A plaque Commemorating Henry Jermyn, The Founder of London’s West End, Unveiled in St James’s Square
Updated: Sep 21, 2019
Henry Jermyn, Earl of St Albans (1605-1684) created St James’s Square, Jermyn Street with its surrounding streets and the church of St James’s, Westminster on a patchy of scruffy ground granted him by Charles II in 1661, in lieu of the £45,000 which he had spent helping the king to be restored. Jermyn not only developed the area, but did so in the innovative, Classical style that had been popularised by the Medici queens in France, and the pioneering architectural work of Inigo Jones at Somerset House and Greenwich. In St James’s, Jermyn created broad, straight, well-paved streets surrounding a wide and elegant square, all lined with brick-built houses with fully unified Classical façades. So inspiring was his vision that he was copied, in Berkeley Square, Grosvenor Square, and all the fine squares and streets of the West End, of which he has been justly hailed as the founder.
Henry Jermyn’s seminal contribution to London was commemorated on 28 September 2011 when his senior living heir, the Most Hon. The Marquess of Bristol, who also holds the title of Earl Jermyn, unveiled a Westminster Green Plaque on the corner of St James’s Square and Duke of York Street, on the site of the house that Jermyn built for himself, and in which he died in 1684. The unveiling took place in the presence of Cllr Robert Davis, Deputy Mayor of Westminster, and pioneer of Westminster’s Green Plaque scheme.
Henry Jermyn owed his rise to the favour of Henrietta Maria of France, Queen of Charles I, of whom he was a life-long confidant and supporter. Their closeness inspired contemporary rumours of a secret marriage, and that he, not Charles I, was the true father of Charles II. This intriguing story has been explored by two books, whose authors, together with Lord Bristol, are the plaque’s co-sponsors. Anthony Adolph’s Full of Soup and Gold (Anthony Adolph 2006) is the first and only biography of Henry Jermyn. Fiona Mountain’s novel Cavalier Queen reimagines the love-story of Jermyn and Henrietta Maria through the genre of historical fiction.