London Unveiled

great places to visit off the beaten path.

Shepherd Market ~ a hidden “village” in the heart of central London

Kings Arms Shepherd Market

Located just north of Green Park tube station, Shepherd Market evokes images of an older time with its secretive village square hidden in the heart of London.  Most people will get a sense of discovery when they come here for the first time, especially if entering from the north through the covered walkway off Curzon Street (just west of Half Moon St).  But entering from the south on the curvy, narrow cobbled streets is just as evocative.

The covered alley from Curzon Street

The covered alley from Curzon Street

With numerous classic Victorian pubs, shops and restaurants surrounding the central square and stretching out on the adjoining alleys and cobbled streets it is a great escape from busy Piccadilly to the south or Oxford Street to the north.

Located near Berkeley Square, many visitors to London may come to this general vicinity but never see this true hidden gem.  A detour is well worth it.  While weekday crowds are made up mostly of local workers from the surrounding offices, it doesn’t ever seem overly busy here.

History:  Shepherd Market is within Mayfair and is located on the site that used to host the 15 day market held annually in May from the 1686 until it was banned in 1764 from this location.  At that time it moved to Bow.  This fair gave the district its name which many years earlier was originally fields with the River Tyburn flowing through them.

Shepherds Tavern exteriorIts original purpose was for cattle trading, but over the years the fair grew in size and popularity through the addition of jugglers, boxing and gambling.  As a result of this expansion in scope, it started to attract a less desirable segment of the population – which, along with development in the area, led to the banning of the fair in this location.

The Kings Arms

An architect, Edward Shepherd, was hired to redevelop the area – that gave rise to the eponymous street names here – a convenient coincidence given its animal market roots.  His original redesign resulted in paved alleys, a two-storey market with a theatre, and a duck pond.  The theatre had the desired result with a more upscale clientele frequenting the area.  Today the theatre and market are gone, leaving an open square that provides a unique village feel.

Shepherd Street

The Victorian pubs (Ye Grapes – 1882, The Kings Arms  & Shepherd Tavern) and fashionable boutiques and restaurants still provide that late 19th and early 20th century ambiance – a time when this area was possibly the most fashionable in London.

Literature: Shepherd Market was the setting for Michael Arlen’s 1924 book “The Green Hat” – a book that went on to be a Broadway play and a film (starring Greta Garbo).  On adjacent Half Moon Street is where P.G. Wodehouse located Bertie Wooster’s house.

Location:  The area is bordered by Shepherd St, Trebeck St, & Curzon St.

Closest Tube:  Green Park or Hyde Park Corner.



24 comments on “Shepherd Market ~ a hidden “village” in the heart of central London

  1. The Rambling Man (aka The Night Hawk Photographer)
    February 26, 2013

    I’ve walked past here, around here, by here so many times (I quite often walk from Victoria to Tottenham Court Road through either Mayfair or along Whitehall/Charing Cross Road) and never seen this! Will make a point of going through the next time!!

      February 26, 2013

      Thanks for reading the blog and for your comment – I hope you like the area when you visit – I think its a great spot.

  2. em
    February 26, 2013

    I recently discovered this place, and it’s so cute! Unexpected around that area.

  3. studentlondon3
    February 26, 2013

    I’ll definitely be visiting here, looks very quaint!

  4. Anthony Turi
    February 26, 2013

    Brilliant blog entry. I love reading about these hidden gems of London 🙂

      February 26, 2013

      thanks for the kind words Anthony – I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and I’m glad you enjoy it, Ian.

  5. inspiringcity
    February 26, 2013

    I’ve stumbled on this place too, great to know some of the history of the place

  6. Bosartis
    March 20, 2013

    Nice to find your site – and thanks for your visit – I’m doing a few paints and sketch images of London at the moment and your stuff brings it all back for me again – especially the “hidden” gems – great site!

      March 20, 2013

      Thanks for your comment, and for reading my blog. I hope you’ll post you new images you paint / sketch of London. I’ll keep an eye out for them.

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  8. londonslant
    August 6, 2013

    Thanks for liking my post. It reminded me to put a ‘like’ on this one of yours! I once read that Sir Stirling Moss lives in this area, where he has a 60s-style retro pad. I love the idea of him racing into this little oasis.

      August 6, 2013

      Thanks for the comment. I didn’t know he lived in this area – I just did a quick check and his company address and fan mail address are here… so likely he is too! All the best, IAN

  9. ifitwastrue
    August 16, 2013

    Hooooo it is so beautiful =) By the way thanks for liking my post about Exeter. I am about to come in London for my second week end,(24 and 25th) and I can’t wait! It seems to be a beautiful place this Shepherd market! It is my last week end after in England, and I think I am going to use your blog so as to find beautiful place in London !!

      August 16, 2013

      Thanks for your comment – Enjoy your time in London and I’m glad to know my blog may inspire you to visit a few places. All the best, Ian

  10. emmabarrett1508
    August 16, 2013

    Thank you for visiting surreyKitchen. I have really enjoyed reading your blog. It is great to hear about all the hidden gems in London. I visited The Dickens museum a few weeks ago, near Russell Square. They do walking tours of London which takes you to places he was inspired by. Another fascinating museum which a lot of people don’t know about is the Freud Museum in Mansfield Gardens. It is in walking distance of Finchley Road tube. Emma.

      August 16, 2013

      Hi Emma, thanks for your comments and suggestions. I’m glad you are enjoying reading my blog. All the best, Ian.

  11. Casey
    August 16, 2013

    Love this piece about Shepherd Market! I run (as a hobby) and all your info is spot on. Sir Sterling Moss does live here – he was kind enough to turn on the xmas lights last year. Also Robin Birley (formerly of Annabel’s) opened a private members club (5 Hertford Street) here recently which is amazing.

      August 16, 2013

      Thank you for your comments and for the link to your website. I just took a look at it – it’s great. Any chance of getting on your Links page? All the best, Ian

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  13. prodigallondoner
    December 19, 2013

    Edward Shepherd did a lot to clean up Shepherds Market but as recently as the 1990s it was still a working red light area – literally! Walk down the narrow cobbled streets from the main square and you’d come across a host of open doorways with their red bulbs shining above! Rather naively, I used to think it was all very exciting as a teenager. Nowadays it’s all much more gentile nowadays, if a little less colourful!!
    Great post

  14. sliceoflondonlife
    August 2, 2014

    Interesting post about Shepherd Market. Despite what the upmarket restaurants and shops will try to tell you, it still is a working red light area. It has many licensed walk ups (where prostitutes work on their own). Just look up at the windows and you’ll see the red lights.

      August 2, 2014

      Thanks for the comment. This post is consistently in the top few weekly for referrals from search engines… so a lot of people still search for this place… I wonder why!!

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This entry was posted on February 26, 2013 by in Family Activities, Free Activities, Pubs of interest, Restaurants, Shopping, Westminster and tagged , , , , .
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