The Stag's Head public house, Hoxton
Heritage Category: Listed Building
List Entry Number: 1427212
Date first listed: 24-Aug-2015
Statutory Address: 55 Orsman Road, Hoxton, Hackney, London, N1 5RA
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Statutory Address: 55 Orsman Road, Hoxton, Hackney, London, N1 5RA
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
County: Greater London Authority
District: Hackney (London Borough)
Parish: Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference: TQ3320783682
An 'improved' public house in Neo-Georgian style by A E Sewell for Truman's Brewery, opened in February 1936. Single-storey extension added c1970.
Reasons for Designation
The Stag’s Head Public House, Hoxton, of 1935-6 by A E Sewell for Truman’s Brewery, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural quality: a dignified, Neo-Georgian design by one of the leading pub architects of the inter-war period; * Interiors: the pub retains a number of good quality fittings including original bar backs, counters, brick fireplaces, panelling, embossed mirrors and tilework. The mainly complete off sales compartment is a rare survival; * Intactness: its largely unaltered interior provides one of the best surviving examples of a small urban ‘improved’ pub of the inter-war period.
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 present Stag’s Head was completed in February 1936 to the designs of A E Sewell, principal architect for east London brewers Truman, Hanbury and Buxton. An earlier pub with the same name had stood on the site since at least 1856 and had strong links with the nearby Grand Union/Regent’s Canal. Orsman Road was predominantly occupied by factories and wharves, many of which imported, stored and treated timber to supply the nearby Shoreditch furniture trade and the pub would have gained a good deal of its custom from the workers on the canal or those employed by associated industries nearby. Originally, the Stag’s Head was surrounded by terraces of C19 housing, being adjoined by such a terrace on its east side. However, the years after the First World War saw a phase of radical redevelopment in the area around Orsman Road. Within two decades, all of the housing had been demolished, along with a school and church which had stood to the east of the Stag’s Head. In the place of these structures were built various factories and warehouses, including the Players Cigarette factory at 15-33 Orsman Road (now Acme Studios), and blocks of housing, such as the New Era Estate, built in the mid-1930s on the island site immediately to the west of the Stag’s Head.
The rebuilding of the pub clearly formed part of the overall redevelopment carried out in Orsman Road, and it would have served a new and somewhat different group of customers, including workers in the new warehouses and factories. The plans were approved by Shoreditch Council in August and September 1935 and the pub remains largely unchanged apart from a single-storey extension to the east added around 1970.
As a street corner ‘local’, the Stag’s Head represents a type of smaller-scale improved pub that was being built by major breweries in London in the inter-war period. The designer, Arthur Edward Sewell (1872-1946) was the principal architect and surveyor for Truman’s throughout the inter-war period, having originally been employed by the brewery in 1902; his last known work for Truman’s was the Royal George, near Euston in 1939. A designer of some note, his public houses, mainly located in or just outside of London, were regularly featured in architectural journals of the time. He was responsible for at least fifty of the pubs Truman’s constructed or substantially remodelled in London between 1910 and 1939.
The Stag’s Head of 1935-1936, designed by A E Sewell for Truman's Brewery, is set on a corner plot at the junction of Orsman Road (formerly Canal Road) and Halcomb Street (formerly William Street), just to the south of the Hoxton stretch of the Grand Union/Regent’s Canal and just to the west of Kingsland Road.
MATERIALS: red brick laid in Flemish bond (yellow stock brick to the rear) with stone dressings. The mansard roof is slate-covered. The ground floor has cream faience cladding (now overpainted) and mottled green tilework.
PLAN: two-storeys plus attic and cellar, the ground floor originally consisted of a public bar with an adjoining games room on the pub’s west side, and on the east side, accessed from Orsman Road, a saloon bar and saloon dining room. The bars, now opened up by the removal of partitions, are separated at the north end by a narrow off sales compartment. There is a central servery with a small office. Adjoining to the south is a single-storey toilet block and to the east a 1970s single-storey extension. The upper floors consist of the landlord’s private accommodation, as well as a kitchen on the first floor which served food to the saloon bar area via a dumb-waiter. Other rooms on this storey include a sitting room, two bedrooms, and a bathroom and WC, while the second/attic floor contains a further three bedrooms. These upper-floor areas have separate access via the service yard and a doorway on the pub’s rear (south) elevation.
EXTERIOR: the broadly symmetrical elevations are designed in a Neo-Georgian style with a mansard roof behind a stone-capped parapet with pairs of flat-roofed dormers to each elevation. The north elevation to Orsman Road is of four bays, each bay on the upper storey containing a six-over-six timber sash window with a stone sill and soldier course lintel. The east end of the parapet has an arched opening giving on to an original cast-iron hopper. The ground floor has cream-coloured faience cladding (now painted red) and mottled-green dado tiling. Windows are of plate glass in timber frames with hopper lights (now painted black). There are two entrances, to the saloon bar and off sales compartment respectively, with single doors with margin glazing. Above the fenestration signage in relief reads ‘LONDON TRUMAN’S BURTON’ and there is a swan-necked carriage lamp bearing the pub’s name. East of the original elevation is a single-storey, flat-roofed, 1970s extension containing a function room which extends along the blind eastern elevation of the building.
The west, Halcomb Street, elevation is of three bays and has the same treatment as the north elevation except for a chimney, south of the two dormers, which rises above the parapet supported by stone volutes. A door gives access to the original games room and the signage advertises Truman’s Burton Bitter and London Stout. At the south end of the elevation a small bullseye window with textured glazing marks the transition to the single-storey block containing the toilets, this section being of plain red brick.
The canted corner between the two principal elevations contains the entrance to the public bar. This has double doors with upper glazed sections beneath a run of hopper windows. Above the doorway, ‘No. 55’ is marked out in relief from the faience tiles, denoting the pub’s position on Orsman Road. Above this, at first-floor level, the corner section contains a faience panel (now painted red) with relief lettering giving the name of the pub and above this a projecting stag’s head. Rising into the parapet above is a recessed section of brickwork adorned with a roundel featuring a sculpted relief depiction of Truman’s distinctive black eagle emblem.
INTERIOR: the public bar has dado-height matchboard panelling throughout. The curved bar counter serving the room continues this pattern, with a cream and brown chequered tile border with brass foot rail at its base. The bar back has a band of box-light panels with incised opal glass advertising Truman’s ‘BURTON BREWED BITTER’ at the top of the shelving section; this continues round to the north side of the bar back, facing the off sales compartment, stating ‘BURTON TRUMAN’S LONDON’. All of the original shelves are retained, with the upper portion of the bar back featuring a mirror back board common to Truman’s pubs of the period.
Enclosed behind the bar back is the original, remarkably small, publican’s office, and opposite this (on the south) are the cellar stairs, running beneath the stairs which provided access to the private upper floors. Another access point to the cellar was a hatch at the west side of the public bar, this corresponding with a set of rolling-in doors beneath a window which allowed barrels to be lowered to the cellar, having been delivered from the street. At the north-east of the public bar, dividing the room from the off sales compartment, is an original timber screen with a glazed upper section. This has been altered by an opening inserted to provide internal communication with the saloon bar.
The public bar was originally divided from a games room at its south end by a further panelled screen, the upper portion of which remains. The games room portion of the now undivided public bar retains its matchboard panelling and is served by a short counter, which forms the south portion of the public bar servery. The south wall of the games room features an original brick fireplace, inset with a terracotta relief motif of a leaping stag and, at the base, a curved brick hearth. Either side of the fireplace are original doors leading to the toilets; the gents toilet retains the original white tilework with green borders. At the room’s south-east corner is a further original door leading to the beer garden and upper-floor accommodation.
The superior quality of the saloon bar is demonstrated by the three-quarter height panelling with inlaid lettering advertising the brewery’s beers on offer in the 1930s including Eagle Ale and Oatmeal and Imperial Stouts. This was another common feature of Truman’s pubs of the period. On the west side of the saloon is an original curved bar counter with horizontal banded sections, in the Moderne manner, and with its original chequerwork tiled border and foot rail; this originally served both saloon rooms. At the north-west corner of the saloon, the screen dividing the room from the adjacent off sales compartment remains. This is now set with a door which appears to be original, and was presumably reset from elsewhere in the pub; it was possibly one of the original doors which divided the saloon into two. Adjoining the screen is a small enclosed timber area which served as the compartment for the display window: it is annotated with the word ‘showcase’ on the plan of 1935. This is adjoined by a short section of fixed benching which continues to the external door.
On the east side of the saloon bar are two identical brick fireplaces, one serving each of the formerly separate spaces. These have tuck-pointing between the bricks, and bands of flat tiles inserted to forge a horizontal pattern which reflects the design of the bar counter in this section of the pub. Placed centrally within the brickwork and above the arched fireplace openings are further terracotta reliefs depicting stags and, at the base, curved brick-bordered hearths. Above both of the fireplaces are embossed Truman’s branded mirrors, set within the panelling and flanked by inlaid panels of lighter coloured wood which are cut to form a stepped pattern.
At the centre of the south wall of the saloon there is a multi-paned bowed window, which would have provided the only natural light for this area of the pub. Either side of the window are original doors leading to male and female toilets. The women’s lavatory on the left (originally the men’s) contains original tilework. Beneath the bowed window is a section of fixed benching, more of which is found on the west side of this part of the saloon, running up to the bar counter. Behind the counter, the bar back is original, and consistent in style with that in the public bar. It includes a dumb waiter which connected with the first-floor kitchen directly above.
The off sales compartment forms a divide between the public and saloon bars. As noted above, the screens which enclosed the off sales have been inset with doorways to allow full circulation of the interior of the pub. The off sales retains its original service counter, glazed upper portions of the dividing timber screens (giving borrowed light to the compartment) and, as mentioned, a showcase window. The first-floor kitchen retains its dumb waiter and some original tiling. Other upstairs rooms were not inspected.
The 1970s function room runs the full length of the adjacent saloon bars, and is accessed through an inserted doorway between the saloons’ fireplaces. It is not of special interest and is not included in the listing.
Books and journals
Brandwood, G, Jephcote, J, London Heritage Pubs - An Inside Story, (2008), 102-103
Cole, Emily, The Urban and Suburban Public House in Inter-War England, 1918-1939’, Historic England Research Report Series, no. 4/2015, (2015), 330-339
Gutzke, David W, Pubs and Progressives: Reinventing the Public House in England, 1896-1960, (2006)
Hackney Archives, LBH/7/10/62 (8065) - Original drawings 1935
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
The listed building is shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.
End of official listing