The other No.3


Photograph: Joakim Blockstrom

Photograph: Joakim Blockstrom

In our series taking a closer look at the buildings of Berry Bros. & Rudd Steffan Griffiths – Wine Advisor from our Private Wine Events team – regales the history of our Townhouse.

The history of Berry Bros. & Rudd is long and colourful, but most stories focus on our original premises at No.3 St James’s Street; however, if you were to look just to the left of our dark green front door and follow the narrow passageway between 3 and 4 St James’s, you would find a tiny square with an equally rich narrative.

Pickering Place, London’s smallest public square, was once home to the medieval maidens’ leper colony of St James, before playing host to King Henry VIII’s royal tennis court. It was in the 18th century however that we became involved, as William Pickering, son-in-law of our founder the Widow Bourne, was responsible for building the four houses that still make up most of the architecture of the square today. Unfortunately he died in 1734, just before his work reached fruition, and therefore the stones (and one of our Ports) bear his name today in way of a memorial.

A hub of activity throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, much of which was questionable, Pickering Place was the site of dog-fighting, bear-baiting, and supposedly the last duel to the death in London. Often one could see Beau Brummell and his companions emerging in the early hours from the so-called ‘gambling hells’ of Pickering Place, often with a much lighter wallet than before. In quieter times famous names such as Graham Greene and former Prime Minister Lord Palmerston took up residence in the square, with a stone bust still present today to commemorate the latter.

Nowadays the square is a more docile place, or at least to the unassuming eye. Beneath it lies our Pickering Cellar, home of our Wine School, where we hold tutored wine tastings throughout the week. Behind the door of No.3 Pickering Place (naturally, the most appropriate number) one can find the Townhouse, a perfectly-preserved relic of this bygone era. An authentic William and Mary townhouse built in the 1690s, the Townhouse is still very much kept in period décor, complete with elegant antique furniture and low-hanging doorways (taller guests, please mind your heads).

After many years of housing the great and good of Pickering Place, the Townhouse is now the home of numerous lunches, dinners and wine tastings available to both private and ticket-buying customers. The Green Room on the ground floor serves as a home to both civilised receptions and engaging wine tastings, where the intimate nature of the space guarantees a fair amount of amicable debate regarding the wines tasted; not quite on the same level as the duels that took place outside, fortunately.

On the first floor sits our famous Long Room, decorated by the lauded interior designer Nina Campbell, where our team of chefs provide long lunches and decadent dinners all year round. A cosy and homely space (especially in the winter with the fire crackling in the corner), it provides an often well-needed respite from the bustle of the rest of the city.

Much like the square itself, we consider our Townhouse to be a well-kept secret buried away in the heart of London. That being said, we are always keen to welcome guests in for meals, tastings or even just a quick look around, to experience a unique slice of history in this tiny gas-lit square, so please do feel free to knock on the door of the other No.3.

Find out more about the history of Berry Bros. & Rudd.