At The Still & Star
Still & Star, 1 Little Somerset St, Aldgate
There is very little left of old Aldgate these days – though the Still & Star, just opposite the tube station yet hidden down Little Somerset St, is a rare survivor. This tiny pub on the corner of two alleys is believed to be unique in the City of London as the sole example of what is sometimes described as a ‘slum pub’ – in other words, a licensed premises converted from a private house.
If it would interest you to visit this cosy characterful pub, which almost alone carries the history of this place, you had better do so soon because the City of London are currently considering an application to demolish it to for a huge new office development and, in the meantime, the premises are on the three-month lease.
Current landlord Michael Cox explained to me that the block once contained eight butcher’s shops which were all bought up by one owner, who opened the pub in 1820. Before it was renamed Little Somerset St, the passageway leading to the pub was ‘Harrow Alley’ but colloquially known as ‘Blood Alley.’ At that time, the City of London charged a tariff for driving cattle across the square mile and, consequently, a thriving butchery trade grew up in Aldgate and Whitechapel, slaughtering cattle before the carcasses were transported over to Smithfield.
There is no other ‘Still & Star’ anywhere else – the name is unique to this establishment – and Michael Cox told me the pub originally had its own still, which was housed in the hayloft above, while ‘star’ refers to the Star of David, witnessing the Jewish population of Aldgate in the nineteenth century.
Unfortunately this early nineteenth century building is not listed or in a Conservation Area which does not bode well for its preservation, but you can see the Planning Application on the City of London website which includes an option for anyone who wishes to object to the demolition. Click here to see details of the Planning Application and make a comment.
All around us, pubs are being shut down and demolished yet, as regular readers will know, I have a particular affection for these undervalued institutions which I consider an integral part of our culture and history – necessary oases of civility in the chaos of the urban environment.
Still & Star, 1951 (Courtesy Heritage Assets/The National Brewery Centre)
Still & Star, 1968 (Courtesy Heritage Assets/The National Brewery Centre)
Still & Star today
Harrow Alley by Gustave Dore, 1880
Butcher’s shop at the corner of Harrow Alley (known as Blood Alley) leading through to the Still & Star
Map of 1890 shows the Still & Star with nearby butcher’s shops and slaughterhouses
Charringtons’ record of the landlords (Courtesy Heritage Assets/The National Brewery Centre)
The office block that is proposed to replace the Still & Star, although the developers are offering to have a bar of that name within the new building
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