Berry Bros. & Rudd has been at 3 St James’s Street for over 310 years and has a fascinating history. The company’s fortunes are inextricably linked to St James’s Palace. Prior to the building of the palace by Henry VIII, the area now known as St James’s was little more than meadow and an area of woodland. There was a tiny settlement here, outside the walls of the city, consisting of the Hospital of St James from whence the palace and surrounding area takes its name. The hospital was for victims of leprosy, originally home to ‘fourteen sisters, maidens that were leprouse, living chastely and honestly in divine service’.
Henry VIII was known to enjoy the area and would ride here with Anne Boleyn or to hunt deer. In 1532 he acquired the land and all that was upon it and demolished the convent-hospital, replacing it with a hunting lodge that was to serve as a retreat from the gossip of the Palace of Westminster, as well as a love nest for him and Anne Boleyn.
The building of the palace laid the foundations for the development of the entire area and by 1662 Henry Jermyn had begun his ambitious building programme, starting with St James’s Square. A small row of houses had been built along the eastern side of what is now St James’s Street and it was in number three that a lady we know as ‘the Widow Bourne’ lived.
At this time, a major part of fashionable London life was an outing to a ‘coffee house’ to meet with friends and political allies to plot, scheme and gossip, and this is where the Widow Bourne spotted her business opportunity. In 1698 she set up business at number three, buying our now famous coffee scales and the mill – that are still in the shop today complete with records of customers’ weights spanning three centuries – and began supplying coffee to Boodles, The Carlton Club and the like. These were the beginnings of what is now Berry Bros & Rudd.
Visit our virtual cellar tour to see pictures of the shop and cellars.