Shepherd market is a charming small square and piazza developed in 1735-46 by Edward Shepherd. It comprises a number of small side streets with a variety of boutique shops, restaurants and impressive Victorian pubs. This tiny little enclave is tucked away between Piccadilly and Curzon Street, in the exclusive borough of Mayfair.
Mayfair itself is named after the infamous fifteen-day fair that took place on the site that is Shepherd Market today. James II established the fair in the 1680’s, mainly for the purpose of cattle trading. Over the years the fair grew in popularity and size, attracting both rich and poor. Whilst Queen Anne tried to put an end to the fair, her successor George I was more approving. The gentrification of the area in the eighteenth century killed the festival off, with the building of many grand houses. A local architect and developer (Edward Shepherd), was commissioned to develop the site. It was completed in the mid 18th century, with paved alleys, a duck pond, and a two-storey market, topped with a theatre. The theatre was opened in the month of May, and attracted a much higher class of visitor than the noisy fair beforehand.
During the 1920's, Shepherd Market was an ultrafashionable address for some of London's most refined inhabitants, who lived there like characters in a play by Noel Coward. The writer Michael Arlen rented rooms opposite The Grapes public house, and used Shepherd Market as the setting for his best-selling 1924 novel “The Green Hat”. The book also went on to become a hit Broadway play and a film starring Greta Garbo.
The village-like area around Shepherd Market still has something of a jaunty reputation. It was round the corner at 9 Curzon Place that Cass Elliot (Mama Cass) of The Mamas and Papas died in July 1974, and, four years later, Keith Moon, drummer with The Who, died of an overdose. In the 1980s Shepherd Market was where politician and best-selling author Jeffrey Archer met the prostitute Monica Coghlan, an encounter which he tried to cover up in a court of law, and which eventually led to his imprisonment.
Next to Shepherd Market is Half Moon Street, where the fictional Wooster (the perfect upper-class Mayfair resident and his faithful valet Jeeves) of P.G. Wodehouse's novels lived, and where in 1763 the real James Boswell (newly arrived from Edinburgh) took lodgings and wrote his defamatory diary. Curzon Street is home to Crewe House, originally built by Edward Shepherd, but now a company headquarters and one of the few eighteenth-century Mayfair mansions still standing.
Many locals describe Shepherd Market as ‘The Heart of Mayfair’. It is a truly unique and fascinating part of London that must be seen.