BP head office in St James's Square
St James's shown within Greater London
|OS grid reference|
|- Charing Cross||0.5 mi (0.8 km) E|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|UK Parliament||Cities of London and Westminster|
|London Assembly||West Central|
St James's is a central district in London in the City of Westminster, forming part of the West End. In the 17th century the area developed as a residential location for the British aristocracy and around the 19th century formed the focus of the development of gentlemen's clubs. Anciently part of the parish of St Martin in the Fields, much of it formed the parish of St James from 1685 to 1922. Since the Second World War the area has transitioned from residential to commercial use.
The name is derived from the dedication of a 12th century leper hospital to Saint James. The site of the hospital is now occupied by St James's Palace. The area has been known as Clubland because of the historic presence of gentlemen's clubs.
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 was part of the ancient parish of St Martin in the Fields in the Liberty of Westminster. Attempts were made in 1664, 1668 and 1670 to separate St James's from the parish of St Martin, but this was resisted by the St Martins vestry. The building of St James's Church, Piccadilly in 1684 forced the issue and a new parish of St James within the Liberty of Westminster was created in 1685. The parish stretched from Oxford Street in the north to Pall Mall in the south. It roughly corresponded to the contemporary St James's area, but also extended into parts of Soho and Mayfair. Land south of Pall Mall remained in St Martin in the Fields and St James's Park was split between the parishes of St Martin and St Margaret. St James's Palace was an extra-parochial area and not part of any parish. A select vestry was created for the new parish.
For elections to Westminster City Council, the area forms part of the St James's ward. The ward also includes Covent Garden, Strand, Westminster and part of Mayfair. The ward elects three councillors.
Notable streets include:
- St James's Square, which retains many of its original houses, but is mostly in office use. The London Library is located here.
- Jermyn Street, an upmarket retail street best known for its bespoke shirtmakers and shops offering the finest gentlemen's attire.
- Pall Mall, which contains many of London's most venerable gentlemen's clubs.
- Haymarket was once the best known centre of prostitution in London, but no trace of this remains now. It contains two of London's most historic theatres, the Haymarket Theatre and Her Majesty's Theatre.
- Carlton House Terrace, a pair of grand terraces of houses designed by John Nash overlooking St. James's Park.
- St James's Street which runs down from Piccadilly to St James's Palace.
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.
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 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.
St James's is also the home of many of the best known gentlemen's clubs in London, and is sometimes, though not as often as formerly, referred to as "Clubland". 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. In 1990, the Carlton Club, traditional meeting place for members of the Conservative Party, was struck by an IRA bomb.
- Mills, A.D. (2001). Dictionary of London Place Names. Oxford.
- "Contact BP in the United Kingdom." BP. Retrieved on 18 August 2009.
- Royal Opera Arcade. Accessed 23 March 2012.
- St James's Westminster, Part 1 – a volume of the Survey of London which provides a very detailed architectural history of most of St James's. However a few sections of the parish of St James's fall outside the district, so they are omitted (map).
- Map of St James's and surrounding areas
- Clubland at Virtual London
- Tourist Information on St James's