The history of St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel, London spans more than a hundred years as a luxury hotel, but its origins go right back to Elizabethan aristocracy.
St James Court has a historical provenance dating back to Tudor England and the court of Queen Elizabeth I. It is during this tumultuous period that a prestigious landowner and treasurer to the Queen, Lord Dacre, drew up a scheme to build almshouses on the “Tothill Fields” of Westminster.
The small cottages known as the Emmanuel Almshouses were built on the current site of the hotel, to house and educate 20 underprivileged children. This charitable endeavor prospered over the years, culminating in five schools, identifiable by their distinct blazers as Bluecoat, Greencoat, Greycoat and Browncoat schools. In 1701 the cottages were replaced by ‘the most picturesque Almshouses in London’.
Then in 1897, a retired military man, Major Pawley, who learned his architectural trade in the Royal Engineers, acquired the site. The proposed construction of eight redbrick prestigious townhouses was drawn up, at great cost, and to the highest of architectural standards. These are the buildings that make up the two Taj hotels today, Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences, and St. James’ Court A Taj Hotel.
Due to its outstanding location right in the heart of London’s royal, cultural, political and social elite, Major Pawley’s vision was to create an oasis of calm and sophistication for the aristocratic and political establishment, who would not only pay to stay but who would also relish in its exclusivity. Thus began the most sought after and fashionable London address for prominent guests to enjoy a home away from home experience, in walking distance of all the most significant locations: Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street, St James Palace, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.
Each townhouse was named in keeping with its fascinating historical legacy; names that they hold to this day. All maintain the patina of their yesteryears, but in distinctly individual and contemporary style.
At almost exactly the same time as Pawley was building his architectural gem in Westminster, another hotel was being built several thousand miles away that was to become the most famous grand hotel east of Suez. This was to become the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Bombay – better known today simply as the Taj the brainchild of one of independent India’s founding fathers, J.N. Tata. The Taj Mahal Palace opened in 1903, as a property of the Indian Hotels Company Limited. Four years later, in 1907, Tata sets up its first office overseas,Tata Limitedin London.
In 1982, the Indian Hotels Company Ltd. (Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces) acquired St. James' Court, which was partially operated from 1999 under a franchise agreement for fifteen years and was formally restored in 2014 to its original identity as St. James' Court, A Taj Hotel, comprising the Almoners, Dukes, Regents, Queens and Priors townhouses and Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences, comprising the Kings, Minsters and Falconers townhouses.