Tag Archives: London Pubs

Down at the Old Bull and Bush

For last week’s post I was looking at the building that was once the pub Jack Straw’s Castle. This week, I have walked from Jack Straw’s Castle, along North End Way towards Golders Green to find another famous Hampstead pub. This is the Old Bull and Bush as photographed by my father in 1949:

Old Bull and Bush

The same view 70 years later in 2019:

Old Bull and Bush

If you have not been to the Old Bull and Bush, you probably recognise the name from the music hall song “Down at the Old Bull and Bush” made famous by Florrie Forde in the early years of the 20th century. The song has the following chorus (there are some minor variations, dependent on the source):

Come, come, come and make eyes at me
Down at the Old Bull and Bush,
Come, come, drink some port wine with me,
Down at the Old Bull and Bush,
Hear the little German Band,
Just let me hold your hand dear,
Do, do come and have a drink or two
Down at the Old Bull and Bush, Bush, Bush
Come, come, come and make eyes at me

The song appears to date from 1903 / 1904. There is a recording apparently dated from 1903 by a Miss Edith Manley. The song may also been a re-work of a song with much the same words titled “Down at the Anheuser Bush” – a song commissioned by the Anheuser-Busch brewing company which also seems to have appeared in 1904.

The Anheuser Bush origin my be correct as the Old Bull and Bush version has a German band reference and the Anheuser Busch company grew out of the 1860 take over of the Bavarian Brewery in St. Louis by Eberhard Anheuser.

The song appeared in a number of pantomimes at Christmas 1904, but it was Florrie Forde’s recording of the song and live performances that appear to have given the song popular appeal at the time, and the longevity needed to keep the song in the cultural background 115 years later.

The song may well also be the reason why the Old Bull and Bush did not go the same way as Jack Straw’s Castle.

Florrie Forde  was born on the 16th of August 1875 in Melbourne, Australia, She was the sixth of eight children of Lott Flannagan, an Irish-born stonemason and Phoebe Simmons. Although her last name was Flannagan, she adopted the surname of a later step father to become Florrie Forde.

She had success in Australia, but moved to England in 1897 where she started to appear in London music halls. This was the start of a very successful career which would last until her death in 1940.

Old Bull and Bush

The Old Bull and Bush at it appeared in the first decade of the 20th century:

Old Bull and Bush

The style of the building is much the same as my father’s photo and the pub you will see today, however it has also clearly had some major redevelopment.

Hampstead pubs were major attractions during summer weekends and public holidays, when Londoners would have a rare opportunity to stop work and head to the open space and clean air of the heath. As well as the open space, fun fairs could be found on the heath as well as the Vale of Health and the pubs would always be a popular destination as shown in the following photo where crowds are heading into the Terrace and Gardens which could be found at the rear of the pub.

Old Bull and Bush

An example of the impact that the bank holiday trade could have for the country, and the pubs of Hampstead can be found in the following newspaper report from The Standard on Tuesday 17th April 1906 reporting on the previous day’s Bank Holiday:

“A RECORD BANK HOLIDAY – CROWDS EVERYWHERE – DAY OF SUNSHINE – SIGNS OF PROSPERITY. Absolutely empty was the Londoner’s verdict about London yesterday, as he strolled about the sunny streets of the metropolis. The fact remains that it was a wonderful Easter Monday, and that many holiday records were broken. The weather had a good deal to do with it. It was bright enough for June, and nearly warm enough for July. But the weather was not all. This is a time of good trade, and everybody is doing reasonably well. They are in the mood to enjoy a holiday, and they can afford to do it in ease and comfort.

The railway companies are unanimous in paying tribute to our satisfactory prosperity, as shown by the money we spend on pleasure. The passenger traffic on the Great Western was the highest ever recorded for Easter. Forty-four excursion trains left Paddington during the holidays. Liverpool Street station was a scene of unprecedented activity for the time of year, and 100,000 passengers left it during the week. More people went to Germany by way of the Hook of Holland, than ever before.

Fifty crowded excursion trains poured into Blackpool yesterday morning. 

Coming to smaller matters, the landlords of The Spaniards, Jack Straw’s Castle, and the Bull and Bush at Hampstead Heath, say it was the best Easter Monday they have known for years; and the refreshment and amusement caterers of Epping Forest admit that they have done better than ever before. At a rough estimate, some quarter of a million excursionists have thronged the glades of the forests during the four days of the holiday.”

I am always struck when reading these old newspapers, that whilst some things have changed, so much remains the same. This coming Easter weekend, crowds will not be taking excursion trains, indeed long public holidays are often when stations close for engineering work as Euston is during the coming Easter weekend. However if the weather is good, it is almost guaranteed that TV reporters will be at one of the seaside resorts with scenes of crowded beaches and interviews with ice cream sellers praising the increase in business.  Hampstead Heath will also be busy, as will the Old Bull and Bush and The Spaniards.

To the side of the Old Bull and Bush was the entrance to the Terrace and Gardens as shown in a postcard dated 1906:

Old Bull and Bush

The Terrace and Gardens appear to have been a key part of the success of the Old Bull and Bush. The following view shows part of the gardens. Change the clothing of those sitting at the tables and this could be a pub garden today.

Old Bull and Bush

The above two photos shows lights strung along the gardens. This must have been a popular destination for a summer evening’s drink.

The Bull and Bush as it appeared in the 1880s:

Old Bull and Bush

Some history of the Old Bull and Bush can be found in the Hampstead and Highgate Express dated the 15th September 1888. Note that in the following article the pub is called the “Bull and Bush” so the Old was added at some point between 1888 and the end of the century – an early attempt at marketing the history of the pub to visitors to the heath.

“No tavern situated in the suburbs of London is better known than the Bull and Bush. Contiguous to some of the loveliest bits of Hampstead scenery, and possessing pleasant garden grounds, the Bull and Bush is all that can be desired of an old fashioned, comfortable, roadside hostelry. These characteristics, added to the attractions of its rural surroundings, have made the Bull and Bush a favourite resort for Londoners.

The Bull and Bush was originally a farm house and the country seat of Hogarth (by whom the yew bower in the garden was planted); and which, after its transformation into a roadside place of refreshment, attained some reputation as a resort of the London wits and quality. Tradition informs us that the place was visited by Addison and several of his friends. North-end must have charmed them by the picturesque beauty of its situation.

This feature of the spot still retains, notwithstanding the innovations of brick and mortar, and the construction of roads through regions once sacred to grass and wild flowers. The approach to the Bull and Bush from the town of Hampstead, with its glimpses of gorse and brushwood near Heathbrow, and the foliage in the gardens of Wildwood, remains one of the most beautiful places in suburban London.

The Bull and Bush, like other old Hampstead taverns, has many interesting bits of gossip connected with its history.

‘What a delightful little snuggery is this said Bull and Bush!’ So Gainsborough the painter is reported to have said on one occasion, while surrounded by a party of friends, who, like himself, were enjoying good cheer at the tavern.”

The peak in popularity of the Old Bull and Bush appears to have been around the time that Fred Vinall was licensee as the majority of photos of the pub have Fred’s name in large letters along the top of the building.

Old Bull and Bush

I wonder if that is Fred, standing outside the pub in the white apron in the above photo? He took over the pub in 1905.

Comparing the photo above, with the 2019 photo below shows that while the style of the pub has remained the same, the building has undergone some significant redevelopment, including the separation of the pub from the road by the wall and pavement.

Old Bull and Bush

The road to the right of the pub has a lovely terrace of houses. I suspect the buildings on the left were originally stables.

Old Bull and Bush

The attraction of the Old Bull and Bush has always been its location, and the 1888 newspaper article mentioned that the area “remains one of the most beautiful places in suburban London”. Whilst the road heading down into Golders Green is now surrounded by housing, the road continuing up towards Jack Straw’s Castle and then into Hampstead retains the appearance it must have had in the heyday of the Old Bull and Bush.

This is the view looking up in the direction of Jack Straw’s Castle from where I was standing to take the photo of the Old Bull and Bush.

Old Bull and Bush

It is a lovely walk on a sunny day up from the pub to Jack Straw’s Castle and Whitestone Pond.

A short terrace of houses hidden in the woods.

Old Bull and Bush

Which contrasts with the very different view walking down the hill from the Old Bull and Bush towards Golders Green station:

Old Bull and Bush

The street leading down to Golders Green station has a wide range of different architectural styles, probably a result of the speculative building on smaller plots of land that developed the area between Golders Green and Hampstead.

I spotted a couple of Blue Plaques in the street. One for Anna Pavlova, the Russian prima ballerina, who spent much of her life living in the Ivy House on North End Road. The following plaque is for the writer Evelyn Waugh who also lived along North End Road.

Old Bull and Bush

The short walk between Golders Green and Hampstead station is a lovely walk. If you start from Golders Green and walk up the hill, the Old Bull and Bush is a perfect stop before the final climb to the highest point in metropolitan London.

If you take the underground, do not follow the instructions in the “Getting Here” section on the pub’s website, which strangely states that the pub is “Located a quarter of a mile from Bull and Bush Underground station” – this was a planned station that was part built but never opened. Intended to serve building on the heath to the north of the Old Bull and Bush, which fortunately was never built. Next time I am in the pub I will have to ask them for directions to Bull and Bush Underground station (there is a surface building for the original entrance shaft, but it is clearly not a station – a subject for another post, even better if TfL could let me see the old station shafts and tunnels!).

It was relatively quiet during my visit, but if we have the same weather as reported in The Standard from 1906 for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend in a couple of weeks, the Old Bull and Bush, as well as the other pubs around Hampstead Heath will be looking forward to the additional trade that good weather has always generated.

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The Perseverance or Sun Pub, Lamb’s Conduit Street

Today’s post is not the one I intended, it has been a busy week so not enough time to complete research for the planned subject, however I was in the area of Lamb’s Conduit Street last Tuesday so made a visit to the pub on the corner of Lamb’s Conduit Street and Great Ormond Street. Today, the pub is named The Perseverance, but back in 1985 it was the Sun and had the most brilliant decoration on the rounded corner, so typical of the architecture of 19th century London pubs.

The Perseverance

This is the same view in March 2019, a change in name and rather more subdued signage on the corner of The Perseverance.

The Perseverance

Lamb’s Conduit Street has two main, historical, landowners. The Bedford Charity (which I wrote about here) owned and developed the southern part of the street, whilst the Rugby Charity owned and developed the northern section of Lamb’s Conduit Street.

The Rugby Charity still owns much of the original land, including The Perseverance with the income from the street being used to fund bursaries and scholarships to Rugby School. (There are still a number of Rugby boundary markers in place, so a future project is to walk the boundaries and look for all the remaining plaques that identified the estate).

The pub retained the name of the Sun from the early 19th century, to the 1990s when the name changed a couple of times, including being called Finnegans Wake prior to the final name change around 2005 / 2006 to The Perseverance.

I have always wondered why pubs change from names that have lasted well over 100 years. I can understand if the pub wants to completely separate from a previous existence, but when the pub continues to serve the same function to the same target market, I would have thought the marketing benefits of retaining a historical name far outweigh the benefits of a new name.

There are many other examples of name changes across London. I wrote about the Horn Tavern in Sermon Lane which only relatively recently changed name to The Centre Page.

The full view of The Perseverance on the corner of Lamb’s Conduit Street and Great Ormond Street.

The Perseverance

I did not take a similar view in 1985 – the photo at the top of the post was the last on the strip of negatives so this must have been the end of a roll of film. One of the benefits of digital photography is the almost endless capacity for taking photos.

The photo above shows a different style to the buildings immediately joined on to the pub. These buildings, along with the original corner building date from the early 18th century, however the pub was refronted in the early 19th century to the style we see today.

The building is Grade II listed.

The Perseverance retains the feel of a “local” and has a bar area on the ground floor and a dining area on the first floor. It was still rather empty when I stopped for a quick drink as shown in the photo below.

The Perseverance

The Grade II listing states that the pub retains an original cast-iron column, which I assume is the column on the left of the bar.

Back outside, I had a couple of minutes for a quick look around.

One side of the eastern branch of Great Ormond Street has a fantastic array of potted plants lining the pavement.

The Perseverance

Whilst the opposite side of the street has a terrace of brick built houses from the original development of the land, looking good in the sunshine.

The Perseverance

Along the western branch of Great Ormond Street, a short distance along from The Perseverance is this building with a Blue Plaque.

The Perseverance

The plaque records that “John Howard, 1726 to 1790, Prison Reformer Lived Here”.

John Howard was the prison reformer after who the Howard League for Penal Reform was named. Howard was born in Hackney, but spent much of his life in Bedford. He became the High Sheriff of Bedfordshire which came with the responsibility for the county gaol.

He was horrified by the conditions of the gaol and the way in which it was administered, with control basically being down to the way in which the appointed gaolers wished to manage the prison and make money out of those with the misfortune to be held.

His experience in Bedford resulted in many journeys throughout the country exploring and reporting on the conditions of numerous gaols – all of which suffered from the same problems.

His journeys between 1775 and 1790 were described in a book “The State of the Prisons In England and Wales” which provides a comprehensive review of conditions in 18th century goals. The first paragraph of Section 1 – General View of Distress in Prisons introduces the state of the country’s gaols:

“There are prisons, into which whoever looks will, at first sight of the people confined there, be convinced, that there is some great error in the management of them; the fallow meager countenances declare, without words, that they are very miserable; many who went in healthy, are in a few months changed to emaciated dejected objects. Some are seen pining under diseases, ‘sick and in prison’ expiring on the floors, in loathsome cells, of pestilential fevers, and the confluent small-pox; victims, I must not say to the cruelty, but I will say to the inattention of the sheriffs, and gentlemen in the commission of the peace.”

The book records the state of each prison that he visited and Howard’s records of Marshalsea Prison in Southwark are as follows:

The Perseverance

The Perseverance

The Perseverance

Howard’s book The State of the Prisons In England and Wales is available online at archive.org and provides a fascinating insight into 18th century prisons.

I did not have time to explore much further along Great Ormond Street, so I backtracked to The Perseverance to head back down along Lamb’s Conduit Street, which deserves a dedicated blog post, however one building just a short distance from the pub has some interesting decoration above the first floor windows.

The Perseverance

I could not photograph from directly opposite as the branches of a tree partially obscured the view. Detail of the first floor decoration is shown in the photo below which consists of a date along with a sheaf of wheat, tied with rope, with four hands pulling on the rope.

The Perseverance

The symbol is of the United Patriots National Benefit Society which was founded in 1843 with offices here in Lamb’s Conduit Street, as well as other offices and branches across London and the rest of the country.

The society was one of a number of benefit societies to which members contributed a regular subscription and were then able to call on financial support in times of hardship. The sheaf symbol was used extensively by the society on their buildings, certificates of membership, documentation and badges.

Like many 19th century societies, the United Patriots National Benefit Society appear to have enjoyed members meetings in pubs which seemed to have consisted of entertainment and toasts (and probably lots of beer). An account from the Islington Gazette on the 4th November 1884 reads:

“The members of the Caledonian-road branch of this society celebrated their fortieth anniversary by a supper, at the ‘Prince of Brunswick’ Tavern, Barnsbury-road on Thursday evening last. Subsequently, the members having disposed themselves for the evenings entertainment.

The Chairman (Mr. W.E. Beer), in a few prefatory remarks condemning the recent disquieting rumours in the press concerning the Navy, proposed the ‘loyal and patriotic toasts’ which were drunk enthusiastically.

Mr G. Coel (the branch secretary), in responding to the toast of the evening, said that, up to the end of last year, the members on the books numbered 95. the receipts for 1883 amounted to £116 14s 11d, and the disbursements £114 17s 7d leaving a balance of £1 17s 4d in their favour, he regretted not being able to lay before them a better statement of affairs, but owing to the unfortunate prevalence of sickness during that time, there has been an extra call upon the funds; but it was, at the same time, gratifying to know they have been more than able to meet the demands made, without applying for aid from the mother society. He concluded by thanking them all for their courtesy and kindness accorded to him during his connection with them, extending over seven years (Cheers).

The proceedings throughout were enlivened with songs by the company, which separated after cordially approving votes of thanks to the Chairman and the host (Mr. Wilson).

I suspect those who had been able to call upon the society during times of sickness were the fortunate ones, with those not able to be members having very little to fall back on.

I should not be surprised as I have been walking London for decades, however it is always brilliant how much history can be found within a very short distance from a specific point. I went to find the pub which had a very colourful decoration in the 1980s and also found one of the key early founders of prison reform and the home of one of London’s benefit’s societies. Digging deeper there is the history of the Rugby Charity which received the original donation of land and has owned, developed and managed much of the local area since, and before that one of the early water supplies to London and the land owner that gave the street its name.

Hopefully subjects for future posts.

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The Horn Tavern, Sermon Lane And Knightrider Court

One of my father’s photos of the Horn Tavern has been in the blog header since I started the blog, and today I finally get round to covering the location.

He took two photos of the rather ornate light on the corner of the Horn Tavern which was at the junction of Sermon Lane and Knightrider Street, just to the south of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Horn Tavern

Horn Tavern

This is the same view today, the frame of the light is still there, however there have been some changes to the pub and the surrounding streets have changed significantly.

Horn Tavern

The differences in the photos highlight what has happened to the pub since my father took the original photo. The pub had a long history as the Horn Tavern, with references to the pub going back to the 17th century (although it is sometimes difficult to confirm that whilst the name may be the same, it may not be the pub at this location).

The pub changed its name to the Centre Page in 2002. I have no idea why the name changed, or the meaning behind the current name. I would have thought that a name as old as the Horn Tavern would have been preferable, especially given the location on the walk up from the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul’s with the attraction of an old name to the passing tourist trade.

I will continue referring to the pub as the Horn Tavern as I much prefer the original name.

The frame of the light in my father’s photo looks to be the same as the light in place today, however the wonderful glass with the pub name has been replaced with rather bland clear glass.

The original light must have looked brilliant and very inviting when lit on a dark London night.

There have been many changes in the immediate vicinity of the Horn Tavern. In my father’s photo, the name plate for Sermon Lane can be seen. Sermon Lane still exists but only really in name rather than as a lane.

To set the location and changes in context, the following map shows the area today. Peter’s Hill is a wide walkway from Saint Paul’s Church Yard down to Queen Victoria Street.

Just over half way down on the left can be seen Knightrider Street. Where this meets Peter’s Hill, the Horn Tavern is on the upper corner of the junction. There is a truncated street running up and down from this junction and within Peter’s Hill can be seen the words Sermon Lane.

Horn Tavern

Peter’s Hill is one of the major changes to the area. The area between the cathedral and the river was once densely packed with office buildings, warehouses etc. Peter’s Hill carved through these buildings and streets to provide a wide pedestrian walkway from river to cathedral and opened up the view of the cathedral from the river and Bankside.

The following map is from the 1940 Bartholomew Atlas of Greater London. In the middle of the map can be seen Sermon Lane, when it was a street with buildings on either side. To the right of Sermon Lane is Knightrider Court – this has had a strange move which I will cover later in this post.

Horn Tavern

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows the area in more detail. The Horn Tavern is the P.H. on the corner of Sermon Lane and Knightrider Street.

Horn Tavern

Going back further to Rocque’s 1746 map, we can still see Sermon Lane, however to the right, Knightrider Court was then called Doolittle Alley (the second ‘o’ is missing from the map).

Horn Tavern

Doolittle Alley was the Doolittle Lane mentioned in Ben Jonson’s plays, for example from “The Magnetic Lady”, licensed for performance in 1632 and first performed by the King’s Men at the Blackfriars Theatre in the same year:

“She dwelt in Doolittle Lane, atop o’the hill there, I’the round cage was after Sir Chime Squirrel’s. She would eat naught but almonds, I assure you.” 

I had assumed the origin of the name Sermon Lane was religious given the proximity to the cathedral, however the London Encyclopedia states “perhaps named after Adam Sermoneinarius, a 13th century property owner, or since it was once known as Sheremongers Lane, its name may have come from the sheremongers, who sheared or cut, and rounded the silver plates used in the minting of coins”.

There appears to be a common explanation leading back to John Stow’s Survey of London for the name Knightrider Street and Court. In the Streets of London, Gertrude Rawlings states that “Stow says it was supposed that the name refers to knights riding this way from Tower Royal to the tournaments at Smithfield. It has also been stated that a “knightrider” meant originally a King’s messenger, but no such word is known in our dictionaries”.

Photos of the area today show the changes to these streets. In the following photo, the Horn Tavern is on the corner and the paved area edged by the trees, leading up towards the cathedral is Sermon Lane, however this is all open space and the steps on the right form the only boundary with Peter’s Hill.

Horn Tavern

A large sign on the corner of the pub documents a link with Dickens and also states that the pub was formerly known as the Horn Tavern – again why change, there is even a Dickens reference to the original name.

Horn Tavern

View of the entrance to the Centre Page in Knightrider Street – again with the reference to the former name.

Horn Tavern

The current Horn Tavern building dates from the 19th century. Remarkably with the level of destruction around St. Paul’s Cathedral, the building survived the blitz.

The Horn Tavern appears in newspapers over the years for all the usual reasons – the meeting place for clubs, adverts for staff and rooms, people staying in the tavern being involved in local events etc. In October 1874 there was a rather intellectual contest held between teams from north and south of the river when twelve of the best players from the City of London Chess Club, played against twelve of the best players from the Bermondsey Chess Club. Unfortunately I cannot find any results to confirm whether the north or south of the river came out on top.

This is the view looking down what was Sermon Lane from the end near the cathedral. This space still retains the name Sermon Lane, however it is only a line of trees and steps that separate Sermon Lane from the main part of Peter’s Hill.

Horn Tavern

Looking down from the centre of Peter’s Hill, Sermon Lane is on the right.

Horn Tavern

In the above photo, Knightrider Court once ran through the buildings on the left, as can be seen on the 1940 and earlier maps, and Sermon Lane terminated directly on Knightrider Street, however fast forward to today, and Knightrider Court has moved.

The name is now used for the small section of street from just before the pub, and includes a small space after the junction with Knightrider Street.

In the following photo, One Knightrider Court can be seen above the entrance to the building to the right of the Horn Tavern (although today it is separate, this entrance and the building above was part of the Horn Tavern).

Horn Tavern

From the above viewpoint, turning slightly to the left and looking straight down there is this small length of street which also has the name Knightrider Court.

Horn Tavern

So although the original Knightrider Court has been lost, the name has transferred to take over the end of Sermon Lane and an additional small length of land in front of the opposite building.

I like the fact that names are retained, however it is deceiving that the name looks to be in the right place (it is a court shaped stub of land off Knightrider Street) but in reality it is in the wrong place.

This is the view looking down Knightrider Street.

Horn Tavern

As can be seen in the maps at the start of this post, Knightrider Street once continued on towards Friday Street, however Peter’s Hill now terminates the street. I explored the extension of Knightrider Street, past the church of St. Nicholas Cole Abbey in an earlier post: Distaff Lane – How London Streets Have Changed Over The Centuries, which also covers how the streets have changed in the area to the south of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

I would be really interested to know why the Horn Tavern’s name was changed to the Centre Page. I would have thought that retaining such a historic name would have been a good commercial decision. It would also be great to see the light with the name of the pub once again etched into whitened glass and shining on a cold London night.

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The Hand And Shears

The following photo was published in a January 2016 post covering locations I had not identified. I have no idea why I did not recognise this pub, having walked past it many times and been inside on a number of occasions. The sign on the front also had part of the name. Luckily there were a number of readers more observant, or with a better memory than me as it is the Hand and Shears at 1 Middle Street at the junction with Cloth Fair, close to Smithfield Market and the church of St. Bartholomew the Great. The photograph was taken by my father in 1952.

Hand and Shears

Last week I had the opportunity for a visit to the pub which is still looking very good, sixty-five years after my father’s photo.

Hand and Shears

The name of the pub should have been obvious from the sign on the corner of the building. There is the symbol of a hand and shears at the top and part of the name is given at the bottom of the sign which reads:

“Moorland celebrates the grant of a Justices Licence to …Shears on the 1st May 1552 …. of service to the Public”

The words before Shears must be ‘Hand and’ and I suspect after 1552 it may have read ‘for years’.

Hand and Shears

The Justices Licence refers to the Alehouse Act of 1552 which defined in law that it was illegal to sell beer or ale without the consent of the local Justices of the Peace. This was the first time that a licence was required to sell beer and ale and was an attempt to address the drunkenness and disorder that was being caused by the widespread availability of alcohol.

The Act required that each person granted a licence was responsible for maintaining good behavior at their premises and any problems could result in a fine or loss of licence. From the sign it appears that the Hand and Shears was granted a licence in 1552.

The pub must have been working prior to the grant of a licence as a sign above the door states that the Hand and Shears was established in 1532 so a pub has been on the site for almost 500 years.

One more comment about the large sign on the 1952 pub, it is also advertising the brewery Barclay’s “Doctor” brand. This referred to beer brewed by the brewery that had a picture of Dr Johnson on the label.

The building that the Hand and Shears occupied in the photos above obviously does not date from 1532. It was built around 1852 as the following picture of the pub is dated 1852 and is of the new building of the Hand and Shears. It has hardly changed in 165 years.

Hand and Shears

The name Hand and Shears probably originates from the early days of Bartholomew Fair when it was the England’s main cloth fair. I have read a number of different sources attributing the name to either the use of shears at the fair, the cloth workers or the Mayor of London opening the fair by cutting the first piece of cloth.

The Hand and Shears prior to the nineteenth century building occupied the building shown in the following 1811 etching.

Hand and Shears

The title to the above etching is Pye Power Court, Cloth Fair.

Pubs provided many functions to their local community in addition to selling beer. Inquests would be held in the building, meetings of various societies, they organised sporting events and for the Hand and Shears there was the special role of the hosting the Pye Powder Court.

A Pye Powder Court dates from medieval times when the role of the court was to have jurisdiction over disputes between merchants and the public at a market or fair. They would also cover any other general dispute arising on fair grounds.

The name Pye Powder comes from ‘pied puldreaux’ the French word for Pedlar.

The Pye Powder Court held in the Hand and Shears had jurisdiction over the Cloth Fair and later Bartholomew Fair in nearby Smithfield.

Pye Powder Courts fell out of use in the mid-nineteenth century. Some of the last were held in the Hand and Shears and the following report from the Illustrated London News dated the 5th September 1846 covers one of these events:

“BARTHOLOMEW FAIR – On Wednesday, the usual proclamations for holding the fair were issued from the Pie-Powder Court, but the preparations presented the prospects of a very sorry realisation of the pleasures of this once favourite and popular place of metropolitan resort. The Pie-powder Court, one of the most expeditious, if not one of the most ancient courts of law in the kingdom, and to which the administration of the law on all matters pertaining to the fair, or offences committed in it, was confided, is now almost limited to Bartholomew Fair, where its duties are confined to the receipts of piccage, stallage and tollage. The court, whose proceedings are now merely nominal, is still held at the Hand and Shears public-house, in Cloth Fair.”

The terms piccage (money paid at fairs for breaking ground for a booth) and stallage (rental or fees for holding a stall in a market), like Pye Powder both have French origins so must date from the medieval period and the use of French for many legal regulations after 1066.

The following page is from Londina Illustrata published in 1811 and shows the Pye Powder Court in session. The text below the picture of the Hand and Shears reads “This Court is held at a Public House, known by the Sign of the Hand and Shears, the corner of Middle Street and King Street, as exhibited in the Vignette. The scene above, is descriptive of the Court held in the dining room, where the judge, attended by his secretary, is determining a cause between two histrionic complaints, respecting some injury sustained in the neighbouring fair of St. Bartholomew, by one of the parties.”

Hand and Shears

As well as the Pye Powder Court, other activities carried out at the Hands and Shears included inquests into deaths. There are numerous reports of these and they show the almost casual nature of death and lack of accountability in the city – I would recommend a read of 19th century newspapers for anyone who today criticises red tape and health and safety.

One report from the London City Press on the 18th February 1860 reads:

“FATAL ACCIDENT IN REDCROSS SQUARE – On Tuesday, the Coroner held an inquest at the Hand and Shears, Cloth-fair, on the body of George William Killby, aged 19 years, son of Mr. Inspector Killby of the City Police Force, whose death was occasioned under the following circumstances – On Monday, the 6th instant, the deceased and a young man named Joseph King, were walking along the above square on the foot-pavement, and upon arriving nearly opposite the gateway of Messrs. Treggon’s zinc manufactory, a loaded van was being drawn out of the gateway by a man in their employ, two others pushing behind, when, in consequence of there being a slight decline, the van overpowered them, and the off shaft pinned the deceased against the wall, the near shaft making a hole in the wall. He was extricated as soon as possible, and removed to his residence in Bartholomew-close, and Mr. Timothy, surgeon, of Barbican, attended him, and rendered every assistance; but he gradually declined and died on Saturday from inflammation of the bowels, the result of the injury. 

The Coroner summed up, and the jury, after having consulted together, the room having been cleared, ultimately returned a verdict of ‘Accidental death’; but they considered that vans should not be drawn out of the gateway in question without a horse, as this was not the first accident that had occurred, though fortunately the others had not been attended with loss of life.”

A full view of the Hand and Shears. The sign today boasts that the pub is the opportunity for the Last Ales before Newgate Public Executions.

Hand and Shears

The Hand and Shears was also the meeting place of the Bartholomew Club, a club of local people who met to discuss current political issues and points of historical interest, and the London City Press on the 22nd December 1868 reports on the annual dinner of the members and friends of the club, held in the Hand and Shears where a “substantial and satisfactory” dinner was provided. There followed a very large number of toasts, and proposing the health of various members and at the end “the company departed after spending a very agreeable and harmonious evening.

The pub has two bars, the Public Bar and the Saloon Bar. This is the corner entrance to the Public Bar:

Hand and Shears

The entrance to the Saloon Bar on Kinghorn Street:

Hand and Shears

Tiled entrance to the Saloon Bar:

Hand and Shears

Internally the Hand and Shears is a wonderful pub. A central island bar around which are the public and saloon bars (although there is very little difference between the two). I visited on a Tuesday afternoon which probably explains why it was so quiet, it is usually much busier at lunchtime and evenings.

Hand and Shears

Wooden paneling and polished wooden floor:

Hand and Shears

It is fascinating to sit in the Hand and Shears with a pint and contemplate all the people and events that have taken place here over the years. Both the exterior and interior of the pub appear to have hardly changed since the pub was built.

Whether it will remain in the future must be a concern given the fate of so many pubs across London. The area around Smithfield will change considerably over the coming years.

Walk through the short passage opposite the Hand and Shears to Long Lane and a sign of these changes can be seen in the form of the new Farringdon Station on the Crossrail / Elizabeth Line.

Hand and Shears

Future Smithfield developments also include the relocation of the Museum of London which will occupy part of the old market buildings. This area will change significantly.

As well as the Hand and Shears, there are a number of long-standing small businesses in the area. Along Long Lane is Evans and Witt (supplier of all manner of office supplies) which still retains the 01 telephone number on the facade.

Hand and Shears

And the Smithfield Cafe:

Hand and ShearsMany of the pubs my father photographed have disappeared. I have already written about the Tiger Tavern, the Gun Tavern and the Ticket Porter, so it is great to see the Hand and Shears still in business and much the same as when he took the original photo back in 1952.

I hope it stays as it is and in business for many years to come.

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