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Image of crew shoot filming Mrs Henderson Presents Judi Dench London street

St James's Park in Mrs Henderson Presents

Date posted: 01.12.2005

British stalwart Dame Judi Dench stars in Mrs Henderson Presents, a biopic set in 1930s London. This musical extravaganza was distributed in the UK by Pathé on 25 November and is released stateside on 9 December.

Stephen Frears directs, choosing many London locations as the backdrop to this wonderful tale - including the oldest Royal Park in Central London, St James's Park.

Mrs Laura Henderson is the central figure in the story - recently bereaved and wanting a new challenge to distract her, she buys the Windmill Theatre in Soho. When audience figures start to wane she decides copy the hugely successful Moulin Rouge in Paris and put naked girls on stage.

The film follows her success in pushing boundaries, resulting in historic innovations in British theatre. An impending War threatens closure of her beloved building, but through sheer determination The Windmill remains open for business.

One scene in the film sees Mrs Henderson strolling through St James's Park, a piece of land in central London virtually unchanged since 1827 when John Nash determined the present layout.

The Park was once a marshy watermeadow. In the thirteenth century a leper hospital was founded, and it is from this hospital that the Park took its name. Henry VIII purchased the hospital in 1532, evicting the residents in order to use the park as a hunting ground.

When Elizabeth I came to the throne she indulged her love of pageantry and pomp, and fetes of all kinds were held in the park. Her successor, James I, improved the drainage and controlled the water supply. A road was created in front of St James's Palace, approximately where the Mall is today, but it was Charles II who made dramatic changes. The Park was redesigned on a formal style, with avenues of trees planted, lawns laid, and the formation of a canal.

St James's Park is surrounded by three palaces. The most ancient is Westminster, which has now become the Houses of Parliament, St James's Palace and of course, the best known, Buckingham Palace. Despite being the smallest Royal Park, St James's is very popular and widely used. In addition to being the setting for ceremonial events and parades it is famous for its spectacular views, its waterfowl and beautiful flower displays.

For further information about St James's Park please visit the official Royal Parks website.

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