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The Still & Star Is Saved!

December 17, 2016
by the gentle author

Thanks in no small part to the hundreds of letters of objection written by you, the readers of Spitalfields Life, the Still & Star was saved from demolition this week when the City of London Corporation agreed to grant Asset of Community Value Status to this much-loved historic pub in Aldgate

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.

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.

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

Gustave Dore’s drawing of the Still & Star from ‘London: A Pilgrimage’

Still & Star by Gustave Dore, 1880, and as it is today – montage by Adam Tuck

“Let us pass down Harrow Alley, leading to the City Clothes Exchange. Harrow Alley is Petticoat Lane over again – smaller, and, if possible, dirtier than her neighbour. Bestriding the path, like a greasy Colossus, leaning against the wall, or squatting in the mud, are men and women by the score. Beside, behind, and before them, are spread out their miscellaneous wares, to which they supplicate your notice or imperatively demand your attention.

The various public-houses in Petticoat Lane, Harrow Alley, and elsewhere, are generally crammed to excess. Through the open doorways we look into the back rooms, where some dozen men are always smoking, their faces lost in the clouds of smoke which emanate from their lips. These men are known to the initiated as Petticoat Lane fencers, or receivers of stolen goods. Patiently they sit in these filthy rooms, waiting news from their scouts, who they throw out as antennae to ‘feel the way,’ or for the appearance of the thief’s confederate, who ‘gives the office,’ and tells where the booty may be found.”

from The Wild Tribes of London by Watts Philips, 1855

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 was proposed to replace The Still & Star

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55 Responses leave one →
  1. December 17, 2016

    I’ll lift my glass to that good news! Valerie

  2. December 17, 2016

    Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah. Some good news from people in power who represent us. That makes a very welcome change,
    Thanks GA, good work. Great work even.

  3. December 17, 2016

    Wonderful news . I tried to get to this little pub last time I was in London. It is the last surviving building which would have been familiar to my grandfather in law who was born in Harrow Alley in 1872 .

  4. Shawdian permalink
    December 17, 2016

    This is wonderful news!
    It was heartfelt that I wrote my objection to the bull dozing this fine historic building which holds so much history for London – London is its past as well as its future.

  5. Michael Ayres permalink
    December 17, 2016

    Fantastic news, a victory for real people over corparate greed.

  6. Jon Cooke permalink
    December 17, 2016

    Fantastic news a very happy Christmas to all involved

  7. December 17, 2016

    Well done. All the area needs isanother stupidly large office block (like a hole in the head). Never strolled around Aldgate much, I will make a plan to do so.

  8. December 17, 2016

    Great news, photographs, montage & story.

  9. elizabeth waight permalink
    December 17, 2016

    That’s such great news!

  10. Ros permalink
    December 17, 2016

    Excellent news – I’m very pleased. Thank you for spurring us on.

  11. Pat Ashby permalink
    December 17, 2016

    Great news.

  12. Leana Pooley permalink
    December 17, 2016

    This is such good news – but it is shocking that this wonderful old building with its curious history should have been threatened in the first place (to be replaced with a typical low-grade and characterless office/retail building). The photographs of the lost pubs you have been listing alphabetically have shown that they were invariably proud, sturdy and well-decorated. Normally they were sited on a prominent corner of a neighbourhood and they imparted a flavour of good cheer and friendliness to that area. Their removal leaves those encircling streets without its heart and soul. For the Still and Star to be declared an Asset of Community Value recognises not only that its history should be preserved but that its surrounding area needs it as a meeting place for friends and neighbours. The threat to pubs is that once stripped of their A3 status they are cheap pickings to developers.

  13. Joanna Godfree permalink
    December 17, 2016

    A brilliant result, well done! And what a great montage by Adam Tuck.

  14. Carole permalink
    December 17, 2016

    Thank goodness common sense has prevailed. Love the photos & montage and many thanks to all who objected.

  15. December 17, 2016

    Cheering news at the end of a pretty bleak year. Well done GA, I doubt that it would have been saved without your help. Thanks!

  16. Helen Breen permalink
    December 17, 2016

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, well done!

    “… I consider [pubs] an integral part of our culture and history – necessary oases of civility in the chaos of the urban environment.” Well said.


  17. Anthony Wayman permalink
    December 17, 2016

    Excellent news. I take my hat off to all those who work towards saving worthwhile features from greedy developers only interested in their bank balances.

  18. Peter Holford permalink
    December 17, 2016

    That’s good news. I love the montage by Adam Tuck. I wonder why anybody thought we needed another building from the Shanghai school of architecture … ah, yes of course – money and professional vanity.

  19. John Hill permalink
    December 17, 2016

    Fantastic news for London. History like this is the reason people from all over the world visit London. Great set of photographs, a brilliant montage & story.

  20. Bill permalink
    December 17, 2016

    Thanks once again in helping to save another piece of the London we all dearly love

  21. Malcolm permalink
    December 18, 2016

    This is like an early Christmas present, wonderful news indeed. This part of our London has been torn apart and destroyed by developers and local authorities for too long, may this be the place that turns that tide of financial gain over community, history and culture. The Still and Star holds many memories, I have imbibed a nip or two here over the many years of working in the City. I imagine the Scrooges, Heeps, Chuzzlewits and Smallweeds are gnashing their rotten, villainous teeth having been thwarted by the heroes of the tale and will return with a vengeance in their never-ending plans to cover London in carbuncles and pestilence.
    Hats off to GA and all who took time to register their objections and disapproval to the destruction of the Still and Star.

  22. rosemaryHoffman permalink
    December 18, 2016

    little Somerset Street- my ancestors lived there in the 1840/50s as I found them on the census !

  23. December 18, 2016

    This is very good news indeed. Another office block is just what the city does not need. Had it been affordable housing that took notice of the pub, that might have been another story. London needs inhabiting, not asset stripping.

  24. December 19, 2016

    Great news! Well done for bringing this to light, made my day!

  25. Esther permalink
    December 19, 2016

    Woh how wonderful it was saved; I remember so much special old buildings(like the horse-harness shop in my former hometown) that got demolished without much protest at all. Especialy when you see what monstrosities were built in its place; when I first saw the new GAK-building (=unemploymentorganisation in the Netherlands) I thought it was the new prison; so ugly. They demolished the old school there just before it was put on the monumentlist.

  26. Fraser permalink
    December 20, 2016

    A fascinating read. Glad it ended on a positive note. Hate to lose another historic pub.

  27. Delia Folkard permalink
    December 20, 2016

    At last some good news at the end of this miserable year! We went to the Still and Star for the first time on the day that the Victorian Society were campainging and London Live television were also covering the story. This tiny pub is very much a local and a darts match was quietly being played whilst this was all going on. Thank you for all your efforts GA.


  28. December 20, 2016

    Congratulations to all involved.

  29. martin permalink
    December 22, 2016

    Wow…well done

  30. Hilary Bagshaw permalink
    October 1, 2017

    Hi just to let you know sadly as of Friday 29th Oct we learned from Mick the Landlord that the Still & Star was closing forever that night due to the site’s owner refusing to renew Mick’s lease. He only found out on Tues 26th. Looks like the City has got it’s way after all… Have informed the East End Preservation Society.

  31. October 4, 2017

    That is such bad news. Have never had a pint in there but was always on my to do list! Another piece of London to be torn down with no respect for the past.

  32. October 9, 2017

    The Still and Star is currently closed, as the landlord has not allowed the lease to be renewed. I hope renewed pressure on them can get the pub back open?

  33. Dominic Pinto permalink
    November 2, 2017

    The pub is currently closed, cardboard covering up the inside of windows, though there were lights on inside yesterday November 1st 2017.

  34. Tbone permalink
    December 4, 2017

    Too late pub now closed down, another one bites the dust.

  35. Gay Lloyd permalink
    December 24, 2017

    My Great Great Great Grandfather William Edward Atherden born in 1838 ran away to sea and sailed to Western Australia aged 14-15 years where he jumped ship and went to the goldfields to make his fortune and upon returning to England bought the STILL & STAR about 1855 or 1856 we believe. He was only a young man of 18 years when he married Mary Ann Martin also 18 on the 8th November, 1856 according to our records they were married at St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe and they lived at the STILL & STAR where their children were born. William Edward died in Perth, Western Australia in 1934. My Father David Leslie Atherden is now 95 years old and is William’s great great grandson. I sincerely hope the good people of London manage to save this ICON. As Australians we have very little history here and what have is also under threat of demolition so please keep this wonderful pub.

  36. February 24, 2018

    There are some things you can never put a value on, & some things that can never be replaced. Do not destroy your heritage. Please save our pub.

  37. jackr permalink
    March 17, 2018

    Might as well replace it with a mosque. Welcome to UK 2018.

    I am greatly saddened by the loss of such an historic pub and I will always value my pints at the pub while it lasted.

  38. Paul permalink
    April 4, 2018

    Can anyone tell me if this pub is now closed for good?

  39. Sam Dorfs permalink
    May 21, 2018

    In relation to section 88(2)(b) I find it is realistic to think that there is a time in the next
    five years when there could be non-ancillary use of the Still and Star that would further
    the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community. I am persuaded by the
    submission of the Second Respondent that under the right management, with quality
    food, beer and wine the Still and Star could operate as a public house. I have borne in
    mind that the Still and Star has operated as a public house since 1820 until recently and
    taking into account its location it is realistic to think that it can continue to do so. It has
    a loyal and enthusiastic clientele and there is no reason why they would not wish to
    continue to use the facilities of a public house. In reaching this decision I have borne in
    mind that it is not necessary for there to be a business plan and it is sufficient to think
    that there could be a use that would further the social wellbeing or social interests. In
    my view it is a realistic outcome to think that the Still and Star will reopen as a pub in
    the next five eyars.

  40. August 9, 2018

    I passed yesterday with a friend on Wednesday 8 August. The Still and Star looked thoroughly closed and with several blank boards behind the windows. I know the status of Asset of Community Value has usually only a limited lifetime. Is the pub perhaps just closed for August? Is the Still and Star still safe from development?

  41. August 27, 2018

    I will make a point of going there for a couple of pints next time I’m in London.

  42. Seb permalink
    January 11, 2019

    Well, I’m sorry to report that they’re at it again- I’ve just received an email from the City of London asking me to comment on this revised application. The plan this time seems to be to take a cast of the existing pub, like a knock-off Rachel Whiteread, then knock down the building and embed the impression of the old pub into the new hotel building in a hideous green material:

    Only 21 days to make your objections known!

  43. James Pitt permalink
    March 17, 2019

    I am delighted to learn that the Still and Star has been saved. I am particularly pleased because my Grandmother, Esther Rebecca Patrick, was borne in the pub in 1870. She was the granddaughter of the landlord William Martin. Her father was John Patrick who was a butcher probably working in Blood Alley.

  44. laurence posener permalink
    June 16, 2019

    Hi, my grandmother and step-grandfather (Ike and Sarah Klein) ran the pub during the war. I used to go there as a baby -1947/8. It would be nice to be able to go there now that I am old enough to drink.

  45. September 25, 2019

    Looking at this website regarding the ‘Still and Star’ and learning that it has been saved. I am also the great, great grand daughter of William Atherden and will be in London early May 2020 and look forward to seeing the ‘Still and Star’ again. In 2004 in Perth, West Australia, we had a descendants Eureka Stockade celebration, with my mother, Coral Wayne,(her mother
    Dora Atherden) Jessie Boothroyd (Atherden) and her daughter Norma.
    It is wonderful that this hotel was saved, and hopefully remains so. It is a big part of history and should remain so.
    William Atherden was the very last survivor of the Eureka Stockard. He he did return to London, and also purchased other hotel properties, but again returned to Perth and stayed until he passed away in 1934.

  46. Kathy bradly permalink
    November 24, 2019

    What is happening with the still and star I managed to go to this pub as my grandma and grandad ran it 1953 name of Beacham shame as my mums pub also been made into flats x?

  47. Sharon Howells permalink
    December 11, 2019

    I would like to find out if the Still and Star is still operating as a ‘pub’, as my husband and I will be in London during May 2020 and would very much like to visit the Still and Star and hopefully find it still operating. Is there any contact for the people who now may still own it.
    A little bit of history below regarding my great, great grandfather who owned this property in the late 1800’s, and if there is someone who reads this and knows some more history, I would very much like to hear from them.

    William Edward Atherden birth place Dover, 02 March 1838, died 12 May 1934 in Perth, West Australia. Left home approx 1852/53, joined ship’s crew and travelled to Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, jumped ship and walked to Ballarat to join the gold rush. Gold first discovered August 1851. Eureka Stockade 03 December 1854, William was arrested and taken prisoner aged 16. He stayed in Australia a short time before returning to England, but he had amassed considerable amount of money and upon return to England he bought a chain of taverns, one of which was the Still and Star, St Botolph Anglican Church is opposite. He married Mary Ann Martin, both 18 years of age on 08 November 1856 at St Andrew by the Wardrobe, situated in Queen Victoria Street near St Paul’s Cathedral. William and Mary lived in the Still and Star, where their children were born and christened at St Botolph Church. He and Mary had 16 children, one of which was my great grandmother, Clara Louise Atherden, who married Henry Howell. He later returned to Australia, settling in Perth, Western Australia where he died, 1934.
    When he passed away, he was the very last survivor of the Eureka Stockade.

    Any further information which someone may have regarding the early days of the Still and Star, or current information, present owner and how to contact,would be much appreciated.
    thank you Sharon Howells, Perth Western Australia

  48. Paula Sage permalink
    January 20, 2020

    Paula Sage
    January 20, 2020

    Not sure what is happening with the Still and Star, but unfortunately the website shows “Permanently Closed”.
    Mary Anne’s grandparents were my 4xgreat grandparents and I have an ancestry chart showing names and dates.
    When Sharon Howells visits London in May, I should be happy to meet up, so perhaps we could find a way to make contact.

  49. Neil Wager permalink
    November 28, 2020

    Any news on the still and star and what will happen to it?
    I’d be very interested to talk to who owns it

  50. Mark Taliana permalink
    December 5, 2020

    I have just received notificated from The City of London have received plans for Demolition of existing structures, Location: 15 Minories, 57-60 & 62 Aldgate High Street And 1 Little Somerset Street London EC3
    Proposal: Demolition of existing structures, and erection of a mixed use office building Class B1(a),
    including ground floor Class A1, Class A3 and Class A4 uses. (30,901sq.m gea.)

    5th December 2020

  51. Mark Taliana permalink
    December 5, 2020

    The application will be considered by the Planning and Transportation Committee on 15 December 2020

  52. Mark Taliana permalink
    December 5, 2020

    Time to save it again!

  53. Fern permalink
    April 2, 2021

    Planning permission granted for new development. Long but worth reading. See

  54. December 22, 2023

    So glad a pub has been saved. Buildings in that area are being shut down or demolished in that area of east London and city. Won’t be know history left soon with all the new ultra modern offices going up.

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