Duck Island Cottage, the picturesque lodge which serves as the offices of the London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust in St James's Park, is aptly named - it occupies a site which has long been the haunt of these aquatic birds. Birds of various kinds have been kept here since 1612, when James I began converting the swampy chase of the Tudor monarchs into a formal garden.
In 1837 the Ornithological Society of London was founded to protect the birds and undertook to 'form and maintain a complete collection of Water Fowl - Swimmers, Divers and Waders kept, as nearly as possible, in a natural state (the lake in St James's Park forming a great natural cage)'. In 1840 the Society submitted a 'Memorial' to the Commissioners seeking permission to build a house for a bird-keeper in St James's Park and a grant of £300 towards the cost of its construction. The petition was favourably received. The Commissioners agreed to pay for the erection of 'a cottage on the island ... according to the accompanying plans'.
The architect John Burges Watson had been engaged by the Society to design the Bird Keeper's Cottage. Watson (1803-1881), an obscure architect whose 'taste was for rural subjects', produced a small, irregular composition, comprising a cottage and clubroom for the Society, trimmed with ornamental barge-boards finials and ridge-tiles.
For a fuller account, please see www.londongardenstrust.org?features/dic.htm