Skip to content

Unveiling the Secrets of Pickering Place: A Journey Through Time in London‘s Tiniest Square


Nestled in the heart of London‘s affluent Mayfair district, Pickering Place is a hidden gem that often goes unnoticed by the casual passerby. This charming little square, measuring just 20 feet by 4 feet (6 meters by 1.2 meters), holds the distinction of being the smallest public square in England. But don‘t be fooled by its modest size – Pickering Place is steeped in history and has been witness to a fascinating array of events and characters over the centuries.

The Origins of Pickering Place

The story of Pickering Place begins in the 1660s when the Earl of St Albans secured a lease for the land from King Charles II. At the time, the area was home to a tranquil garden, but by the 1730s, it had been redeveloped and christened Pickering Court, named after William Pickering, a prosperous coffee merchant. Pickering‘s son-in-law, Richard Berry, went on to establish Berry Bros & Rudd, a wine merchant that still operates from the premises adjacent to the square to this day.

Georgian Architecture and Ambiance

The buildings that surround Pickering Place are prime examples of Georgian architecture, characterized by their symmetrical facades, sash windows, and decorative details. The structures are primarily constructed from brick, with stucco facades and ornamental iron railings. The square itself is paved with cobblestones, adding to its old-world charm.

One of the most notable features of Pickering Place is its gas lamps, which are believed to be the last remaining operational gas lamps in London. These lamps, along with the square‘s Grade II listed status, have helped preserve its authentic historical atmosphere.

A Reputation for Duels and Debauchery

Despite its quaint appearance, Pickering Place was once notorious for its association with less savory activities. In the 18th century, the square‘s secluded location made it a popular spot for gambling dens, bear-baiting, and most famously, duels.

The most celebrated duel said to have taken place in Pickering Place involved Beau Brummell, a close friend of King George IV and a fashion icon credited with introducing the modern men‘s suit and tie. According to legend, Brummell fought a duel in the square, although the veracity of this tale remains uncertain.

Dueling had become a common practice among the upper classes in 18th century London, often used to settle disputes or defend one‘s honor. The fact that Pickering Place was known as a dueling spot reflects the social mores and customs of the era, where such violent confrontations were seen as a legitimate means of conflict resolution.

Notable Residents and Associations

Over the years, Pickering Place has been associated with a number of notable figures. For a brief period in the 1840s, the square served as the de facto embassy of the Republic of Texas, during the time when Texas was an independent nation before its annexation by the United States.

The square has also been home to several prominent residents, including the esteemed 20th-century British novelist Graham Greene and Lord Palmerston, who served as Prime Minister during the 1850s and 1860s. These illustrious inhabitants have contributed to the rich tapestry of Pickering Place‘s history.

Berry Bros & Rudd: A Venerable Wine Merchant

No exploration of Pickering Place would be complete without mentioning Berry Bros & Rudd, the oldest wine merchant in London. Established in 1698 by Richard Berry, William Pickering‘s son-in-law, the shop has been a fixture on St James‘s Street for over three centuries.

Berry Bros & Rudd has catered to a distinguished clientele over the years, including royalty, politicians, and celebrities. The shop‘s extensive wine cellars, which stretch beneath Pickering Place, are said to house some of the world‘s rarest and most valuable vintages.

The presence of Berry Bros & Rudd has undoubtedly contributed to the unique character and atmosphere of Pickering Place, serving as a reminder of the square‘s long and storied history.

Preservation and Protection

In recognition of its historical significance, Pickering Place has been granted Grade II listed status, which ensures that its architectural and cultural heritage will be preserved for future generations. The square‘s original features, such as its cobblestones, gas lamps, and Georgian facades, are carefully maintained to retain its authentic character.

The preservation of Pickering Place is a testament to the importance of safeguarding London‘s historical landmarks. By protecting these spaces, we not only honor the city‘s rich past but also provide opportunities for current and future generations to connect with and learn from the stories they hold.

Visiting Pickering Place

For those keen to explore this hidden gem, Pickering Place is easily accessible from St James‘s Street in Mayfair. The entrance to the square is marked by a small plaque bearing its name, located between two of London‘s oldest shops, including Berry Bros & Rudd.

Visitors can reach Pickering Place by taking the London Underground to Green Park (Jubilee, Piccadilly, and Victoria lines) or Piccadilly Circus (Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines), both just a short walk away. The square is also well-situated for those exploring other nearby attractions, such as St James‘s Palace or the lush green spaces of Green Park and St James‘s Park.

When planning a visit to Pickering Place, it‘s worth noting that Berry Bros & Rudd is open Monday to Saturday, offering a chance to browse the shop‘s extensive wine selection and perhaps even venture into its historic cellars.


Pickering Place may be small in size, but it looms large in the annals of London‘s history. From its origins as a tranquil garden to its days as a notorious dueling spot, this tiny square has witnessed a remarkable array of people and events over the centuries.

Today, Pickering Place stands as a testament to the enduring allure of London‘s hidden corners and the importance of preserving the city‘s historical heritage. By uncovering the secrets and stories of this charming little square, we gain a deeper appreciation for the rich tapestry of the past that underlies the modern metropolis.

So the next time you find yourself in Mayfair, be sure to seek out Pickering Place and immerse yourself in its captivating history. This tiny square may be easy to overlook, but the tales it holds are truly unforgettable.