Saturday, February 9, 2019

Shoreditch, London

 Pub tile style

Its tiles gleaming in winter sunlight, the Hope Pole in Pitfield Street, Shoreditch, is certainly an eye-catcher. Although it’s no longer a pub, it retains its mottled green exterior tiles and the tiles that bear its name in large letters, both above the entrance and at cornice level. Truman’s had quite a lot of pubs with green tiles and ceramic lettering, a very effective combination offering the publican the benefits both of a highly visible building and a set of walls that were easy to clean. But Truman’s weren’t the only brewery to use green tiles on pubs – Charrington’s, Young’s and others also used green; oxblood, buff, and an orangey-yellow were also popular colours for pub tiles. The Hop Pole also has some brown ceramic work, which is used to particularly good effect on the decorative surround of the dormer window.

Today’s Londoners might find the name an appropriate one for a house serving beer, even if hop-poles seem a world away from what is virtually Central London. And yet, even north of the river, Kentish hop farms weren’t far off once you got to one of the South London stations. Many poor London families in the 19th and early-20th centuries, unable to afford a proper holiday, took temporary work helping with the Kent hop harvest. Hopping (or, more popularly, ‘oppin’) was, if not quite a rest, at least a change looked forward to by many dwellers in the capital.
The lettering that bears the pub name is effective too, from the generously full-bodied forms in the name sign at the top of the building to the more elongated letters of the name above the door. The way they stand out in low relief adds the effect of natural shadow on a sunny day. This makes them very visible from afar and also satisfying when viewed close-up. This is hardly the most elaborate pub tiling – tiles could be put to much more decorative use, as at Poole’s stunning Swan Inn – but it’s attractive and the Victorian publican must have been proud of the building. If it’s sad to see so many pubs that have closed, it’s heartening that a few of these Victorian exteriors live on.

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