About Pickering Place
Pickering Place in the Mayfair borough of London is the smallest square in England. It is also the last place in London where a duel was fought.
History of Pickering Place
The courtyard is the covered remains of a garden that existed when houses were first built here in the mid-1660s when the Earl of St Albans secured a lease from King Charles II.
In 1731, some of the nearby houses and tenements were demolished, and the square was named Pickering Court, after William Pickering – a coffee merchant and son-in-law of Widow Bourne, founder of Berry Bros & Rudd Ltd wine merchants, whose shop still operates on the premises.
Later known as Pickering Place, the tiny square started its life much like any other Georgian terrace – lit by gaslights, with stately homes lining its corners. However, despite Mayfair’s upmarket reputation, in the 18th century the square’s secluded location facilitated its notoriety for gambling dens and bear-baiting – as well as its shady reputation as a popular location for duels.
The most famous duel that took place here was that in which Beau Brummel – a close friend to King George IV and inventor of the cravat – fought here, though like many London legends, it’s slightly uncertain whether the duel took place at all.
For a short while, the square was also the home of the Embassy of the Republic of Texas, when Texas was nominally an independent country before it joined the United States in 1845. Esteemed author Graham Greene once lived here, as did former Prime Minister Lord Palmerston.
Pickering Place today
Much of the square’s original Georgian architecture and detailing has remained in place, as have its quaint railings and still-functioning original gaslights – factors that have lead the square to being Grade II listed. Such quiet seclusion in central London helps visitors feel like they’re back in a previous time.
Getting to Pickering Place
Pickering Place is hidden down an unremarkable narrow arched alleyway, with dark wainscoting and the words ‘Pickering Place’ in small gold letters. The alleyway can be found on St James’s Street (it has either a closed gate or the number ‘3’ above its entrance) and is squeezed between two old 16th century shops, one of which is still Berry Bros & Rudd Ltd – now said to be the oldest wine merchants in London.
You can also find the alleyway by looking for King Henry’s old barn which is almost directly opposite.
The nearest underground stations are Green Park (Jubilee, Piccadilly and Victoria lines) and Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines), both a short 5-10 minute walk away.