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At The Still & Star

August 4, 2016
by the gentle author

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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49 Responses leave one →
  1. gmb permalink
    August 4, 2016

    What a monstrosity. I know real estate developers have no shame, but what of the architect?

  2. August 4, 2016

    I hope this will not happen. It is almost an insult to put a bar of the same name into that new and hideous building. The last pieces of historical London are being killed off for greed again. Valerie

  3. Kiah Teves permalink
    August 4, 2016

    Another very sad commentary on modern day and all its ills.
    I have been coming to London for over 30 years now and it keeps changing. Darn it. I love the history, the more unusual or out of the way places.
    I can never be found at The Tower Of London… or visitor places-that’s not me. This is just so sad.
    Please dear Gentle Author, what will become of its current landlord? And patrons for that matter … ?

  4. vanda permalink
    August 4, 2016

    It is so sad that once again another piece of British history is going to be destroyed. So many pubs that means so much to so many people have been demolished. Even though the planners are going to have a pub with the same name in the new building it will not be the same. What will the “old ” English pub look like – all steel and glass no doubt.

  5. Mem permalink
    August 4, 2016

    OMG Gentle Author , You do amaze me at times . My great grandfather in law was born in Harrow Alley in 1872 I tried for ages to find out where it was and found it a few years ago . Last time I was in London I went and had a curry in a shop in what is left of that area off petticoat lane market . They lived in this horrible place for years and years and then moved to Exchange Buildings off Cutler street before moving to one of the model buildings which went up in the 1890s . But not far , to Gravel Lane I am sure that Reuben and his Dad and all the mates would have been well familiar with this little pub . Barney Barnato the Diamond King also was born in Harrow Alley or very near by . He was also associated with the family but not financially unfortunately ! I will be in London in October and hopefully will have an ail with one of my boys . Thanks again for such a great story Marianne

  6. martin permalink
    August 4, 2016

    My god, what a monstrosity with no sensitivity to the existing architectural context. Looking at the modernist buildings in the backgound you get a glimpse of the future….and it looks ORRIBLE!

  7. August 4, 2016

    Do the architect and developers lack all aesthetic sense? Does the social and visual context into which they are proposing to drop these bizarre boxes impinge on their thinking at all? One can only assume not ….

  8. Greg Tingey permalink
    August 4, 2016

    I’m glad to say that “The Hoop & Grapes” is still with us.
    But this “development” is hideous.
    Couldn’t they build it around the pub, & leave it intact?

  9. Malcolm permalink
    August 4, 2016

    I’ve had (quite) a few drinks in the Still and Star over the years that I’ve worked in the city. It was always a quiet pub compared to the Hoop and Grapes round the corner. This destruction of London will never stop because it has been going on since London was Londinium. However, the monstrous carbuncles that are now being erected are completely out of scale and character for this glorious City. I’ll be heading down to the Still for a farewell pint before it is swept away and buried under this glittering excrescence of grotesque folly.

  10. August 4, 2016

    The philistines are at again when is this mindless destruction going to stop
    It’s the money god yet again raising its ugly head
    And destroying our lovely London history and what replaces this pub but yet another failed architect school dropout protest protest protest !!!!!!!!!

  11. Annette McCann permalink
    August 4, 2016

    This is the ugliest, architecturally most insensitive building I have ever seen! Please no!!!! Well, let’s hope with the financial downturn caused by Brexit, they wont be able to even think about starting such a project.
    Thanks Gentle Author for all you do.

  12. August 4, 2016

    objection submitted, in the residential amenity category, on the basis of it being a rare example of a slum pub and it being an historic building. Other readers, please do formally object, assuming you do object. It does make a difference at planning meetings.

  13. Shawdian permalink
    August 4, 2016

    Where can I protest about this! The only one left in London! We should be Listing this little treasure not knocking it down to add yet more DEATH to London, which is well on it’s way to becoming a SLUM OFFICE Town.

  14. August 4, 2016

    As I scrolled down through the images, the final one made me gasp. This is disposable architecture at its worst. Totally at odds with the surroundings, and looking like something
    beamed down from some sad, futuristic universe. All in the name of Progress? I am sorry
    that the local zoning board gave the green light to this horrific project — and the idea of carrying over the old name for a “new” pub in this awful building adds “insult to injury”.

  15. Shawdian permalink
    August 4, 2016

    PS: All these Office Blocks and yet most people cannot afford to buy properties to live in London which therefore means, eventually these people are cutting of their noses as there will not be many who can AFFORD to work in our GREAT CITY creating slum offices.

  16. August 4, 2016

    I have registered my objection to the shameful decision to demolish these buildings – I am ashamed to live in a city whose councils values its history so little…shameful.

  17. Elizabeth Burling permalink
    August 4, 2016

    Shocking corporate vandalism for greed alone – leave our history be!

  18. Joe O'Donnell permalink
    August 4, 2016

    This is down as a delegated decision i.e taken by planning officer rather than committe if you think should have proper scrutiny email the ward councillors ask them to request it be heard at committee: http://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/mgFindMember.aspx?XXR=0&AC=WARD&WID=12993&sPC=Enter%20postcode

  19. Jon Hardy permalink
    August 4, 2016

    What are these councils thinking? There is ENOUGH office space taking away character and culture from the East End recently without any more. For Christ’s sake, then should leave what is left ALONE. The world will soon be full of dreadful, suited and booted greedy hogs who bleed these areas dry. It has to stop somewhere. Good job I ain’t the frickin’ Mayor …

  20. August 4, 2016

    Am so fed. Up with such vandalism now spreading to other cities. Heritage is the main attraction for visitors plus thevcity is forcing out ordinary people. Aargh! What of commitments to green energy etc. These monstrosities are so wasteful

  21. Connie unangst permalink
    August 4, 2016

    Article was fascinating. You all need to preserve your past. This building survived all these years. Wish we had history like this in the USA

  22. gkbowood permalink
    August 4, 2016

    That awful silver chunk of waste …. What a nightmare.

  23. Angela M permalink
    August 4, 2016

    This is now becoming a joke – where is the sympathetic architecture that reflects both the past present and future of the area. I have guests who come to London to see the historical sites and sights – it is becoming just like any other anonymous city of building blocks. I’m bereft truly bereft.

  24. August 4, 2016

    I’m an Eastender and went there just the other day. What a lovely old boozer! How can they think of knocking this down for yet another glass horror?? At this rate we’ll end up living in some kind of Sci-Fi nightmare. I’ll definitely be registering my objections!

  25. August 4, 2016

    It looks like there has only been twenty objections by members of the public. PLEASE TAKE A COUPLE OF MINUTES TO ADD YOURS. I just did mine : )

  26. pauline taylor permalink
    August 4, 2016

    This is I do believe the most appalling so-called architecture that I have ever seen, is it done just to give normal people like us nightmares? I cannot believe that anyone can see any merit is such rubbish as this ~~~ and not only that I didn’t dare to look at the image for very long as it is exactly the sort of visual disturbance that sets off a migraine!! AWFUL truly AWFUL.

    Sad that this slum pub is under threat as well, when will this madness ever end.

  27. Chris Ashby permalink
    August 4, 2016

    Just submitted my strong objection. Thanks for bringing this horror to our attention. Chris A.

  28. Jane Holland permalink
    August 5, 2016

    I forwarded this story to my brother, who used to work in the City but now lives in Australia – he sent me back the following:

    “I first went into the Still & Star in 1977, not long after I joined Alexander Howden. Back in those days you could get a third of a baguette filled with pate and cucumber for 35p! By the time I left in 2001, you could get a sausage and melted cheese on a brown bap for 2.50p. As the man says in the article, it was always a proper pub; it had a daytime clientele from the offices nearby, and a different night-time clientele of the few people that lived locally. In the summer, there were tables and chairs in a little square opposite the pub, and that used to be packed on a warm evening/night.

    It was also a very good halfway point from the offices that I worked in at Aldgate East and Lloyds, and it was therefore ideal for the Yasuda Old Boys weekly gatherings for the best part of 10 years. I sent the email on to a couple of the YOBS, and one thought that it was nice that my sister didn’t automatically assume that I knew the Pub.

    Two S & S stories/personal highlights:-

    When I first went back to the City in 2002, I met a friend there. She arrived first, and rushed up as soon as I walked in, saying let me get you a drink; at which point Adam, the barman shouted “your usual Jim”, to which Jane replied “how can he have ‘a usual’, he’s been in Australia for the last 18 months”. “He’ll have a pint of Guinness in a jug, won’t you?” said Adam, and I did.

    I was there again in 2007 when one of the YOBS celebrated his 50th. I had a rather last-minute business trip, and the only person that knew I might attend was Trevor, the birthday boy himself. I flew in that morning, so after getting to the hotel etc, I was able to get to the pub before anyone else, so settled myself in the corner with a pint and the paper. The first of the group to arrive was Dominique, who quickly scanned the room to look for Trevor, and then took two steps towards the bar before doing one perfect double-take, and proceeded to abuse me (in both English and French!)and accuse me of trying to give her a heart attack.

    Incidentally, this will be about the fourth time that they’ve tried to demolish the place to put up an eyesore instead.

    Thanks for flipping the switch on some great memories.

  29. Theda Bara permalink
    August 5, 2016

    Born and bred in the east end… I no longer recognise much of it… everything has changed and not for the better, either… such a shame that historical buildings like this have no protection… Is there no hope at all… a petition, maybe?

  30. Sarahc permalink
    August 5, 2016

    It’s potential replacement is hideous and totally boring. I hope they do not win-

  31. Stephan Glover permalink
    August 5, 2016

    kampfgeschwader 14 would not waste time flying over this outrage to architecture. The future friends is bleak. Aldgate and Leman St area has been utterly destroyed over the last decade and a half. I still fear for the Duke Of Wellington. The developers are like vultures.

  32. david sankey permalink
    August 5, 2016

    They are destroying Aldgate bit by bit — what use is a “new square” when all around it looks dire + too tall – too massive – too near the site boundaries just creates “canyon streets” dark in our low-sun winters and full of pollution trapped and going nowhere…

  33. August 5, 2016

    Thanks to The Gentle Author & the film showing recently of “The London Nobody Knows” I discovered this pub on the way to the film screening. I was totally enchanted & was looking forward to going there for a pint & taking friends/visitors there too. The evil tentacles of the City has had it’s eyes on ALL of neighbouring Tower Hamlets for some time. WHY does the council acquiesce? It’s supposed to be Labour! Please tkeep us up to date with time-scale/when will the huge “drink-in” take place?

  34. Inga-Stina Westman permalink
    August 6, 2016

    Just one comment: do they call this ARCHITECTURE??? (my granny was an architect btw. Worked at Eliel Saarinen´s office in Helsinki.)

  35. August 6, 2016

    I have signed against the new building and tried to make a case but it won’t be as powerful a case as yours. Never mind the horrid new building – there are thousands like it going up in London – but the choice to just keep the rich and stately parts of history will teach us nothing about the past. We learn best from the past when we keep the poorer areas; the inhabitants had precious few to speak for them when they were alive and it seems they have few to speak for their history now, so thankyou so much for doing so, gentle author.

  36. NEIL PETTIGREW permalink
    August 6, 2016

    We CAN save this pub. If enough people get together and mount a strong enough campaign, the City of London Council will have to take notice. Please: everyone who has commented on this site: go to the City of London planning web-site and lodge an objection. It’s easy. Just click on this: http://www.planning2.cityoflondon.gov.uk/online-applications/
    Then enter the application number: 16/00406/FULMAJ
    Then click on ‘comments’ and add your objection. Make sure you tick the box which flags your comment as an ‘objection’.
    Tell the City of London council why this pub should be saved. If another massive development must go ahead, then it should be built around the pub, not on top of it.

  37. August 7, 2016

    There are evil property developers deliberately targetting pubs. Let us all beware. And SUPPORT our local pubs.

  38. August 7, 2016

    Every time I visit London I am shocked by more and more missing buildings/large holes in streets. I reckon we’re only going to be left with Buck Palace, Houses of Parliament, St Pauls and the Tower of London at this rate! Heritage has never been so under threat. And for what? To build and more blocks for international buyers to buy off-plan as ‘an investment’? Virtually none of what is being built is benefiting Londoners one iota!

  39. Pat Ashby permalink
    August 8, 2016

    That really is hideous. I hate what they are doinfg to London and will now make my objection.

  40. Mark Ellis permalink
    August 9, 2016

    Following the link suggested above, I see that Historic England (formerly English Heritage) declined to give any advice at all to the committee. This is an organisation which claims, ‘We are the public body that looks after England’s historic environment. We do this by: Championing historic places. Identifying and protecting our heritage.’

    So clearly Historic England think that the old pubs of London have zero historic importance. And this is an organisation that is supported by taxpayer’s money. Totally incomprehensible and unbelievable.

  41. Mark Ellis permalink
    August 9, 2016

    Have submitted my objection to the committee. Many thanks Neil Pettigrew for making this so accessible.

  42. August 9, 2016

    That final scene is a nightmare, even worse than the Gentle Author’s account led us to envisage … now to make my formal objection.

  43. August 9, 2016

    The ‘Still and Star’ is a quaint and pretty building and a valuable reminder of London past. The proposed replacement is unsympathetic to its surroundings and unimaginative. It’s hard to believe that anyone can think it an improvement to the area and I think this is because the new building bullies the old area, beats it into submission rather than enhances it. It’s easy to feel fond of a pleasant building like the pub – it has a homely look and community function; I can’t imagine anyone actually feeling affection for the glass box that is proposed.

  44. August 10, 2016

    Has Anyone thought of trying to get this pub listed as an Asset of Community Value?

    http://www.camra.org.uk/list-your-local

  45. Dominic Pinto permalink
    August 15, 2016

    I’ve submitted a substantive objection OBO CAMRA West London, and have referenced this blog for photos, context etc.

    I’m not aware of any nomination of the pub as an Asset of Community Value. However I’m sure that this is being considered, and may come up tomorrow evening (Tues Aug 16th) from 6.30 at the ‘drink-in

    A free Victorian Society event – a ‘drink in’ to help save the Still and Star from demolition (sadly we can’t offer the drinks for free). From around 6.30 we will talk about how to object to the demolition plans and hear about the threats to pubs all over the country dealt with by the Victorian Society.

    You can object to the demolition here
    http://www.planning2.cityoflondon.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=dates&keyVal=O5XS7IFH02B00

    This is a free event so invite your friends and share! When else can you combine activism with a drink in the pub?

    https://www.facebook.com/events/1100194800055139/

  46. Leslie permalink
    August 17, 2016

    This is one of the most ugly eye sores I’ve seen proposed for a long time,

  47. August 22, 2016

    that proposed office block looks like it is suffering from a nasty infectious disease

  48. Rod Sharp permalink
    August 30, 2016

    No way should this development be allowed. Too much of old London is being destroyed denying it to future generations.

  49. James Pitt permalink
    October 23, 2016

    So sad to learn that the Still and Star in under threat of demolition and has not got a preservation order on it. My paternal grandmother was born in that pub in 1871 and was the landlord’s granddaughter. All of my ancestors were born and raised in the East End of London so I have a particular affinity with that area.

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