Cheshire Cheese Public House


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
5 Little Essex Street, London, WC2R 3LD


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Statutory Address:
5 Little Essex Street, London, WC2R 3LD

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
City of Westminster (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


'Improved' public house of 1928, rebuilt on the corner site of an earlier pub, by T H Nowell Parr for the Style & Winch Brewery.

Reasons for Designation

The Cheshire Cheese public house, built 1928, and designed by T H Nowell Parr for the Style & Winch Brewery, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: considered neo-Georgian elevations on a prominent corner site in the historic Temple area, designed by T H Nowell Parr, one of the leading 'improved pub' architects of the inter-war period; * Plan: a clever connected design providing multiple public rooms, shared catering facilities, and publican's accommodation on a constrained corner site; * Degree of survival: an unaltered exterior and legible interior, demonstrating the ethos of an improved inter-war pub; * Interiors: largely unaltered, with good quality panelling, leaded glazed lights and carved bar backs.


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 or function rooms, and consciously appealed to families and to a mix of incomes and classes. Where the site allowed, they often included the creation of large pub gardens, and also car parks and forecourts. Between 5,000 and 6,000 pubs were constructed or substantially rebuilt in the inter-war years, with the majority built in the 1930s. Neo-Tudor and Neo-Georgian were the favoured styles, although others began to appear at the end of the period.

Improved pubs were responsible for progressing or introducing a number of innovations aside from those developments mentioned above, undertaken with the aim of ‘improvement’ in mind. These included: a refinement in the planning of counter areas, so as to allow a high level of supervision by pub staff and to enable the efficient working of staff and services; the introduction of the saloon lounge, a room intended to attract a respectable clientele, and the provision of convenient rooms for a pub’s landlord/manager and staff, generally on a pub’s upper floors.

At the Cheshire Cheese, respectable patrons using the Little Essex Street entrance could access the dining room upstairs and the Lounge Bar downstairs without passing through the public or saloon bars. Britain was still far from being egalitarian in class or gender terms in the inter-war period so these arrangements also allowed independent movements from the domestic accommodation, conferring a twin benefit of allowing the publican's family, perhaps especially children, also to come and go without passing through the bars, and allowing the trade elements of the premises (bars) to be secured during non-trading hours.

A pub of the same name has existed on this site from at least 1791. It is located in the Temple area of London which has origins in the Temple Church, built by the Knights Templar (who owned the land) in the late C12. They leased the land to lawyers from at least the C14, so a legal connection has existed for approximately 700 years. Online and bibliographic sources from the C16, the C18 and C19, identify the Old Cheshire Cheese at Little Essex Street/Milford Lane, and it has been a meeting place for a wide variety of learned, social and business groups throughout its history. The Elian or Charles Lamb Society was formed and met at the Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street for the first time in 1924, and was recorded to have met at the Little Essex Street Cheshire Cheese during the 1930s. The Professional Contractors Group formed and met there during a testing time for the industry in the early 1990s.

The present Cheshire Cheese is a rebuilding or reworking to a new design of the earlier pub in 1928, by T H Nowell Parr (1864-1933), who was an architect of skill and prominence, particularly in west London. He was born in Birmingham and articled to the local firm of Dunn and Hipkiss before becoming an assistant in the Walsall Corporation Architect's Department. In 1894 he went to work for Brentford Urban District Council, for whom he designed a number of civic buildings including the public baths (1895-6) and library (1904-5). In independent practice from 1900, he is best known for his numerous west London pubs and hotels, whose quiet Arts and Crafts detailing marks a reaction against the showy opulence of the late-Victorian 'gin palace'. A number of his pubs have been listed, including in London the Old Pack Horse, Chiswick (1910), the Forester, Southall (1909), and the Kent Hotel (now Duke of Kent), Ealing (1929), all at Grade II. Parr's inter-war contemporaries included Sidney Clark at Charrington's Brewery, E B Musman for Benskin's, AW Blomfield for Watneys, and Sir Harry Redfern for the State Management Scheme.

It is clear from the existing building layout shown in the Parr plans, that the pub has a history of serving food which reflects its site in a busy commercial district. The rebuild was designed to be functionally efficient, with stock and trading areas conveniently distributed over cellar, basement, ground and first floors and with ancillary living accommodation for the publican and his family above. The cellar is connected for deliveries and returns via a hoist. The top floor was designed to provide a combined trade and domestic kitchen along with additional bedrooms. All the floors were then connected to each other by means of a dumb waiter, allowing the serving of food to the respective bars and the publican's accommodation. An off sales service would also have been offered via a showcase window on the Milford Lane side.

The ground floor of the Parr pub would originally have been divided into two separate bar rooms. The partition has since been removed to create a single bar space, but the position can clearly be seen in the bar counter where a fillet has been added to fill the original joint slot. Two sets of doors were provided at street level to allow separate access to a saloon and pub bar respectively. The access door to the saloon bar still carries signage to this effect. Coloured glass has been added to the gantry above the bar and the ground floor gents toilets have been expanded. The entry to the lounge bar at basement level, and the stair screen has been altered to accommodate the addition of a fire door. Whilst the bar back in the games room is intact, the bar counter has been slightly reduced to accommodate a darts board. On the first floor a modern bar counter has been added to the original dining room layout, and the ladies toilets have been expanded. On the top floor, a wall that originally separated the kitchen from a bedroom has been removed to create a larger kitchen space.


'Improved' public house, built 1928, by T H Nowell Parr for the Style & Winch Brewery.

MATERIALS: London stock brick laid in a predominantly English bond. Windows are timber. The mansard roof is slate covered.

PLAN: the pub is of six storeys including a basement and cellar below street level. It stands on a corner site with elevations facing on to Little Essex Street to the north, and Milford Lane to the west. Double doors on each elevation provide access to the saloon and public bar areas respectively. Stairs set in to the northern side serve the cellar, and basement lounge/games bar. The ground floor houses the main bar and gents toilets. Stairs set in to the eastern wall provide access to the first floor dining room. The second floor, accessed by a smaller returning stair also to the east, contains the publican's accommodation and the third floor, a kitchen and further bedrooms. All floors are connected by a dumb waiter and the ground floor bar and cellar, via a hoist.

EXTERIOR: the broadly symmetrical elevations are of three visible storeys with an attic storey within a mansard roof, partially concealed behind a parapet. The elevations are designed in neo-Georgian style, with a curved section on the corner. The northern elevation is of four bays and the western, three. Both have double timber doors with leaded lights above. On the western elevation one ground floor window is shorter in order to accommodate rolling in doors, paired with the cellar flaps internally. All windows on the ground floor are bowed and sash-like but with a central top-hinged opening. They are made up of 21 small leaded panes over three larger plate glass panes, except above the rolling in doors where the larger plate glass panes were not installed. The ground floor has a simple architrave supported by plain brick pilasters which are aligned with the bays. Original stall-board lights are located beneath the ground floor windows which are now covered with advertising signs.

The first floor has three bowed sash-like windows on each elevation and one on the curved section, with 12 smaller leaded panes over 12 larger. These windows have stone lintels, and are top hung under soldier course lintels. A fourth window to the rear of the northern elevation is smaller and of four over four panes. On the second floor there are six-over-six timber sash windows with horned frames which are rebated with flat arches under soldier course brick lintels. On the curved section there is a shallow vertical rectangular niche designed to display the name of the pub and brewery. The mansard roof has three sets of flat-roofed dormers to the western elevation, and four to the northern. The roof is intersected by two brick chimney stacks to the north and south. On the western elevation, two cast iron brackets (one with pub sign) project at first and second floor level. Another bracket is attached to the northern elevation.

INTERIOR: the ground floor bar is now a single room (formerly two small bar spaces; a saloon and public bar) with a bar counter running along the southern wall; although the stub of the original dividing screen remains visible. Fielded panelling fronts the counter and the walls to three-quarters height. Floors are of timber board with some carpeting. The side of the staircase screen is enlivened by leaded glass under segmental arched timber panels. The bar counter has a gantry above with later coloured glazing, supported on slender timber barley twist columns, and from above. The bar back is of good quality carved oak, inset with mirrors, and formed of alternating projecting eared architraves, supported by pilasters with detailed carved decoration, including barley twists. The ceiling is heavily beamed. A hoist cover is located by the western entrance and has fielded panelling, with brass fittings. The gents’ toilets have their original urinals but all other fittings are modern and set in a later enlarged cabin.

The lounge/games room at basement level, is accessed via a staircase fronted with fielded panelling, and has a moulded timber rail. The room has a shortened bar counter running along the southern side with gantry above. The bar back is of a similar design to the main bar and runs the width of the room although a portion is obscured by a later dart board case. There is fielded panelling to three-quarters height on all walls and later glazed obscure lead lights alongside the stair. The ceiling is again heavily timbered.

Timber dog-leg stairs with a fielded panelled dado and a moulded swept rail, provide access to the first floor dining room and on their return, are two carved timber niches under round headed arches. The dining room has a timber fireplace surround and all walls are fronted with fielded panelling to three-quarters height. The ceiling is heavily beamed. A later corner timber bar counter with plain bar back has been added, and the ladies' toilet has been enlarged and refitted. A simple timber narrow staircase, to the east, gives access to the publican’s accommodation on the second floor. The rooms are plain and without decoration apart from timber or metal fireplace surrounds, and include a small office for the publican. The current layout accords with the 1928 design. The staircase continues up to the third floor, to a small landing with a bedroom off to the north. The rest of the space below the mansard roof is taken up by the kitchen; this room has now been expanded to the north through the removal of a wall and the incorporation of a former bedroom.


Books and journals
Cole, Emily, The Urban and Suburban Public House in Inter-War England, 1918-1939’, Historic England Research Report Series, no. 4/2015, (2015), 21
Gutzke, David W, Pubs and Progressives: Reinventing the Public House in England, 1896-1960, (2006), 1
City of Westminster archive, accessed 1/12/2015 from
London pub history site, accessed 7 December 2015 from


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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