Here is “The Palm Tree” pub, seen from the south.
I have often puzzled about this pub. I pass it as I’m cycling or running on the Regent’s Canal towpath. It stands alone, in a field of green, strangely isolated. Has it always been like that?
The answer to that question is no. It was not always isolated. It used to be surrounded by houses.
Its Historic England entry (1427142) tells me that when this pub was built, in 1935, it was surrounded by terraces of houses, Palm Street, Lessada Street and Totty Street, which have since vanished. The entry says: “the pub is the final remnant of a once built-up, industrial part of London, destroyed in the Blitz and in subsequent clearances”
Usually, an elderly resident will gesture to dense terraced housing and inform you that “this used to be all fields”. But in this area of Mile End, the reverse is true: this open green area used to be all houses!
Here are a selection of maps. You see the dense housing and close-packed streets in the late 19th century, damaged by bombs in 1944, and then replaced by pre-fabricated housing in the 1970s. The post-war prefabricated housing was demolished in 1977. In the 1979-85 OS Map, the streets are still there, but the housing has gone. By 1995 it was “all fields”, and the Palm Tree pub stands alone, as it does today.
The reason the pub has an entry in the Historic England listings is that it is Grade II listed. Amongst the many architectural delights described in the listing is the saloon bar:
“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[……]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.” [Historic England Listing number 1427142]
Reason enough to visit the pub when it is open!
Part way through this sketch it started raining, then the rain became heavy.
I finished the sketch at my desk.
The main colours are: Mars Yellow for the brickwork and plants, Fired Gold Ochre for the reddish brickwork, Perylene Maroon and Prussian Blue, plus some Mars Yellow, to make the greys, and Green Apatite Genuine for the darker greens of the trees, with highlights of Green Gold. There’s a bit of Buff Titanium for the whitish tiled part on the ground floor. All colours are Daniel Smith watercolours.
Thanks to the staff and curators at London Picture Archive, I can add this marvellous photograph of The Palm Tree in 1971:
Note the street sign: “Lessada Street” on the right which has vanished, and the brick block at the back on the left which has completely gone, as has the wonderful lamp-post.
Apart from that, it’s not very different. All around it has changed.