Imagine that shortly after the restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, you are
standing with your back to St. James's Palace and looking north towards
Piccadilly. Immediately to your left you would see Berkshire House, and to your
right at the corner of Pall Mall and St. James's Street, a long low Tudor
building which has now been identified as Henry V111's tennis court.
This was largely still the scene in 1698, when the Widow Bourne
occupied No. 3 St James's St and opened up a grocer's shop - The Coffee Mill.
Today, as in the 1690s, the sign of the Coffee Mill still hangs outside.
No. 3 remained in the hands of the Widow Bourne until her daughter,
Elizabeth, was successfully wooed by William Pickering, and in 1731
Sir Thomas Hanmer, Speaker of the House of Commons, leased Pickering No.
3 to be rebuilt along with the houses in the court behind, now known as
In 1734, William Pickering died and his widow Elizabeth took over the
running of the business until 1737, when she handed over both the grocery and
the "arms painting and heraldic furnishing" side to her sons William Junior
Pickering and John Pickering.
Today the ground floor, entered from St. James's street, instantly takes you
back to the days when the Pickerings weighed famous visitors on the giant
weighing beams, registering their weights with quill pens in morocco-bound
John Pickering died in 1754. With no suitable heir, his brother William took
as his partner John Clarke who was distantly related, through his
mother, born Mary Crabb. Clarke died in 1788, and while he had no son, his
daughter, Mary, had married John Berry, a wine merchant in Exeter, and
their son, George Berry, although only one year of age, had already been
designated by his grandfather as heir to The Coffee Mill.
Before he died John Clarke found as a suitable "caretaker" to manage
affairs, the Brownes of Westerham, a rich and prospering family of
lawyers and yeomen into which John Berry's sister had married, and they agreed
to look after the business until George was old enough to take over.