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Hidden London: The Strange Story of the Republic of Texas Legation in London

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

A small plaque in an alley leading to Pickering Place off St. James’s Street near St. James’s Palace is a reminder that for a very short time, the Republic of Texas had a small embassy over a wine shop in London. The Republic of Texas was declared in 1836 and quickly the republic tried to foster international ties. A number of Texas Legations were established in Washington, D.C., London, and Paris in 1836. These were more diplomatic missions rather than embassies but were useful to promote the republic, the Texas Legation in London was in a building that was the premises of Berry Bros.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Berry Bros. & Rudd as it is now named can trace its origins to 1698, when the Widow Bourne established a grocer’s shop on the site. The Widow’s daughter Elizabeth married William Pickering and their family ran the business which supplied the fashionable Coffee Houses around St James’s. In the 19th century, tastes had changed and Berry Bros had become wine and spirit merchants to the aristocracy and especially the royal family. The Texas Legation may have been attracted by this access to high quality wines, but it is more likely that the location was chosen for its proximity to St. James’s Palace.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The Texas Legation in London was maintained from 1836 through 1845 and although the United Kingdom never granted official recognition of Texas it did agree to accept Texan goods into British ports.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

When the Republic became a state in the United States of America in 1845 the legations were shut down and this strange part of Texan history was largely forgotten until the 20th century.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The Anglo-Texan Society was founded in London in 1953 and had the famous author Graham Greene has its founding president. Greene knew the Pickering Place area well because he had a flat overlooking the courtyard. The society was led in its early days by Sir Alfred Bossom who was a member of Parliament with extensive ties with Texas.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

In 1963, on the initiative of Bossom, the Anglo-Texan Society erected a brass plaque at the corner of No. 3 St. James’s Place in the passageway of Pickering Place to mark the location of the Texas Legation in Great Britain during the final years of the Republic of Texas, 1842–45. The plaque was unveiled by Texas governor Price Daniel, Sr and the text of the plaque reads: “Texas Legation In this building was the legation for the ministers from the Republic of Texas to the Court of St. James 1842 – 1845. Erected by the Anglo-Texan Society”. The society also paid an outstanding debt of $160 which the Texas Legation had ‘forgot’ to pay for rent to Berry Bros in 1845.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The Texas Legation was not the only place of political intrigue in the building, George Berry who ran Berry Bros at that time was friends with the future Napoleon III who was in exile in London. Napoleon used Berry Bros cellars to hold secret meetings, their Napoleon Cellar is named after him.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Since the plaque was attached, there has been more interest into this curious piece of Texas history and it was celebrated by The Texas Embassy Cantina on the corner of Cockspur Street near Trafalgar Square for many years before it closed.

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Great London Shops – Hatchards

hatch prem

187 Piccadilly, St James’s, W1J 9LE

Hatchards is one of the oldest bookshops in the United Kingdom, It was founded by John Hatchard in 1797 in Piccadilly  where it still stands today.

His portrait still hangs in pride in the shop, and it has  a reputation for attracting high-profile authors and holds three Royal Warrants.

hatchards

Over the years many famous authors have signed at Hatchards including more recently J.K Rowling, , Peter Ackroyd,  Lauren Bacall, , Alec Guinness, ,Hilary Mantel and Sebastian Faulks..

There are a number of  antiquarian books  sold usually related to  Winston Churchill, with a small section to Royalty. Other specialist sections include Gardening, Food & Drink, Biography,  and Art.

Hatchard’s  regularly host literary events and book signings in the shop.

Next to  Fortnum and Mason, Hatchards offers old fashioned charm which has attracted a wide range of customers to its store.

If you want further information about Hatchards , visit their website here