'Improved' public house, c1935 by Eedle and Meyers for Truman’s Brewery.
Reasons for Designation
The Palm Tree, a public house of 1935, by Eedle and Meyers, for Truman’s Brewery is listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: a restrained neo-Georgian design incorporating sumptuous materials and subtle detailing, by a noted late C19-C20 architectural practice;
* Interiors: a range of good-quality internal fixtures and unusual features, with subtle variation across the different classes of bar;
* Intactness: almost entirely unaltered externally, and with a largely complete scheme of interior decoration;
* Historic interest: the pub is the final remnant of a once built-up, industrial part of London, destroyed in the Blitz and in subsequent clearances.
Inter-war ‘improved’ or ‘reformed’ pubs stemmed from a desire to cut back on the amount of drunkenness associated with conventional Victorian and Edwardian public houses. Licensing magistrates and breweries combined to improve the facilities and reputation of the building type. Improved pubs were generally more spacious than their predecessors, often with restaurant facilities, function rooms and gardens, and consciously appealed to families and to a mix of incomes and classes. Central, island serveries with counters opening onto several bar areas allowed the monitoring of customers and also the efficient distribution of staff to whichever area needed service. Many, although not all, of the new pubs were built as an accompaniment to new suburban development around cities, and a policy of ‘fewer and better’ was followed by magistrates both in town and on the outskirts. A licence might be granted for a new establishment on surrender of one or more licences for smaller urban premises. Approximately 1,000 new pubs were built in the 1920s – the vast majority of them on ‘improved’ lines - and almost 2,000 in the period 1935-39. Neo-Tudor and Neo-Georgian were the favoured styles, although others began to appear at the end of the period.
The Palm Tree occupies a plot at what was formerly the junction of Palm Street and Lessada Street, just to the east of the Grand Union Canal (Regent’s Canal). The original building probably dated from the 1840s, and was built to serve the workers of the local wharves, mills and manufactories, the occupants of the terraced houses it was set amongst. Its name probably derived from the ‘Palmer’s Wharf’ to the south-west of the pub, on the other side of the Regent’s Canal; this was presumably used for imported palm timber, possibly servicing the furniture trade in nearby Shoreditch. A photograph of the original Palm Tree, together with photographs of the surrounding housing in Palm Street and Lessada Street, is held in the collections of the London Metropolitan Archives.
In 1935, the Palm Tree was rebuilt; the new pub resembled the old, having plain frontages to the east and south, and an entrance in a canted corner bay. Photographs and maps show that rebuilding involved the demolition of one of the adjoining terraced houses on the south-west, a two bay façade being extended to one of three bays. Like the old pub, the new Palm Tree was of three main storeys, with a longer façade on the north-east than on the south-east. It was built to the designs of Eedle and Meyers for the east London brewers Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. Ltd, founded in c1666 and based in Brick Lane.
Eedle and Meyers was a notable architectural practice specialising in pub design from the 1880s to 1946. A small number of their London pubs are listed at Grade II: The Old Red Lion, Islington, 1899, The Angel, Islington, 1903 and Rayners Public House, Harrow, 1937, the latter two of which were built for Truman’s.
The Second World War wrought radical changes to the area surrounding the Palm Tree. Much of the housing in the streets adjacent to the pub was destroyed or greatly damaged through bombing in 1944. This was especially the case in Lessada Street and Totty Street to the east, where ruined houses were replaced with prefabs. Except for part of a terrace in Haverfield Road, the remaining housing was finally demolished in c1977 as part of post-war redevelopment of the area. The Palm Tree, which had evaded both bombing and redevelopment, survived, and since the 1970s has stood alone, surrounded by open land with the canal to the west.
Evidence remains in the fabric to suggest that the pub originally had a number of separate bar rooms on its south side which have since been unified through the removal of partitions to form an open plan. Originally, a public bar was entered via the canted corner, a private bar had a separate entrance to the west, and an off sales compartment was to the north, adjacent to the stairs to the first floor. The saloon bar in the northern half of the pub is unchanged in its plan.
Public house of 1935, by Eedle and Meyers, for Truman’s Brewery.
MATERIALS: the pub is built from buff brick laid in Flemish bond, with red brick dressings. The ground floor is clad in cream faience and ceramic tiles. Window frames are timber with leaded glass, and the roof is slate and has brown brick stacks.
PLAN: the building stands detached, but when built formed the corner piece to two terraces of houses running to the north- and south-west, hence its principal elevations face to the north- and south-east.
Internally there are two bars, one to the south served by a U-shaped counter, and one to the north with a corner counter, separated by the enclosed flight of stairs to the upper floors. There is an office beneath the stairs, with an access lobby which links it and the two bar counters.
EXTERIOR: the pub is mainly of three storeys with a cellar; it drops to two, and then a single storey at the north-west end. The junction of the principal elevations is a canted corner and this holds the main entrance: a half-glazed door with two fielded panels and a leaded overlight. Above this, rising through the upper two storeys, is a faience panel with a moulded border; it has the Truman’s eagle emblem in deep relief, and a label with applied brass lettering ‘ESTD 1666’, and the name of the pub below; a separate plaque tops the panel, inscribed with the name of the brewery. Crowning the canted bay is a small chimneystack, of brick with stone cladding.
The ground floor is entirely clad in faience and tiling and has simple vertical strips with decorated heads creating the effect of pilasters between the doors and windows. A fascia runs the course of the principal elevations. The south-east elevation is of three bays with a central half-glazed door with a moulded canopy supported on console brackets. There is a wide window to either side with leaded glass in the lower sections, with tiled green aprons. On the upper floors there is a single six-over-six panel sash to each bay; all are surrounded by red brick with rubbed brick arches and projecting cills. In the central first-floor window the faience of the ground floor continues upwards to form the architrave. Treatment is the same on the north-east elevation, where there are four bays of three storeys, two bays of two storeys and a single storey bay at the end, formerly with a roof lantern. The elevation has three entrances: one to the former off-sales counter, one to the saloon bar, and one, beneath a faience panel in the place of an overlight, to the stairs to the first floor. A band of vertically laid brick lines the base of the parapet, topped with a course of faience and dressed stone.
INTERIOR: the former public and private bars and the off-sales area have been opened-up, forming a single bar room. Original matchboard tongue and groove panelling lines the walls beneath dado level, and there are skirtings, a picture rail and a moulded cornice. A curved counter arcs around an original free-standing bar stillion which has its shelving intact – an unusual feature more usually replaced with refrigerators. The counter is fronted in matchboarding and has doors providing access to the beer engines and pipes; it has a recessed tiled plinth and a chequered tiled border. The canopy and shelves above the counter are later additions. In the former private bar there is a moulded timber chimneypiece on the south-west wall, and to the left of the doorway there is an original baffle (screen). In the former off-sales compartment is a pair of pot shelves, possibly original, and an original gas lamp close to the counter. This was presumably required as, when the original divide was in place, there would have been little natural light in the compartment. A further detail of this section is the hinged bar counter and access door.
The tenant’s stair to the first floor creates a division between the bar rooms to the south and the former saloon bar to the north.
The saloon bar, accessed from the furthest door along the north-east elevation, appears to remain almost entirely unchanged since construction. The higher class of the bar is apparent in the fielded dado panelling on the walls and on the curved bar counter; otherwise the internal decoration is similar to the other bars, retaining its bar back, chequered counter edge tiling and chimneypiece. As in the southern bar, the counter canopy and shelves are later additions. In its north portion, the room is of a single storey and features a skylight, now covered over. A dartboard cabinet, possibly from the original pub, was reinstalled in the late C20. Unlike the public bar, which originally had only gentlemen's toilets, the saloon was served by male and female toilets (set either side of the fireplace); both of these remain largely unaltered, with original doors and door furniture, tilework and, in the gents’, a Royal Doulton urinal.