London Pubs Group

Campaign for Real Ale

Campaign for Real Ale

Golden Heart

110 Commercial Street
E1 6LZ

This pub is not only a grade II listed building, it is also a Two Star pub on the Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) Inventory as a pub of Outstanding National Historic Interest, and the description is as follows: “This is a relatively rare example of an inter-war pub retaining its original layout of separate rooms, this one also having Truman's trademark gilt lettering advertising various Truman’s beers of the 1930s on the top of the panelling. This magnificent ex-Truman's showpiece ‘improved’ pub is a rebuild of 1936 by the company’s architect AE Sewell. On a corner site facing Spitalfields Market, it has a very fine, three-sided neo-Georgian frontage of brick and Portland stone. On Hanbury Street is the entrance to the elegant Saloon Bar. According to drawings of 1934, this was formerly subdivided, with a lounge / dining room at the rear. A baffle is placed just inside the door, and there is fielded panelling to picture rail height throughout. The counter front features fielded panelling and has distinctive service doors; the entrance door, and windows either side, have attractive blue and yellow stained glass. The arched brick fireplace is original, as is the small but decorative skylight at the rear. Fixed bench seating is extant. Next to the Saloon was the Private Bar; this has been absorbed into the Public Bar, accessed from Commercial Street. At the back there was once a tap and dining room. The counter here has matchboard panelling. The walls have fielded panelling to picture rail height, except in the rear, where there’s a panelled dado. Three brick fireplaces remain, and above that in the former Private Bar is a fine built-in Truman's mirror. Plentiful original fixed bench seating here also. There’s a central servery, and it appears that the bar-backs on each side incorporate new work. The modern pot-shelf is distractingly obtrusive. None of this is showy and it displays one of the two main facets of interwar pub-building – the careful, restrained Georgian one as opposed to nostalgic ‘brewers’ Tudor’.”

The listing description is as follows: “Public house, 1936 by A E Sewell for Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co Ltd.

Reasons for Designation

The Golden Heart Public House, 110 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, of 1936 by A E Sewell, 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; * Historic interest: for its association with Truman’s nearby Black Eagle Brewery on Brick Lane, at one point the largest brewery in the world, and with the Britart movement of the late-C20; * Intactness: its largely unaltered interior is one of the best surviving examples of Truman’s in-house style of the 1930s, illustrating many facets of an ‘improved’ pub; * Rarity: for the rare survival of the original neon advertising sign; * Group value: for its contribution to the character of Spitalfields and relationship with other nearby listed buildings.


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 Golden Heart public house was built for Truman’s Brewery between 1934 and 1936 to the designs of the company’s architect A E Sewell. It was built on the site of an earlier pub, recorded as early as 1821 as the Golden Harp but from 1837 was named the Golden Heart. The building had a curved frontage, with three storeys plus a tall attic storey, topped by a parapet. The new Golden Heart was a key flagship rebuilding project of Truman’s Brewery (founded c1666) in the firm’s Brick Lane heartland, being situated on the adjoining street to Truman’s Black Eagle Brewery and opposite the former Hanbury Street bottling plant. In the late 1980s and 1990s, the Golden Heart became closely associated with the rising artistic and cultural vibrancy of the Spitalfields area, becoming the local pub for many of the key proponents of the Britart movement, including Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas, along with long-time Fournier Street residents Gilbert and George. The landlady, Sandra Esquilant, who took on management of the pub with her husband Dennis in 1978, was voted one of the hundred most influential people in the art world by Art Review magazine in 2002, and in an Observer article of December 2006 it was claimed, ‘what the Ivy is to showbiz stars, the Golden Heart is to artists’. 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 Golden Heart, completed in 1936 in a neo-Georgian style by A E Sewell for Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co Ltd, occupies a prominent corner plot at the junction of Commercial Street and Hanbury Street. MATERIALS: red brick laid in Flemish bond with Portland stone dressings and (overpainted) cream faience cladding to the ground floor. PLAN: three storeys plus cellar, occupying a wedge-shaped corner site with a canted, three-sided, street frontage. The ground floor interior plan consists of an L-shaped public bar (originally divided into a private bar, public bar and tap and dining room) to the south and a rectangular saloon bar (originally divided into a saloon bar and saloon lounge/dining room) to the north. A central, irregularly shaped servery provided service to the various bars. The narrow rear portion of the site is taken up with the lavatories, a private yard and the stairs to the cellar. The private upper storeys are accessed by a stairway on the eastern side of the saloon bar. EXTERIOR: the symmetrical canted street frontage is formed of a central, three-bay, Portland stone elevation, facing north-west, flanked by two double-bay brick elevations; the north onto Hanbury Street and the west onto Commercial Street. The three-storey elevations have a projecting stone cornice, above which rises a brick parapet screening the steeply pitched, double-hipped, clay tile roof. The stone-clad parapet of the central elevation is adorned with its original tubular (neon) light signage, proclaiming the brewery’s name ‘TRUMAN’S’. The stone central elevation is framed above the ground floor by ashlar quoins. The first floor has three tall multi-pane sash windows with moulded surrounds, topped by a pedimented hood mould. The second floor has a central panel containing the pub’s name in bold Roman lettering along with the Truman’s distinctive eagle emblem, set in a roundel. Either side are shorter sash windows also set in moulded surrounds. The flanking brick elevations are much more restrained in their treatment with pairs of multi-pane sash windows set in openings with rubbed brick lintels with stone keys. The ground floor is clad in faience panels throughout (originally cream-coloured, now painted), with vertical fluted sections marking out each of the entrances. Broadly similar, these have single or double glazed doors with flanking windows with leaded lower sections and transoms. The outer bay of the Commercial Street elevation has an additional window while that of the Hanbury Street elevation has a door accessing the stair to the upper floors. The two elevations on the Hanbury Street side have modern fascia signs although original signage may have been retained beneath these, as indicated by the survival of the original lettering on faience panels on the elevation facing Commercial Street. INTERIOR: the plan originally consisted of five rooms: a saloon bar on the left (north-east), accessed from Hanbury Street, with a ‘dining room and saloon lounge’ to its rear; a private bar at the centre; and, on the right (south), accessed from Commercial Street, a public bar with a ‘tap and dining room’ to its rear. With the exception of the saloon and private bar (divided by a wall containing a chimneystack), the various rooms were divided by light-weight partitions. Some alterations have been made to this arrangement with the unification of the public and private bars and the removal of the partitions that formerly divided the saloon and public bars from their respective dining areas. The saloon bar has picture-rail height panelling throughout. This is inlaid with gilt lettering advertising various Truman’s beers of the 1930s (such as ‘Eagle Ale’ and ‘Eagle Stout’). The bar has its original entrance door with a leaded blue and yellow stained-glass upper portion, this being repeated in the windows either side of the bar entrance. An original oak baffle (screen) is set to the immediate right of the entrance door, this serving to section off a small awkward shaped corner. The original bar counter, which appears to have been repositioned, features fielded panelling and distinctive 1930s service doors. Behind the counter is an original dumb waiter, which connected the servery with the first-floor kitchen and scullery. The saloon bar retains all of its original internal doors, two of these (on the north wall, divided by some original fixed benching) leading to the private first-floor accommodation and the cellar below, the other two leading to men’s and ladies’ toilets at the back of the pub. This rear portion of the bar, formerly the saloon dining room/lounge, is lit by a good quality decorative leaded and glazed rooflight, and contains a large arched brick fireplace with bands of thin tiles, an inset tile keystone and a semi-circular hearth. The public bar, together with the former private bar, is wholly separate from the saloon bar, and accessed from Commercial Street. The public bar section leads through to the former tap and dining room, which has dado-height panelling throughout, contrasting with the rest of the Commercial Street section, which retains picture-rail height panelling, again with advertising panels. This is inlaid with gilt lettering advertising various Truman’s beers of the 1930s (such as ‘Eagle Ale’ and ‘Eagle Stout’), as in the saloon bar. The counter here also appears to have been repositioned: the main part seems to have been moved from the private bar section to serve the former tap and dining room (which was originally without a bar counter, instead being served by a small hatch). In its place in the private bar area is a canted bar counter, which is apparently late C20 and not of special interest. The pot-shelf, supported on carved columns, is also late C20 and not of special interest. The unified public bar area contains three 1930s brick fireplaces, one serving each of the former bar spaces. The smallest served what was the correspondingly diminutive private bar; this is adorned with a carved terracotta Truman’s eagle emblem and is set beneath an original Truman’s embossed mirror, which is integrated into the panelling. In the public bar a wider shallow-arched brick fireplace occupies the south wall, set against a small original compartment for a toilet. In the former tap and dining room, the third fireplace matches the one in the public bar, though has a carved brick eagle in a panel set centrally above the opening. Settle type fixed benching is placed against each of the walls in this area and the rear part of the room has a further leaded and stained-glass window facing onto the yard. The original door to the men’s lavatories is found in the far wall. The toilets have been modernised throughout and are not of special interest. The original plans show that the first floor contained a kitchen and scullery, staff room, sitting room, a bedroom and a box room, while at second-floor level were a further four bedrooms, with a box room and bathroom.


Books and journals

Brandwood, G, Jephcote, J, London Heritage Pubs - An Inside Story, (2008), 119

Cole, Emily, The Urban and Suburban Public House in Inter-War England, 1918-1939’, Historic England Research Report Series, no. 4/2015, (2015), The Golden Heart - Luke Jacob, Gutzke, David W, Pubs and Progressives: Reinventing the Public House in England, 1896-1960, (2006)

Pevsner, N, Cherry, B, O'Brien, C, The Buildings of England: London 5 East, (2005), 414

Websites UK pub history and historical Street directory - Golden Heart, accessed 17 November 2014 from Other London Metropolitan Archive, LCC Building Case File, GLC/AR/BR/17/076700 - Original drawings dated November 1934”

The WhatPub link is here: WhatPub/Golden Heart

The Pub Heritage Group link is here: PHG/Golden Heart

The Golden Heart featured on the Daytime Crawl of SW Essex and E London in June 2006, the Breweries and Markets Past and Present: Evening Crawl of Shoreditch, Bethnal Green and Spitalfields in December 2009, the East End Survivors: Evening Crawl of Bethnal Green, Shoreditch and Spitalfields in December 2017, and the The Truman Show: Evening Tour of Former Truman's Pubs in Spitalfields and Whitechapel in April 2024.