In the time of Henry VIII., was a complete marsh. That prince, on building St. James's Palace, enclosed it; laid it out in walks, and collecting the waters together, gave to the new enclosed ground and building the name of St. James's. It was afterwards much improved by Charles II., who added several fields to it, planted rows of lime trees, laid out the mall, which is a vista half a mile in length, at that time formed into a hollow smooth walk, skirted with a wooden border, and with an iron hoop at the farther end, for the purpose of playing a game with a ball, called a mall. He formed the canal, which is 100 feet broad, and 2,800 long, with a decoy and other ponds for water-fowl. Succeeding kings allowed the people the privilege of walking in it; and king William III., in 1699, granted the neighbouring inhabitants a passage into it from Spring Gardens. It affords a very pleasant promenade, being continually diversified by the numerous structures surrounding it.—There were great celebrations in this park to celebrate the return of peace. There was a grand Temple of Concord built in the Green Park, which was magnificently illuminated, and round which fire-works and cannon were discharged during the evening and night. Across the canal was built a wooden pagoda bridge, which still remains for the advantage of passengers; but great part of the pagoda tower was burnt on the night in question. That portion of it has not since been rebuilt. This bridge, however, it not being built of very durable materials, is very considerably decayed; and to remedy this evil, as well as to preserve to the public so commodious a road, it is about to be replaced by a cast-iron bridge now preparing at Woolwich.
Opposite to the Horse Guards, in the fine open space between that range of buildings and the canal, there have been placed three great guns, celebrated on account of the manner in which they were taken, and therefore naturally exciting curiosity and attention.
The first is a Turkish piece of ordnance. It is of immense length, and has on it variegated impressions emblematical of the country. It was brought from Alexandria by our troops. It is mounted on a carriage of English structure, which has about it several Egyptian ornaments.
The second is the Grand Mortar brought from Cadiz. Some description of this immense instrument of destruction, and of the circumstances relating to its transmission to England, cannot fail to interest.—During the war in the Peninsula, Cadiz was bombarded from a distance previously supposed to be beyond the range of projectiles—a circumstance which attached so much consequence to the ordnance employed and left by Marshal Soult on his retreat, as to induce the Spanish Regency to send one of the mortars to his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, intrusting it to the care of the Hon. Rear-Admiral Legge, who was instructed by the President, the Duke del Infantado, to request it might be placed in one of the royal parks, His Royal Highness was pleased to accede to this request, and directed the mortar to be suitably placed on the parade of the Horse-guards, to record the glorious victory gained at Salamanca, the consequent liberation of the south of Spain; and in honour of the Duke of Wellington, to whom both countries were indebted for it. His Royal Highness commanded the Earl of Mulgrave to direct a carriage to be prepared for the purpose, which has been made in the royal carriage department at Woolwich.
The following is a description of the carriage.
An emblem has been selected (in allegorical allusion to the means by which the siege of Cadiz was terminated) from the labours of Hercules, who destroyed the monster Geryon, the tyrant of the Isle of Gades, thus figuratively describing the raising of the siege, and to illustrate the fame of the hero who had broken the enchantment of the modern Geryon. Some liberties have been taken with the principal figure in substituting wings for the heads; the tail twists round to the vent in order to convey the scorpion fire. The heads of the tyrant's guardian dog are represented in the alternate state of activity and repose, to denote eternal watchfulness. The mortar is left as it was found, being mounted on its carriage at an elevation of 45 degrees, upon a bed of brass, representing a rock on which the monster has alighted.
DIMENSIONS.--Length of the bed, 9feet 2 inches.--Breadth of ditto, 4 feet 6 inches.--General height, 9 feet 10 inches,--Weight of the whole, 16 tons.
INSCRIPTIONS ON THE SIDES OF THE BED.
Devictis a Wellington Duce prope Salamancam Gallis,
Solutaque exinde Gadium Obsidione hanc quam Aspicitis
Basi superimpositam Bombardam, vi praeditam adhuc inaudit
Ad Urbem portuique Gaditanum Destruendum Conflatam,
Et a Copiis Turbatis, Relictam, Cortes Hispanici, pristinorum haud-quaquam
Beneficiorum Obliti summae venerationis, Testimonio donaverunt
Georgio. Illus. Brit: Princ.
Qui in perpetuam Rei memoriam hoc loco ponendam, et his
Ornamentis Decorandam Jussit.
The Raising of the Siege of Cadiz, in consequence of the Glorious Victory obtained by the
Duke of Wellington
over the French near Salamanca, on the 22d July, 1812.
This Mortar, cast for the destruction of that great Fort,
with powers surpassing all others,
and abandoned by the Besiegers on their Retreat,
was presented as a Token of Respect and Gratitude by the Spanish Nation
To His Royal Highness the Prince Regent.
IN THE FRONT OF THE BED.
The Crest & the Motto of his Royal Highness the Prince Regent,
IN THE REAR.
Constructed in the Royal Carriage Department.
Earl of Mulgrave Master General. - A. D. 1814.
It is the largest of the mortars granted for this particular service. It is stated that it would throw a shell 16 miles. It was left by the French on their retreat from before Cadiz.
The third is one of the pieces of artillery taken from Buonaparte at the battle of Waterloo. The carriage, &c., remain as they were when the piece was taken. It was placed on the anniversary of the battle, June 18.
Source: Leigh's New Picture of London. Printed for Samuel Leigh, 18, Strand;
by W. Clowes, Northumberland Court. 1819