St James’s is an exclusive area in the West End of London.
St James’s Square is the only square in district of St James’s.
In 1662 Charles I
I extended Henry Jermyn’s (the Earl of St Albans) lease over the 45 acres of Pall Mall
Field to 1720.
Jermyn began to lay out the property for development. 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.
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. By the 1720s seven dukes and seven earls were in residence.
Some of the houses had interiors by leading architects such as Matthew Brettingham, Robert Adam and John Soane.
In the 1830s, gentleman’s clubs began to be built and the aristocracy started to move to Belgravia. In 1857 the square contained two government offices, a bank, two lodging-houses, an insurance society, the London Library
and three clubs.
The Libyan embassy in St James’s Square was the site of the 1984 Libyan Embassy Siege.
St James’s Square has a garden in the centre featuring an equestrian statue of William III erected in 1808.
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St James’s was once part of the same royal park as Green Park and St James’s Park. In the 1660s, Charles II gave the right to develop the area to Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans, who proceeded to develop it as a predominantly aristocratic residential area with a grid of streets centered on St James’s Square. Until the Second World War, St James’s remained one of the most exclusive residential enclaves in London. Famous residences in St James’s include St James’s Palace, Clarence House, Marlborough House, Lancaster House, Spencer House, Schomberg House and Bridgewater House.
St James’s is the home of many of the best known gentlemen’s clubs in London. The clubs found here are organisations of English high society. A variety of groups congregate here, such as royals, military officers, motoring enthusiasts, and other groups.
It is now a predominantly commercial area with some of the highest rents in London and, consequently, the world. The auction house Christie’s is based in King Street, and the surrounding streets contain a great many upmarket art and antique dealers.
Office space to rent in St James’s is the most expensive in the world, costing up to five times average rents in New York, Paris and Sydney.
The area is home to fine wine merchants including Berry Brothers and Rudd, at number 3 St James’s Street. Adjoining St James’s Street is Jermyn Street, famous for its many tailors. St James’s is home to some of the most famous cigar retailers in London. At 35 St James’s Street is Davidoff of London, 19 St James’s Street is home to J.J. Fox and 50 Jermyn St has Dunhill; this makes the area a Cuban cigar haven.
The iconic English shoemaker Wildsmith which designed the first ever loafer was located at 41 Duke Street, St, James’s. It is now currently located at 13 Savile Row.
The area has a good number of art galleries, covering a spectrum of tastes. The White Cube gallery, which represents Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, had originally opened in Duke Street, St James’s, then moved to Hoxton Square. In September 2006, it opened a second gallery in St James’s at 25–26 Mason’s Yard, off Duke Street, on a plot previously occupied by an electricity sub-station. The gallery is the first free-standing building to be built in the St James’s area for more than 30 years.