Public house, rebuilt around 1850 and internally remodelled in 1896.
Reasons for Designation
The Hand and Shears is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* For its exceptionally well-preserved C19 pub interior with distinct bar areas and a range of fittings, principally dating from the phase of remodelling undertaken in 1896;
* As a well-composed and little-altered London corner-plot building of the 1850s, with a particularly fine pub frontage, integrating a series of distinct bar room doors set between thin Ionic half-fluted columns;
* As a rare example of the way in which small urban public houses were arranged and fitted-out in the later C19, surviving with little alteration to give a tangible sense of how it would have served at this time;
* For its close historical connection to the famed St Bartholomew Fair, with which the pub had an important ceremonial and legal association from the C16;
* With several other listed buildings on Middle Street and Kinghorn Street, including Founders’ Hall (Grade II; List entry 1452864) and 4-5 Middle Street (Grade II; List entry 1359198).
The history of the Hand and Shears in Smithfield can be traced back to the C16. Whilst the name is recorded at this early stage, the plot it occupies and the surrounding street layout are of a slightly later date. The arrangement of Middle Street, between Cloth Street (to the east) and Kinghorn Street (west), is largely the product of the redevelopment of St Bartholomew’s Priory overseen by Lord Rich, for which leases of new properties were issued between 1597 and 1614. An etching of 1811 shows the prominent corner-plot position of the public house and the earlier building’s gambrel roof to Kinghorn Street with its two bar room entrances. The name ‘Hand and Shears’ references the important local cloth trade which thrived in the area, but it also relates to the famed St Bartholomew Fair which was held annually in August from 1133. The history of the Hand and Shears is closely intertwined with that of the fair, with important ceremonial traditions centred on the public house. One such example was referred to by E A Webb in a history of the fair of 1921:
‘There used to be a burlesque proclamation, the evening before the [official] proclamation by the Lord Mayor, by a company of drapers and tailors who met at the 'Hand and Shears'… from whence they marched, shears in hand, to the archway leading from Cloth Fair into Smithfield, and announced the opening of the fair with a general shout and snapping of shears.’ (E A Webb, ‘Bartholomew Fair’, in The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 1, 1921, p300).
As with other public houses positioned close to markets or fairs, the Hand and Shears hosted what was known as a Pye Powder Court (the name originating from ‘pied puldreaux’, an old French term for a pedlar). From the medieval period, such courts had responsibility for keeping order and settling disputes between merchants and the public at markets and fairs. The court held at the Hand and Shears became particularly notable owing to the notorious vice and disorderly behaviour associated with the Bartholomew Fair. A sense of how the court would have appeared and functioned can be gleaned from a drawing of a session held in the panelled dining room of the Hand and Shears, published in Londina Illustrata in 1811: this shows the Pye Court judge at his bench with his secretary presiding over a dispute between two actors in theatrical dress. Ultimately, the scandal and excess drove the authorities’ efforts to supress it. This culminated in the prohibition in 1843 of all performances and shows, which inevitably caused the popularity of the fair to wane. A report from the Illustrated London News dated the 5 September 1846, lamented the consequent decline of the Pye Powder Court, where its duties had been ‘confined to the receipts of piccage, stallage and tollage’. The suppression of entertainments and the consequent lack of interest meant that, on the eve of the feast of St Bartholomew in 1850, ‘the mayor found no fair worth proclaiming’ (Webb, p317).
The decline of the Bartholomew Fair broadly coincided with - possibly even brought about - the redevelopment of the Hand and Shears and several neighbouring buildings. The rebuilding of the pub along with the adjoining house at 2 Middle Street was undertaken in around 1850 (sources record alternative dates of 1849 and 1852). The earliest known plan of the building’s bar arrangement is in a conveyance dated 1857, showing a similar configuration to the present arrangement, though with a smaller island counter and the stairs in a different position. The plan demonstrates that the main bar was entered from the corner door, with a private bar and distinct back parlour to Kinghorn Street, as remains the case. To the east, along Middle Street, was a large rectangular dining room with a specified area for bagatelle at its south end. The work of around 1850 appears to have been a private venture (the pub not being tied to a brewery at this stage). However, by 1872, the site was in the hands of the Whitbread Brewery. Save for a brief two-year spell when the freehold passed to the Lion Brewery, the Hand and Shears remained the property of Whitbread until 1896, when it was acquired by Barclay Perkins. In the same year the interior saw some remodelling, with a new internal vestibule added to the Kinghorn Street entrance, the island counter and stairs being reconfigured and a small office added at the back of the dining room. According to the plans, the proposed alterations were 'before the Bench' (the licensing magistrates) in February 1896 and were complete by December.
Into the 1920s some minor alterations were undertaken. In April 1920, plans were produced by F G Newnham (Barclay Perkin’s chief architect) to reposition the stairs to the cellar in order to extend the saloon bar (the same bar room formerly marked as the ‘parlour’). It is probable that this phase of ground-floor work also included the introduction of some of the present bar room windows and the two brick and tile fireplaces, which are characteristic of the period. Six years after the work to the ground-floor rooms, Newnham produced plans to introduce a new service area with a hatch for the first-floor dining area, followed in 1929 with a plan to integrate an adjacent sitting room and the main dining room. This investment prompted a remarkable boom in lunch and dinner sales: the pub recording that in 1930 it served 28,500 meals during the year, this increasing to 650 per week in 1931. Among those served were some esteemed visitors, including Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin on 20 October 1930 and, on 11 February 1931, Winston Churchill.
Since the inter-war work there have been only minor changes to the Hand and Shears. In 1962, the merged Courage and Barclay Brewery added a women’s WC in part of the former yard area to Kinghorn Street (accessed via an inserted door from the saloon bar). This has since been replaced with a first-floor WC and the rear passage now has steps from Kinghorn Street leading up to the first-floor level. In 1982-1983, the pub had to close for 18 months following structural damage caused by piling at Founders’ Hall on the opposite side of Kinghorn Street. Work was subsequently undertaken to strengthen the existing floors (consented in 1989), with new steel columns and beams inserted to the ground, first and second floors. The pub fittings, including the bar, screens and panelling were stored and reinstated whilst this was undertaken. In addition to the structural work, sensitive refurbishment of the ground-floor expanded the men’s WC into the rear (Middle Street) bar; this phase of work also involved the installation of the diagonal shelving over the servery, the replacement of the original iron columns and the reuse of an existing timber screen to create the counter in the first-floor room.
Public house, rebuilt in around 1850 and internally remodelled in 1896 with some further minor alterations in the C20.
MATERIALS: London stock brick, with painted timber pub frontage integrating leaded windows.
PLAN: the ground floor is arranged around a central servery, with the rear saloon bar (originally the ‘bar parlour’) being the southernmost room accessed from the Kinghorn Street entrance. Adjacent to this, with a separate door from the same vestibule, is a small private bar. This is divided by a screen with an opening from the main public bar (entered via the corner doors). The easternmost room, which the Middle Street doors open to, is the former dining room. This is now essentially a distinct part of the main public bar, with an opening in the screen here. At the south end of the room is a private office, a WC and stairs. The stairs lead to an L-shaped dining room, kitchen and WC above. The two upper floors contain private accommodation (not inspected).
EXTERIOR: the Hand and Shears occupies a prominent corner plot with three bays to Middle Street and two to Kinghorn Street. The windows to the three brick upper storeys, all multi-paned sashes, are recessed in segment-headed panels; a form typical in London in the early to mid-C19. A shallow double-range roof, hipped to the west, is set back behind the parapet so as to be hidden when seen from the street. The pub frontage is divided into bays by applied piers with incised Soanian detail and thin Ionic half-fluted columns that mark the bar entrances. Fielded-panel stall risers are set beneath the bar room windows, which are all leaded multi-paned types, probably of the 1920s. The corner entrance has a pair of curved doors and these, along with those to the bars to either side, are part-glazed with bar room signage integrated within the leaded glazing. A wrought-iron panel marking the saloon bar is set above the tiled vestibule entrance to Kinghorn Street. At the far south end of the Kinghorn Street frontage is an arch-headed opening in the wall leading to a flight of stairs to the first floor (although this originally led to a rear yard behind the saloon bar). The glazed lamps to the bar entrances are traditionally-detailed, but are modern additions.
INTERIOR: the central servery connects to each of the four distinct bar areas, allowing service and supervision of every part of the pub. The counter front to the former dining room has a part with a matchboard front, whereas all other parts have fielded panels divided by stanchions that have consoles to meet the counter top. In the centre of the servery is an island bar back fitting (described as a ‘waggon’ on the 1896 plans) with shelving and a backing of etched and frosted mirror panels to both sides. The present form of the servery is principally the product of the work of 1896, although the parts of the counter to the private bar and public bar remained in their original alignment (as marked in the 1857 conveyance) and may date from that time with the later elements built to match. The high-level diagonal shelving is an addition of the 1989 refurbishment and the pot-shelves suspended above the counters are more recent. The partitions between the bars have glazed upper sections, save for the part screening the public bar from the former dining room. These partitions have all had openings introduced to allowing movement between the areas (except for the private bar and saloon bar which are connected by the entrance vestibule). Each of the distinct bar rooms have simple matchboard panelling fitted, much of this is probably original, although some sections, such as that to the extended WCs, are known to be later. Brick and tile fireplaces of the 1920s are positioned in the rear saloon bar and the former dining room (both painted over).
The upper dining/function room has an L-shaped plan form with a servery at its east end; as it was remodelled by Newnham for Barclay Perkins in 1926-1927. Skirting, a simple plaster cornice, and dado and picture rails are retained at this level, although the servery has been reworked and the hatch widened as part of the 1989 work. The WCs have been refitted. The cellar, first-floor kitchen and the private upper floors were not inspected.