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Southwood Garden

‘God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.’ – Francis Bacon 1909-1992

Lunch in the garden

The Southwood Garden at St James’s is tucked between Jermyn Street and Piccadilly. It provides a place of quiet and respite in the heart of London’s West End.

Achieving a Green Flag Award in 2022, the garden is open throughout the year from 8am to 6.30pm (10am to 5.30 pm on Bank Holidays). You are always welcome to visit.

Local residents, the Church community, office workers and tourists come to the garden for its peace and sanctuary. It is rare spot located away from the busy street, where visitors can meet friends and enjoy lunch from the food market in the Church’s courtyard.

The Church is keen to encourage biodiversity and sees its garden as a vital habitat for wildlife. The Southwood Garden is made up of paving, lawns and flower beds containing a mix of evergreen and deciduous shrubs, perennials, spring bulbs and mature trees. On a warm day, bees arrive to enjoy the pollinator-friendly planting. The soil is riddled with juicy worms for the resident blackbirds and each March a pair of mallard ducks set up home. Lucky visitors can spot their ducklings paddling in the fountain.

For over 200 years, this plot to the West of the Church, was used as a burial ground for the parish. After the war of 1939–45 Viscount Southwood provided money for the ‘green’ churchyard to be made into a garden of remembrance ‘to commemorate the courage and fortitude of the people of London’.

The garden was opened in 1946 by Queen Mary, and contains a memorial, designed by Alfred F Hardiman, to Viscount Southwood (1873–1946) and his wife (1865– 1951); there is a statue of Peace also designed by Hardiman, standing in the garden.

‘Occasionally the garden is closed for private events or maintenance work.

Our gardener Catherine Tidnam comments:

‘I love the fact that the Southwood Garden is used by different people, for different things – lunch breaks, business meetings, events or just a moment’s peace and quiet. My interest in horticulture is simple – how can you use it to lift people’s spirits, create a sense of place and give visitors the opportunity to engage in the natural world in the heart of the city. The garden is filled with shade and drought tolerant plants, which express this woodland-edge environment.’

St James’s garden flies the flag for good quality green space

These autumn leaves have fallen from the London Plane trees, planted in the 19th century, that surround the garden. They start falling at the end of the summer with the last few coming down in December. This year’s dry autumn has made them redder.

Leaf fall is triggered by the shorter and cooler days of autumn. The cells connecting the leaves to the stem weaken and the leaves fall or are blown off by the wind.

St James’s uses as many of the leaves as possible for leaf mould or ‘black gold’ as gardeners like to call it.

Office workers and tourists come to the garden for its peace and sanctuary.

St James’s garden flies the flag for good quality green space

Easter Dawn