more touristy things to see and do.  Been there and done that I hear you say? Well, London always has something different on show every day.

The temperature is very hot – maybe we might get some blue skies.   Horse Guards is first on the list and I am there in time for the Changing of the Guard.

The horses trot down through St James’s Park and onto the parade ground. The Guards are very resplendent in their uniforms even though they are looking really hot. The horses are immaculate.

They change the guards and I get some good photos. The guards look really young and there are even some females in the group.

HISTORY LESSON: Horse Guards stands on the site of Henry VIII’s tournament ground or ’tiltyard’.  Nearby is a remnant of the ‘real tennis’ court where Henry is said to have played the forerunner of modern lawn tennis. The elegant buildings of Horse Guards were designed by William Kent and completed in 1755. 

Horse Guards originally was the main entrance to Buckingham Palace and royal processions travelling through Whitehall still pass under the arches of the building.  The Old Treasury, and the back of the Dover House, dating from 1758, are also by Kent. 

The parade ground of Horse Guards is dominated by the ivy-covered Citade, a.bomb-proof structure built beside the Admiralty in 1940.  During World War II it was used as a communications headquarters by the Navy.

From Horse Guards – I go to Trafalgar Square – to take some more photos. There are lots of kids playing in the big fountain and climbing all over the lion statues and the photo on the left is one of the fountains in Trafalgar Square with the church of St Martin’s in the Fields and a statue of Charles I.

Walking down Whitehall there are many statues of historical figures.  It is extremely hard to dodge traffic, take photos and appreciate the statues but I manage to do it and not get hit in the process.

You could spend all day just walking up and down Whitehall taking photos.

This is a photo of Prince George, Duke of Cambridge. George William Frederick Charles; 26 March 1819 – 17 March 1904) was a member of the British Royal family, a male-line grandson of King George III. The Duke was an army officer by profession and served as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces from 1856 to 1895. He became Duke of Cambridge in 1850.

Further along is a most ordinary building called The Banqueting House.

HISTORY LESSON: in 1649 work commenced on The Banqueting House. Designed and built by Inigo Jones for James I, it replaces a previous building which was destroyed by fire.

It is used as a setting for Occasions of State. In 1649 King Charles I was found guilty of treason and executed outside this palatial building.

The building was controversially re-faced in Portland stone in the 19th century, though the details of the original façade were faithfully preserved.

Today, the Banqueting House is a national monument, open to the public and preserved as a Grade I listed building.  It is cared for by an independent charity, Historic Royal Palaces which receives no funding from the Government or the Crown.

Further down Whitehall is the Cenotaph – – constructed 1919 -1920.

After walking far enough down Whitehall I  I turn around and go back to Trafalgar Square.  The Square was laid out in 1829 to 1841 to commemorate Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.  Nelson’s statue is on a column 185 feet high.

From here I cross over and walk through St. James’s Park which is situated in the very heart of London. This is the oldest Royal Park in London.

HISTORY LESSON: Three royal palaces skirt St James Park. Westminster – the most ancient; Buckingham Palace and the Tudor style of St James Palace.

St James Park was once a marshy water meadow. In 1532 Henry VIII acquired the site as yet another deer park and built the Palace of St James. When Elizabeth I came to the throne she indulged her love of pageantry and pomp and fetes of all kinds were held here. James I improved the drainage and controlled the water supply.

A road was created in front of St James’s Palace approximately where The Mall is today, but it was Charles II who made dramatic changes. The park was redesigned with avenues of trees and lawns.  The King opened the park to the public and was a frequent visitor, feeding the ducks.

It doesn’t sound as if I did much today but I have not stopped walking.  Today was great and now it is time to head off back to Kensington.

Highlight of the day: Whitehall

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *