History at The Athenaeum : Dawn Geddes
This months Mayfair Insider series features Freelance Journalist Dawn Geddes, who tells of her family stay at The Athenaeum
2nd April 2019
Created by Edward Shepherd – a local architect who became well-known for his work during the Georgian era – Shepherd Market was developed from 1735 onwards. It was the original location where the annual May fair was hosted as far back as the 1680s, from which the local neighbourhood of Mayfair gained its name. The 15-day fair was originally for cattle trading, but grew to become a festival for Londoners from all walks of life.
Edward Shepherd’s intervention marked the start of the gentrification of the locality, and he developed paved alleys, a duck pond, a theatre and a market over two-storeys. The flats in Shepherd Market became popular with artists, writers and other creatives. The best-selling novel, The Green Hat by Michael Arlen, was set in Shepherd Market, and went on to become a hit on Broadway.
Nowadays, Shepherd Market is a rare locality in London that retains the quaint, village-like charm of the 18th century. Bewitching alleyways, an eclectic range of boutiques with higgledy-piggledy shopfronts and old-fashioned pubs set the scene.
Stop for a drink at Ye Grapes, a pub dating back to 1882 that is filled with old-school décor and a warm feeling.
If you need a haircut, stop off at Jack the Clipper, a barber shop using Turkish haircutting traditions. The basement of this Shepherd Market shop was the former laboratory of Sir William Withey Gull, a physician to the royals named as a potential Jack the Ripper suspect or accomplice.
Visit the entrance to Shepherd Market from Curzon Street, with its pretty covered walkway leading to the pedestrianised alley. Flanked by a sandwich shop and a shop with antique books, it’s a wonderful blend of old and new.
The Kings Arms is an even older pub in Shepherd Market, dating back to 1742 when it was called the Three Jolly Butchers.
Next door to The Kings Arms is the Lamb Arts art exhibition and gallery space, while a few steps away on Shepherd Street is the Hignell Gallery. In one of the original Shepherd Market shopfronts is 54 The Gallery, with its rotating calendar of exhibitions, while Imitate Modern is a more contemporary art gallery in an old shop.
The Shepherd Market locality is full of alluring eateries and wine bars, one of which is the antiquated L’Artiste Muscle, ideal for a coffee or a glass of wine. Shepherd Market Wine House has a couple of tables on the pavement too, ideal for watching the world go by.
A locality in London like no other, it’s easy to think you’ve stepped back in time when you visit Shepherd Market. Discover it for yourself and imagine a London of past times.
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