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Mayfair’s Original Village: Exploring the charms and values of Shepherd Market

Mayfair’s “original village” – a former red light district that’s now home to probably London’s most exclusive private members’ club, 5 Hertford Street – Shepherd Market is still a refreshing enclave...

Mayfair’s “original village” – a former red light district that’s now home to probably London’s most exclusive private members’ club, 5 Hertford Street – Shepherd Market is still a refreshing enclave of bohemian quirk in the heart of primest central London. And this charismatic patch of W1 comes with other charms, as residential property prices can be up to a third less than other Mayfair neighbourhoods. With an office on the corner of Shepherd Market and Curzon Street, here’s Pastor Real Estate with a closer look at the hyper-local property scene and some “game-changing” developments on the doorstep…

ShepMarket Map

Tucked away between the great thoroughfares of Piccadilly, Park Lane and Curzon Street in central London is the small neighbourhood of Shepherd Market. This deeply intriguing little “secret” pocket of Mayfair with its narrow alleyways and tiny squares can quite easily be missed if you are heading down from Berkeley Square or Bond Street to Green Park. But it’s a place where suddenly life seems to slow down as people stop to linger in the upscale boutiques, or socialise in the cosy pubs and restaurants.

This year Mayfair is set to become London’s best-performing prime residential location as its global cachet has been enhanced by a handful of super-prime new developments. The corner of it known as Shepherd Market is described as “Mayfair’s original village” because it was the site of the May Fair, 15 days of festivities that ran from the late thirteenth century, on and off, until the early eighteenth century. It is still very much a village – arguably the only genuine village remaining in central London.

Although any kind of street market has long gone from the area, it has remained uniquely unchanged over the years and this is very much part of its enduring appeal. Indeed, for certain types of creative or sybaritic people the neighbourhood has always been a much-loved destination, or home, in its own right, from the time it was also a service area for the high-end hotels of Park Lane, a hub for theatrical types, a bawdy entertainment district or, in recent years, a vibrant community of bespoke retailers, art galleries and fashionable restaurants.

Over the many decades of its colourful history the louche edge to life in the Market has ebbed but never completely disappeared – it is precisely this charming “raffishness” that draws both business owners and residents alike. It is also the fact that it is so conveniently positioned a short stroll from theatres, the Curzon Mayfair cinema, the clubs of St James’s and the shopping of Bond Street, but also for onward travel: it is only five minutes’ walk to the well-connected Green Park tube station, the numerous buses running along Piccadilly and it offers a quick escape to the west via the A4. As wider Mayfair continues to evolve into a highly sought-after residential area of the capital (again), with some landmark new developments on the fringes of Shepherd Market, what will be the future of this unique community? We canvas the thoughts of retailers and residents in this look at the evolution of south-east Mayfair.

Birdseye view of Shepherd Market

History of the Market

  • Open fields and the fun of the fair

Mayfair is an area that developed relatively late in London’s history and until the eighteenth century the area behind the southern end of Piccadilly was open fields with a few cottages owned by shepherds tending their flocks there.

The May Fair – after which Mayfair is named – began on land that was originally part of the Hospital of St James (now the site of St James’s Palace) and was started as a feast day to help generate funds for the hospital. Puppet shows, fencers, gingerbread sellers and roundabout rides were all part of the fun. It is mentioned in the diaries of Samuel Pepys as the “St James’s Fair” and continued even after the hospital was closed down by Henry VIII – although it was stopped between 1664 and 1686 for its “detrimental effect” on the population. After 1701 it gained greater stature, expanding west to Park Lane, but it again fell into disrepute (as detailed in the works of William Hogarth) and as the area became gentrified it was closed down by George I.


  • Urbanisation and the creation of the Market

By this time the area had begun to be urbanised as after the Great Fire of London wealthy Londoners moved west to build their elegant homes on the open fields above Piccadilly. Part of a main road since medieval times, Piccadilly began to gain some of its most grand residences on its northern side from the 1660s onwards, but it was historically famed for its great coaching inns and bars. By the 1720s the former area of the May Fair had also become fashionable and well known, especially the May Fair Chapel for its solemnisation of clandestine marriages.

It was between 1735 and 1746 that Shepherd Market itself was developed and named – by Edward Shepherd, a London architect and developer, who amongst his other projects, designed the house at 94 Piccadilly that would become the famous “In and Out Club” (The Naval and Military Club). In the central block was a two-storey market, topped with a theatre, from which paved alleys led, and there was a duck pond towards what is now Hertford Street. Shepherd lived in the Market at 47 Curzon Street: the house, currently office space, remains almost unaltered, with the alley running beneath it leading to Ye Grapes pub.

One townhouse, that used to overlook the duck pond towards open fields, was built in 1735 and also still remains amazingly intact. The current owner of the Grade II listed property overlooking the tree and the little bench in the tiny square reports that his was “the first house in southern Mayfair”. It has been home to an illustrious series of residents, including the actors Laurence Harvey and Anton Diffring. Its latest occupant has lived there since 1968 (and built the same bench outside his window). Hertford Street was built in the 1760s and is believed to have been named after a famous coaching inn, The Hertford Arms that no longer exists.

In the 1800s Shepherd Street was a service area for the big houses as their owners arrived in London by horse, parked it in the livery stables of the street and then headed off to conduct their business. The location of the Market – and its history of offering hospitality and pleasure – has always been key to its allure. The narrow thoroughfares weaving between the colourful little restaurants are ideal locations for many a clandestine business deal or secret liaison.

It is part of the residents’ folklore that if a gentleman was caught with someone he shouldn’t he would easily explain his presence in the Market as being because he was on his way to his club [amongst the many gentlemen’s clubs of Piccadilly/Pall Mall], or his hairdresser [Trumper, the most famous barber in London is on a nearby stretch of Curzon Street].

  • Booms and busts of the Twentieth Century

The 1920s was in many ways the Market’s heyday attracting high-class residents like “characters in a Noel Coward play” and an image of glamour. The author Michael Arlen rented rooms there while he wrote The Green Hat – a best-selling novel in 1924 that went on to be a Broadway play featuring Greta Garbo. PG Wodehouse’s character Bertie Wooster lived at Half Moon Street, whilst Marlene Dietrich and Cecil Beaton were neighbours on the Market too. The Times’s drama critic Arthur Bingham Walkley in 1925 described the Market as “one of the oddest incongruities in London” – the same might still be said.

After the rigors of the Great Depression, Shepherd Market emerged again as a thriving area of shops by the 1950s: Harrow School owned the central block of properties (that bear a sign with the date 1860), whilst the famous pre-theatre eating house of Tiddy Dols (cosy hospitality and microwaved meals) occupied a block on Hertford Street – where 5 Hertford Street now stands – for several decades. This much-loved Shepherd Market institution that closed in 1998 was apparently named after a Georgian gingerbread seller, a colourful character with a air for amboyant clothing – depicted in Hogarth’s writings.

During the 1950s, 60s and 70s the Market’s ever-present strain of notoriety continued: Mama Cass of The Mamas and Papas and then Keith Moon, drummer with The Who, both died in the same Curzon Street flat, four years apart.

  • Shaped by hotels and hedge funds

By the end of the century Curzon Street – historically famed for its casinos – had become a haven of fund managers (gaining the moniker “Hedge Fund Alley”) and for them the Market became (and still is) a popular playground – especially the Market Tavern outside which locals would find “buckets of champagne and Gucci handbags in the gutter”.

The proximity of the high-end hotels such as The Dorchester and the Hilton has equally shaped the fortunes of the Market, with their highly in uential concierges blowing hot and cold over the profligate little village in their midst; by the late 20th century they were warning their guests to stay away from the raucous and unruly district. Now they actively recommend it and the business owners report a regular stream of customers sent over by the hotels for handmade jewellery, fine luggage or good restaurants.

The Market today: hotels and hedge funds

Shepherd Market remains an oasis of calm between the hubbub of Curzon Street – with the Saudi Arabian Embassy directly opposite the entrance to the Market – and the crowds of Piccadilly. You can dip under the covered walkway from the former into the little piazza surrounded by restaurants, shops and ancient pubs, frequented by local office workers, residents and a few tourists.

At the eastern end of the Market is the classic Victorian pub, Ye Grapes (one of four pubs in the Market) and a hub of new and old cafés, with useful retailers such as the newsagent, a post office, a stationer’s, cobbler, pharmacy, a dry-cleaner’s, an ironmonger and a couple of barbers.

At the other end, Hertford Street leads towards the back end of the big hotels and its handsome townhouses offers the consulates of Panama and Thailand, with number 10 Hertford Street offering two Blue Plaques: the Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan (who lived there 1795-1802) and the British Army officer and dramatist, General John Burgoyne, who resided there 1722-1792. Two of the Georgian townhouses are divided into several serviced apartments available for holiday lets/ business travellers – at 17 and 20 Hertford Street. Sir George Cayley, aeronautics pioneer, was once resident at No.20. This is the quieter end of the Market, with the non-working mews streets of Shepherd Street and Market Mews ideal for residential life – and where the Market’s most famous resident, the former racing driver Sir Stirling Moss, has lived for over sixty years.

Five to ten years ago, many of the shops were empty, now nearly all are occupied and hosting thriving businesses, with a noticeable shift upmarket. The retail tenant mix has definitely improved, which seems to be a policy of the major landlord in the Market, Motcomb Estates.

  • Niche luxury and bespoke retailers

If you head across the square south you will pass the King’s Arms pub and hit Piccadilly via the darkly Dickensian White Horse Street, but if you head east you’ll find the upmarket boutiques of the central block (with a façade that has been smartened up since Motcomb Estates became the owner). Whether you seek a rifle for a shooting party at Sandringham, a safari suit, a pair of jodhpurs or a bespoke 3D designed diamond ring, you will not have to walk far. Lining the streets of Shepherd Market and Shepherd Street are tiny boutiques such as Anderson Wheeler the gun-maker, Gladstone the luxury luggage label; Simon Carter menswear, Polistas polo clothing, and two jeweller’s, Guy & Max (blacked out windows; by appointment only) and J&C Martin. With the exception of the small branches of Ryman’s and Snappy Snaps there is a complete absence of chain stores or high-street brands.

  • Eclectic art galleries

You’ll also find four little art galleries – and maybe more to come with the trend of big fashion houses marching out of Bond Street to take space in Albemarle/Cork/Dover Streets, and pushing out the independent art galleries. The most high profile is Bankrobber (purveyor of the mysterious Banksy and Damien Hirst); the newest is the Hignell Gallery (sculpture and modern art) opposite the popular Georgian pub, the Market Tavern, since last autumn.

  • Renowned restaurants

The Market has always attracted an eclectic range of restaurants and cafes, with some that have remained for many years, including the French Le Boudin Blanc and L’Artiste Muscle, and the Turkish Sofra – all much-loved institutions with regulars from around the world. The same might be said of the relative newbie, Kitty Fisher’s, a tiny restaurant on the main square that has been fully booked and critically acclaimed since it opened 18 months ago by three friends, Tom Mullion, Tim Steel and Oliver Milburn.

  • 5 Hertford Street

Without doubt the arrival of London’s most exclusive private members’ club in Shepherd Market five years ago has helped elevate the area and attract further several upscale new businesses. 5 Hertford Street occupies a once-derelict three-storey block that has been transformed by Robin Birley, son of the late Mark Birley – the founder of Annabel’s nightclub in Berkeley Square – into a sumptuous yet highly discreet labyrinth of dining and drinking spaces, including a nightclub in the basement, Loulou’s. The décor is opulent and extravagant, by fashion designer Rifat Ozbek.

“It has brought back an identity to the area and recognition from around the world,” says Guy Shepherd of nearby jeweler, Guy & Max. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Mick Jagger and Kate Moss are reported to be amongst those on its secret members list; the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been guests of members. In the process of being given a facelift, the club will this summer extend to the two upper floors.

Residents of Shepherd Market

The Market has always attracted artistic, theatrical and amboyant types of character – and those that love its sense of community. A core group of residents have lived there for a long time – some as many as 60 years – and in Shepherds House and Carrington House there are a lot of pied a terres, with a good mix of both international and national owners.

Why do they stay? “It’s perfectly located, a ten minute walk to the opera, so easy to reach anywhere from Green Park tube or the buses on Piccadilly,” says one long-time owner. “Kensington is too pretentious, Belgravia too boring, this is more [quintessentially] Mayfair than Mayfair.”

Another resident – who has lived in the Art Deco block that is Shepherds House for over 30 years – calls it a “forgotten place”. “I feel very lucky to live here,” she says. “I brought up my son here and feel safe and secure to live alone.” One of her neighbours agrees: “I have lived in Shepherds House for around 13 years, and in that time many aspects of the Market have remained unchanged, retaining its period feel, all the while staying a welcoming place,” she says. “I have not experienced this feeling of ‘village’ anywhere else in London – long may this last. Our hidden gem, Shepherd Market.”

Christmas festival w. Champagne bus

  • Advent of the The Shepherd Market Association

The unique sense of (cordial) community described by many of the residents and business owners has been helped in large part by the creation of The Shepherd Market Association of Retailers, Residents and Traders (SMARRT) five years ago.

Set up with long-time resident Sir Stirling Moss as the Honorary President and Michael Milburn as Chairman – the Association has brought about improvements to the Market as well as fostering the social side. Another key role has been reconciling the oft-divergent aspirations of both residents and business owners so they can work together to improve the Market.

“I don’t know another area of London where residents and business owners co-exist so harmoniously, because of course they usually want different things,” says Lucy Pridden, the driving force behind the Shepherd Market Association. “The term ‘village in London’ is used by estate agents quite a lot these days to describe different areas, but here it really does apply.”

Improvements include the relaying of road surfaces (Trebeck Street), the planning of better lighting on White Horse Street, and already improved policing and more conveniently timed rubbish collections. On the social side there are now summer and winter parties for members, with another highlight the turning-on of the Market’s Christmas lights (sponsored by Pastor Real Estate).

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”Sir Stirling Moss, resident and Honorary President of the Shepherd Market Association” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”12″] “I have lived very happily in Shepherd Market since the 1950s when my present home was a bombsite. The Hilton Hotel offered to sell me the hotel next door and the site – I just took this little plot of land and with an architect on board I designed by own home, and it was my best investment ever (I also owned another property on the same street but sold it). Back then Shepherd Market was a red-light district and there was a town crier – it was a close-knit community and still remains so. I have always loved the area since I had an office there – that was even before this house – and it suited my lifestyle back then, as it does now. I used to have a boardroom in the basement of the house, and then I had a housekeeper living there when I was a bachelor. Now it is a guest suite for my wife Susie and I. It is ideal being able to walk to restaurants (my favourite is Le Boudin Blanc) and it is so wonderfully peaceful, tucked away in a little mews street. We have always felt safe here; in fact it is my favourite place in the world – although the weather is better at our other home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida! We feel very lucky to live in the Market and I hope this little part of Mayfair doesn’t change too much. A casino has offered to buy my house but I will never sell. [/pullquote]

Period charms and perfect pied a terries:
The homes of Shepherd Market

For those who seek a home in the Market or immediate surrounding area, there are a limited, but attractive range of options. It is interesting to note that of the estimated 4,070 residential dwellings in Mayfair, just over 700 are located in Shepherd Market (W1J 7). Over 70% of this 700 are apartments (a typical ratio for Mayfair housing stock) and over the past five years, 88% of the Market’s 99 property sales were apartments.

Put simply, and with a few exceptions, you can live in a property above a business, a Georgian townhouse or in one of the relatively modern, or even brand-new, blocks of apartments. The average price per square foot in all types of property is less than the Mayfair average, demonstrating the potential for greater growth.

ShepMarket Spider

  • Apartments

80% of the apartments sold in Shepherd Market over the past five years have just one or two bedrooms – so with Mayfair’s comparable quotient 63% it is clear that properties tend to be smaller. In fact data shows that the average apartment sold in 2015 was 833 square feet (77.4 square metres) – in Mayfair it was 1,287 square feet (119.5 square metres).

The typical unit is a one-bed apartment above a retail unit (there aren’t many offices above businesses; it is predominantly residential) – which tend to have a fairly small footprint. A one-bed apartment will typically cost from around £800,000 to £1.4m; although at the time of writing there is a well-presented one available with a short lease (38 years) for £775,000 (through Pastor Real Estate). Also, it is interesting to note that a one-bedroom first-floor apartment on Hertford Street sold in 2015 for £2.8m at the asking price – clearly when such rare properties come up for sale, they get snapped up. A two-bedroom apartment will cost from around £1 – £2.1m; a three-bedroom property from circa £1.8 – £2.5m.

  • Mansion blocks idea for pied a terres

There are also apartment buildings and purpose-built mansion blocks that might be purchased by parents for children, investors, full-time residents – most commonly – as a secondary residence. These are ideal lock up and leave pied a terres in the heart of Mayfair – at less than the Mayfair average. Of the property sales in the Market in 2015, all but two of the transactions were in one of three large purpose-built apartment blocks.

  • What are the options?

The 24-hour portered Carrington House on Hertford Street has the highest turnover due to its size. Last year four of its 73 apartments changed hands, for between £925,000 (one-bedroom) and £2.1m (two-bedroom). One and two-bedroom apartments there are currently offered for sale for between £995,000 and £1.3m.

There is also the elegant redbrick Garrick House on Carrington Street (no porterage) where you can buy a studio apartment for £550,000, or a nicely presented lateral one-bed apartment for £1.1m. Two properties changed hands last year – for between £440,000 (short lease) and £825,000 – and two (one-bedroom) properties are offered for sale this year at £995,000 to £1.1m. According to Zoopla, the average value of an apartment on Carrington Street (37 apartments, including a couple of of ces) is £744,445.

The smallest option is the Art Deco block of Shepherds House on Shepherd Street, with 14 apartments sharing a communal roof garden. Last year a two-bed apartment sold for £1.15m and a two-bed, two-bath apartment there is currently offered for £1.2m.

  • Mews-style townhouses

For many the quintessential property of this area is a four or five storey mews house on a quiet street set back from the clamour of Curzon Street, or the epicentre of the Market. These three or four bedroomed homes cost between £5m and £6m, depending on their size, state and location. The best choice can be found on Market Mews and Shepherd Street, although a three-bedroom freehold home on Shepherd Street sold last year for £5.9m. Far from any late-night revelry at the pubs of the other end of the Market, these streets are tranquil and ideal for full-time residents. One cannot say that Shepherd Market is a family-friendly area, yet there are one or two families here.

According to LonRes/Land Registry, the average price of a house sold in Shepherd’s Market over the past five years is £4,089,000, with the most expensive being £6.8m. For sales between 2013 and 2015, the figure is £4.6m – compared with the Mayfair average of £10.7m.

For apartments, the average sale over the past five years in the Market is £1.72m – the most expensive being £4.85m; whilst for the period 2013 – 2015, the gure is £1.9m – somewhat less than the Mayfair average of £3.2m. If you prefer price per square foot, the averages for apartments are £1,943 on the Market; £2,218 in Mayfair.

ShepMarket Recent Sales table

Lettings trends

The majority of the lettings market involves apartments – 93% – with the average weekly rent of an average size property (900 square feet (83.6 square metres)) in 2015 at £901. Of the 413 lettings in past five years, 59% rented for between £500 and £1,000 per week. The most expensive apartment let being £7,000 per week; with £50,000 per week the highest rate being achieved for a house in that time.

How does this compare to the Mayfair average? Between 2013 and 2015:

  • Mayfair offered 1,685 properties for rent; 248 were in Shepherd Market
  • Mayfair’s average rent was £1,257 per week; Shepherd Market’s was £850.50 (apartments)
  • For houses the differential was a little less: Mayfair’s average house rented for £3,674; in Shepherd Market it was £3,206 (per week)

PRE ShepMarket Weekly Rents Graph

How much have rents increased? Apartments in Shepherd Market let for 26.3% more in 2015 than they did in 2006. The comparable figure for Mayfair is 69.7%.

Across all types of property, the increases are 30.7% and 66.3% respectively. The conclusion? It’s (still) more affordable to rent an apartment in the Market than in the neighbouring areas of Mayfair – as with the sales figures, the Market is lagging behind and offers good scope for growth.

PRE ShepMarket Growth tablePRE ShepMark Growth tablePRE ShepMarket trendsPRE ShepMarket Trends 2015

Scope for growth

Clearly Mayfair as a whole has shown substantial uplift over the past ten years, with an average of 47.3% increase in price per square – compared with Shepherd Market’s 41.4%. The corresponding gures for the last decade are 172% and 145% respectively (source: LonRes). “More investors should look at it and see the value and growth potential,” says David Lee, Head of Sales at Pastor Real Estate. “The area has improved considerably over recent years, and there is a lot of residential development in the pipeline in the vicinity of the Market.”

According to current research there are 82 new private residential units within the development pipeline for Shepherd Market: 44 in schemes that have received permission and 38 on two schemes currently in the application process. These include some new mews-style houses on the south side of Shepherd Street. A new block of luxury apartments is planned for the big empty site on White Horse Street, opposite Café MISH.

PRE ShepMarket Growth 5&10yrs PRE ShepMarket Growth Graphs

The market as a micro-pocket of Mayfair’s development

Mayfair has for years been stuck in time and starved of new developments, but in the last decade we have seen old of ce spaces acquired to develop into prime residential. In fact, as mentioned earlier, this year it is set outperform Knightsbridge and Chelsea in terms of price growth – sales in prime central London fell by 19.5% in the rst half of 2015, with the fall of 37% in Chelsea and 27% in Knightsbridge, but only 0.9% in Mayfair in the same period (Knight Frank’s figures). This can be partly be explained by the new high-class amenities and developments it is gaining, but also because it is playing catch-up. It is possible to suggest that this is the most exciting decade for 100 years for Mayfair.

The southern end of Piccadilly – opposite Green Park – is set for some dramatic and well overdue rejuvenation after being pervaded by a sense of neglect. The Grade I listed once palatial Cambridge House – the former home of Lord Palmerstone – was bought by the Naval and Military Club and became known as the “In and Out Club” for the iconic signs on its gateposts. When the private members club moved it lay empty for many years but now planning permission has been granted on a £250m restoration that could make it London’s most expensive home.

A property fund has also acquired 90-93 & 100 Piccadilly, 95 Piccadilly (the American Club) and the long leasehold interest at 105 Piccadilly.

Then there is the high-profile new development on the corner of Piccadilly and Clarges Street where British Land is redeveloping the site of a former secret services building and its neighbour into a mixed use project of retail, office and residential. It has been reported that sales of the super-prime penthouses in the project – Clarges Mayfair – that overlook Green Park towards Buckingham Palace have topped £5,000 per square foot, a record for Mayfair. Completion is due next year (2017). “The appetite for these apartments when they were released showed the pent-up demand for property in this area,” says David Lee of Pastor Real Estate.

These schemes are part of the wider trend of the relocation of embassies and of ces south of the river (to Nine Elms) and the grand old buildings of Mayfair are returning to their original role as elegant residential mansions. Shepherd Market offers a range of residential property, but office space in the area is currently quite limited.

Business owners in Shepherd Market have expressed their hope that Clarges Mayfair – along with the refurbishment of the In and Out Club – will be game-changer for this stretch of Piccadilly, and their little “village” tucked away behind it.

Shepherd Market

PASTOR REAL ESTATEBased at 48 Curzon Street, Pastor Real Estate is a true property specialist, with over four generations of real estate expertise and is part of the Monaco based Pastor group of companies.

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