London History

.’. Pistols Drawn Pickering Place .’.


Pay close attention when looking for this tiny courtyard tucked away behind swank St. James Street. If the gate is closed, the only indication you are at Pickering Place is the number 3 on it. The narrow, arched alleyway leading to the courtyard retains its 18th century timber wainstcoting.

A relatively unspoil Georgian cul-de-sac still lit by original gaslights, Pickering Place is named after William Pickering, the founder of a coffee business in the premises now occupied by the famous wine merchants Berry Bros and Rudd.

In the 18th century, Pickering Place was notorious for its gambling dens. Its seclusion also made it a favourite spot for duels, although the limeted space suggests that fooling around with a kind of weapon – let alone pistols – would have been instantly fatal. It is claimed tht the last duel in England was fought here, although an episode with pistols between two Frenchmen at Windsor in 1852 is more likely contender.

Graham Greene, who lived in a flat in Pickering Place, housed his fictional character Colonel Daintry from The Human Factor in two-roomed flat looking out over the paved courtyard with its sundial. In real life, Pickering Place was the base of the diplomatic office of the independent Republic of Texas, before it joined the United States in 1845.



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