Friday, 25 September 2015

A Sense of Place

Sometimes the disappointment of ‘the best laid plans….’ can lead to something entirely unexpected and very exciting. This is what happened to me last weekend.

Last Sunday, on one of those rare lovely sunny days, and with my original arrangements cancelled, my husband drove me up to town. It was a difficult journey with far more traffic than we’d anticipated – possibly due to the thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey in memory of the Battle of Britain. We took a different route into London from usual and because of several hold-ups (holds-up?) saw lots of things we might otherwise have missed; and the sun was shining; and we weren’t in a hurry.

Arriving in St James’s Square and finding a parking space – yes! – we walked across Jermyn Street into Piccadilly and found somewhere to have lunch, each having by this time built up a healthy appetite. It was lovely and it was leisurely. The thoroughfare was crowded and we watched the world go by. After a dessert which I shall not describe here for fear of salivating, we went back to the square, the object of the outing being to ‘get a feel’ for the place where my heroine lived back in the 1800s.

I had only the camera on my phone to rely on but it did sterling work. The first thing that surprised
me was how big the square is. Standing on one side I was amazed to see, on peering through the central gardens, just how far it stretched across. The square’s main feature is an equestrian statue of William III which was erected in 1808. Things were already going my way then. As we walked around the perimeter of the gardens it was easy to imagine pedestrians, horse-drawn carriages and riders inhabiting that space all those years ago.

There was an eclectic mixture of architecture and I managed some nice images but what amazed me most was the history of the square, not just in relation to ‘my’ period but incorporating several events over time. I don’t know why I was surprised but I will mention a few here, confirmed by the blue plaques that adorned some of the houses. I suppose the most obvious one to begin with is that of Henry Jermyn, Earl of St Albans, inspiration of much of the building in this area, who died in a house on the site of the one that carries this plate.

A house on another side of the square bears evidence that this was a place popular with previous
prime ministers. In a corner of the square (oxymoron?) stands this beautiful building, where lived Nancy Astor, the first woman to sit in Parliament.

Norfolk House carries a plaque carrying the name of Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander in WWII. I’ve added it here in the hope that you can read the inscription.

Love this building
And this one
 Perhaps I have overloaded this post with photos but I was so excited! Not only does St James’s Square carry many historical aspects but it gave me the sense of place I was seeking for my work in progress. I had previously Googled and found many images to help with my research but, wonderful as Google is, there is nothing, NOTHING, like seeing something for yourself. 

I will finish with one more image. It is of the London Library where I understand Georgette Heyer, my inspiration for all of this, carried out much of her own research. How good is that!  
The London Library



  1. It sounds a great day out and excellent research. There's always something to see in London, isn't there, and Sundays there are more peaceful for exploring.

    1. It was more buzzing than peaceful but I take your point, Rosemary. I doubt if it would have been quite such a pleasant experience on a weekday.

  2. Sounds like a really interesting day, Natalie. There's nothing to beat first hand research.

  3. Can't wait for the next 'outing', Francesca.

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