House (Palace) in the Eighteenth Century
information in this article comes from a letter written by
John Sheffield, the Duke of Buckinghamshire, builder of the
house, to the Duke of Shewsbury sometime before Buckinghamshire's
death in 1721.
building we now know as Buckingham Palace, was built originally
as Buckingham House in 1703 on the site of Mulberry Gardens
(a place where, according to legend, seventeenth century poets
would wander in order to find inspiration; more prosaically,
this space was a walled garden for mulberry trees built by
James I in the early seventeenth century in the hope of kick-starting
England's silk industry).
the early eighteenth century the approaches to the house was
via twin avenues which ran through rows of stately elm and
lime trees running the length of St James' Park. The avenue
of elm trees was for coaches, that of the lime trees for those
on foot. The avenues eventually terminated in a iron palisaded
square court, which had in its centre a great basin with statues
and water works. From this court a flight of steps led to
the very roof of Buckingham House, hidden from view, was a
massive lead cistern which held fifty tons of water which
had been pumped up from the Thames. This water was for watering
the gardens of the house and for supplying the various water
works for the fountains etc. One reached the garden at the
back of the house by descending a flight of seven steps leading
to a grand walk that reached across the garden with a covered
arbor at the end of it.
grand walk led from the front gardens through two groves of
tall lime trees, planted in several equal ranks, upon a carpet
of grass. Tubs of bay and orange trees (no doubt brought inside
during winter) bordered the lime tree groves.
a reasonably detailed plan of the gardens in 1720
visit the parish map of St
Margaret's Westminster, the house and gardens
are in the upper right hand corner. For a rough plan
of the garden and of the area about it in the later
1700s, visit Richard
Horwood's plan and click on the thumbnail for
more detail. This plan was produced in the very late
1700s and while it is highly doubtful it is in any
way accurate, it will give you an idea of the House
- then the Queen's residence - and its environs some
ninety years after this description was penned. Both
these links are off site at oldlondonmaps.com
the end of this broad walk one walked up to a terrace four
hundred paces long, with a large semi-circle in the middle,
from where it was possible to survey the Queen's two parks
(Green Park and St James Park, presumably, or perhaps even
St George's and Hyde Park) and a great part of Surrey. A few
steps down led to the bank of a canal, 600 yards long and
17 wide, with two rows of lime trees on either side of it.
one side of this terrace, a low wall, covered with roses and
jessamines, allowed a view of a meadow of cattle beyond. At
each end the wall descended into Parterres, with fountains
and water works.
the biggest of these parterres the visitor wandered into a
little square garden with a fountain in its centre and two
green houses on the sides with a convenient bathing compartment
in one of them. A flower garden lay nearby.
all of this was a kitchen garden, full of 'the best sort of
fruits' and which had several walks in it for the colder weather.
the late eighteenth century the 'goodly elms and gay flourishing
limes' were greatly decayed, the iron palisade had been replaced
with a far simpler fencing and the great basin and waterworks
in the front court had long since vanished. Many of the terraces
in the main part of the garden had similarly decayed.
1761 the house was purchased for £21,000 for the private
and exclusive use of Queen Charlotte, wife of George III.
It was extensively rebuilt into the palace we know today by
her son, George IV. See a
view of the house in the early 1800s.