Pall Mall - The story of an iconic London address
Take a journey through the extraordinary events, people (and animals) along one of the most famous streets in London.
116 Pall Mall boasts a rich and colourful past that has seen it play host to royalty, heads of state, war heroes and spies. But we are also surrounded by historic landmarks and significant events that have shaped this great city. Here are a few things you may not know that have happened on our doorstep...
A Whole New Ball Game
If you’ve ever wondered where Pall Mall gets its name, then wonder no more. Back in the mid-17th century, during the reign of Charles II, this stretch of road between St James’s Park and Trafalgar Square was a popular location for a ball game known as Pall Mall. Similar to Croquet, it is said to have originated in Italy where Pallamaglio loosely means ‘ball mallet’. In 2009, there was a Pall Mall revival with games held in the shadow of Buckingham Palace as part of the month-long Story of London Festival.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, London historian Ed Glinert said, "From Pall Mall's royal sporting heritage to Piccadilly's tailoring association, London is renowned as one of the most historical places in the world and this activity illustrates exactly why."
The Princess Diaries
During the VE Day Celebrations, Princess Elizabeth famously decided to ditch with formalities and mingled with the crowds to celebrate the end of World War II. Among the places she visited was Pall Mall. The teenage Princess, who became Queen Elizabeth II, kept a diary and wrote, "Sixteen of us went out in the crowd, cheered parents up on the balcony. Up St J’s (St James’s Street), Piccadilly, great fun."
The party continued the following day. "Out in crowd again — Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly, Pall Mall, walked simply miles. Saw parents on balcony at 12.30 am — ate, partied, bed 3am!"
An Ambassador’s Best Friend
Carlton House Terrace is literally a stone’s throw away from 116. Prior to World War II, it was home to the German Embassy and there is still a small grave located outside of 7-9 Carlton House Terrace in memory of Giro, the ambassador's German shepherd. Giro tragically died in 1934 after he was electrocuted when trying to chew through the Embassy’s wire fence. The headstone is said to be the only Nazi-era memorial in London.
Directly outside the gardens at 116 lies the statue of the legendary British explorer, Robert Falcon Scott. Better known as Scott of the Antarctic, in 1912 he led a famously ill-fated expedition to become the first explorer to reach the South Pole. The statue was sculpted by his wife, Kathleen, and was unveiled in 1915.
The inscription on the statue says, “Robert Falcon Scott, Captain Royal Navy, who with four companions, E.A. Wilson, H.R. Bowers, L.E.G. Oates, E. Evans, died March 1912 returning from the South Pole.
Had we lived I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale.”
On June 4, 1807, Pall Mall became the first public street in the world to be artificially lit with gas. To celebrate King George III’s birthday, German inventor Frederick Winsor, who also lived on Pall Mall, lit up the street on the way to St James’s Palace. The event is commemorated with a blue plaque that is located at 100 Pall Mall. Winsor also founded the UK’s first gas company that would later become known as British Gas.
Meet the Neighbours
Actress Nell Gwyn, who was also mistress to Charles II, resided at number 79, which is the only property on the south side of Pall Mall that isn't owned by the Crown. Robert Dodsley ran a bookshop at number 52 and it was Dodsley who suggested to Samuel Johnson the idea of writing what would become the first modern English language dictionary.
The street’s most famous fictional resident was Mycroft Homes, elder brother of Sherlock, who makes his first appearance in The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter. The short story, published in 1893, includes a number of references to Pall Mall as Mycroft had lodgings here.
Across the road from 116 is the Royal Opera Arcade. It was the first of its kind to be built in London and is said to be the world’s oldest shopping arcade still in existence. So-called because it was built on the west side of the Royal Opera House, which is now Her Majesty’s Theatre, it survived a fire that destroyed the theatre in 1867. Royal Opera Arcade was designed by John Nash, the celebrated 19th-century architect, and his assistant George Repton. Among Nash’s other famous work is none other than 116 Pall Mall.
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Event space for hire at 116 Pall Mall
116 Pall Mall, a historic, Grade-1 listed Georgian masterpiece in the heart of London can be hired as a venue for any kind of event, from weddings to conferences, launch parties to fashion shows.
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