A bird’s eye view of historical London

I have worked in some wonderful historical venues for my day job as well as visiting places at the weekend for fun and to do research for the historical books.  But sometimes I work in a modern venue that still makes me think about the past.

A while ago now, I went to a meeting that was in a venue at the top of an office block close to the banks of the Thames in London near Vauxhall Bridge. When I looked out through the window it struck me just how small London was in the Regency and Victorian eras when my historical books are set.


Three years ago I occupied one cold autumn evening that I had stayed over in London for work by walking down to the area where Vauxhall Pleasure grounds had once been. It is that small triangle of green on the far side of the river. You can see there is very little there now, I couldn’t even find any plants or trees that suggested there had been an aristocratic playground there once. But I walked there thinking about all the historical characters’ whose diaries and letters I had read, imaging them climbing into boats to cross the river to reach the excitement at the time when there was no bridge. I had set a scene there in The Passionate Love of a Rake and so I knew a lot about what it was like in its heyday.

The underpass to get from one side of the road to the other near the park is decorated with images to remind people today what people then would have been looking forward to. Men on stilts and tightrope walkers.


I was writing The Tainted Love of a Captain at the time I was in this high office building and I had recently researched how to obtain a licence to marry without the banns being read. I had set a scene in the book when a character travels to Lambeth Palace to obtain a licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s officials. So when I turned the other way in this office, with my camera, and took another picture, I was probably foolishly surprised to see Lambeth and Westminster Palace within easy walking distance to the boats to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

I thought of Harriett Wilson as I stood there looking out at London. I have shared her story on the blog. I thought particularly about the days she wrote of waiting in a carriage outside Westminster Palace for a lover to come out from a meeting of the House of Lords. Perhaps men left the House of Lords and travelled straight to the boats to ferry them over to the pleasure grounds. I also thought about Frances Bankes letters that talked about visiting her son when he was ill while at the boys’ school in Westminster. The element of her life story inspired an element of The Reckless Love of an Heir, as she sat on an upturned bucket beside his bed, did she dine at the pleasure gardens when they were in their townhouse.

Certainly, lots of the wealthy families owned houses in the area between Westminster and Vauxhall, as all the street names declare.

It was just fascinating for me to stand there and look down and it made my imagination run with ideas on how people lived in the past. That area of London would have been flooded with the best society.






The Whitehall Palace Banqueting House


A long time ago someone told me that under the buildings by the river Thames near to Westminster Palace was Henry VIII’s wine cellar. I always thought it was strange to have a wine cellar a distance away from Westminster. I also knew that the street called Birdcage Walk, where I used to facilitate training events a few years ago, was named Birdcage Walk because it used to be the site of James I’s bird cages. But I could never work out how that related to anything else either.

But when I visited Banqueting House in London, I discovered why. Alongside the river, just over the road from the palace of Westminster, there used to be the largest palace in the Europe, Whitehall Palace.


The property and land belonged to the church initially and the kings of England stayed in Westminster Palace when in the London. But in the hands of Cardinal Wolsey’s the old palace became the grandest house in London. So when Henry VIII removed the Cardinal from power, he decided to make it his home when he stayed in London. It was renovated and extended to become fit for a King and his court. The image below is an impression of the palace. You can see how easily the King could have travelled on the river from the palace.

White hall Palace

The current banqueting house was completed in 1622, commissioned by James I. He loved the fashionable masque’s that the royal family put on to impress their courtiers and had the engineer who created the moving scenery for the plays design the hall itself. It became a hall in which our royalty loved to show off; whether that was through plays that professed them to be gods and saviours of humanity, or through huge banquets to greet and impress dignitaries from foreign countries.

But there is a morbid tale to tell about the banqueting house too. King Charles I was lead out of Whitehall Palace through the banqueting house to a platform that had been built on scaffolding outside so that the crowds could see him. His footsteps would have rung on the broad wooden floor and echoed about the huge room. Above him, as he walked, were the paintings he’d had commissioned that portrayed both himself and his father as honoured and disciplined gods. He stepped out onto the platform through one of the hall’s windows and then his head was severed before the backdrop of the beautiful hall.


images (3) banqueting house

When the Royals were reinstated in England, King Charles II spent much of his time with his court at Whitehall. Samual Pepy’s diaries tell us about life in the palace when it was at its height. A story of life at Whitehall Palace

We don’t know about Whitehall Palace now because it was destroyed in a fire in 1698. The only part of it that survived was the banqueting house… Oh and a wine cellar obviously.

🙂 I thought this was a good little story to share while the Gunpowder period drama is on, as the programme has many scenes around Westminster and Whitehall.


The Marlow Intrigues: Perfect for lovers of period drama

The Tainted Love of a Captain #8 – The last episode in the Marlow Intrigues series



The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel #1 ~ A Christmas Elopement began it all 

The Illicit Love of a Courtesan #2 

The Passionate Love of a Rake #3

The Scandalous Love of a Duke #4

The Dangerous Love of a Rogue #5

The Jealous Love of a Scoundrel #5.5

The Persuasive Love of a Libertine #5.75  now included in Jealous Love, (or free if you can persuade Amazon to price match with Kobo ebooks) 😉

The Secret Love of a Gentleman #6 

The Reckless Love of an Heir #7

Jane’s books can be ordered from most booksellers in paperback


Go to the index


  • the story of the real courtesan who inspired  The Illicit Love of a Courtesan,
  • another free short story, about characters from book #2, A Lord’s Scandalous Love,
  • the prequel excerpts for book #3  The Scandalous Love of a Duke

Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romance stories, and the author of a No.1 bestselling Historical Romance novel in America, ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’.Click here to find out more about Jane’s books, and see Jane’s website www.janelark.co.uk to learn more about Jane. Or click  ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook  page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark