In June, 2011, a historic set of barracks in northwest London was cleared for the auction block, with a starting price of £225,000. Saint John’s Wood Barracks draws its name from the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, who once owned part of the Great Middlesex Forest, now long gone.
Descendants of the Order of Hospitallers, an order that began as an attachment to a Jerusalem hospital during a 1023 crusade, the Knights of St. John eventually became the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta which, while a mouthful, at least still exists as a force to help the sick, elderly and afflicted. But they did leave their name behind in the form of this London neighborhood.
St. John’s Wood is a fancy part of London, one of the first where new housing was built as stand-alone buildings and not in terraces. Famous landmarks here include Regent’s Park, Lord’s Cricket Ground, where the test matches are played, and Abbey Road Stadium (you may remember The Beatles traversing a certain zebra crossing there).
Until 2011, the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery also had barracks at the site, which includes a Grade II listed riding school. Fortunately, the listed building will be saved and will continue life as a gym and swimming pool. The 5.5-acre plot is slated to be razed and turned into — what else — more luxury housing. (There will also be room for some “affordable” homes — “affordable” in London is relative in the same way as “affordable” in, say, Manhattan or San Francisco.)
The barracks was founded in 1808; the regiment is now moving to Woolwich because, after all, there can never be enough luxury homes. The Queen paid her last visit to her regiment, who are often the experts behind 41-gun salutes and other loud adventures from Hyde Park, at their old home on June 24, 2011.
The streets of St. John’s Wood will no longer echo to the sound of clopping hooves as the elite equestrians exercise their horses; the 1904 cannon the elite equestrians draw behind them will hit Hyde Park from a different direction as another piece of history is lost.
- This Is London
- Bearsden Herald
- The Telegraph
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