45a Cloth Fair

Smithfield, London EC1 - Sleeps 4

About this Landmark

45a Cloth Fair is a fine Georgian house facing the churchyard of St Bartholomew the Great in the historic City of London and next door to the one time home of Sir John Betjeman. It is an oasis of relative calm in central London, especially at weekends.

Beds 2 Single, 1 Double

  • Sleeps4
  • 4 nights from from£781
  • equivalent to £48.81 per person per night

Smithfield Market

Around the corner from the handsome Victorian buildings of Smithfield Market, Cloth Fair overlooks the churchyard of St Bartholomew the Great, a rare survivor of the Great Fire of 1666. This plain Georgian row of houses encloses (at No. 41) the only remaining house in the City built before the Fire and was rescued on this basis by architect Paul Paget, who eventually sold the row to Landmark.

Here long-established institutions, trades, houses, markets and peoples mingle just as they have always done. Set, as they always were, above businesses below, our two houses each have a respectable staircase, pleasant rooms and nice old joinery - wonderful bases from which to explore the whole of London.

Floor Plans

‘This house is a remarkable oasis in central London, particularly at the weekend.’

From the logbook

Map & local info

Cloth Fair, tucked away in the  City of London, was originally the site of the Bartholomew Fair, where merchants gathered each year in August to trade cloth. Around the corner from Cloth Fair are the Victorian buildings of Smithfield Market, one of the oldest of the many markets in London.

Across from 45a Cloth Fair is the churchyard of St Bartholomew the Great, the oldest parish church in the City of London. Explore the historic features of this wonderful church, founded in 1123, and admire its wealth of impressive architectural features. Visit St Paul's Cathedral and Temple Church too, both situated within walking distance of less than a mile from here. Experience more of the fascinating history of London from prehistoric times to the present day with a visit to the Museum of London.

Postman's Park offers a tranquil break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the City. For lovers of the performing arts, the Barbican Centre, on nearby Silk Street, is the largest multi-arts venue of its kind in Europe, offering a host of classical and contemporary music concerts, theatre performances, film screenings and art exhibitions. It is also a base for the London Symphony Orchestra.

 ​Take a look at our Pinterest map for more ideas of things to do and see during your stay at 45a Cloth Fair.

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.

See all our Landmarks at Cloth Fair

45a Cloth Fair
Smithfield, London EC1 - Sleeps 4
Clear directions

‘This house is a remarkable oasis in central London, particularly at the weekend.’

From the logbook

Your questions answered

    What you need to know about this building

  • Does the property allow dogs?

    No.
  • How is the property accessed?

    Directly from the street.
  • What is the nearest railway station and how far away is it?

    Barbican (underground) – 0.2 miles
  • Is there car parking specifically for Landmark guests?

    No – there is on street parking (at cost) or local NCP car parks.
  • What type of heating does the property have?

    There is gas central heating and a gas fire.
  • What are the kitchen facilities?

    The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc.
    There is also an electric cooker.
  • What are the bathroom facilities?

    There are two bathrooms, one with a shower over the bath and the other with a bath.
  • Does this Landmark have steep, narrow or spiral stairs?

    No.
  • Is there a garden or outside space?

    No.

    Booking and Payment

  • Can I pay a deposit?

    If your stay starts more than three months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • How can I pay?

    We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • How do I pick up the key?

    There are various arrangements for picking up keys. To arrange to get into the Landmark, please contact the housekeeper at least two days before your stay
  • How can I cancel or change my booking?

    If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • What if I arrive late?

    Please let the housekeeper know if you are going to arrive late and s/he will leave a key for you in a suitable place.
  • Do you accept payment in other currencies?

    At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • How far in advance do I need to book?

    It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • Do you have to be a member to book a Landmark?

    No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • Do I need a Handbook to be able to book?

    No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!
  • What happens if I can’t get to the Landmark due to bad weather?

    If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will advise you as to whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to carry out the changeover then we consider that it is open and available. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, which may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking.

    Staying at a Landmark

  • Are Landmarks only available as self-catering accommodation?

    Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Do you provide catering?

    Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • Do you allow dogs?

    You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control.
  • Can I bring a pet?

    Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Insured if I break something?

    We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Are Landmarks suitable for children?

    Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Are Landmarks accessible for people with disabilities or limited mobility?

    Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.
  • Can I get married in a Landmark?

    Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • Can I hold a big party in a Landmark?

    All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • Is it true there are no televisions in the buildings?

    We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • Why are your access tracks sometimes difficult?

    One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Will there be sockets for my electrical appliances?

    Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s).

    Facilities

  • Are the kitchens and bathrooms restored to a modern standard?

    Sometimes our kitchens and bathrooms have to be imaginatively fitted into the available space in buildings where before there were none, but they are all planned and equipped to a high and modern standard.
  • Is linen provided?

    Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival.
  • Are the kitchens fully equipped?

    Yes, our kitchens are well equipped with cookers and fridges. There are freezers and dishwashers (in larger buildings) and, where space allows, microwaves as well as a wide and standard range of utensils. A full equipment list is available at time of booking.
  • Do you provide logs for the open fire/stove?

    Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • Will there be a mobile signal in the Landmark I book?

    Mobile coverage varies. Some Landmarks have an excellent signal, but others have none at all. If you are concerned, you can check with the housekeeper before your arrival.
  • Is there Wi-Fi in your buildings?

    No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
  • What should I bring with me? Are there lavatory rolls, soap, shampoo, milk, teabags, coffee, hairdryer?

    A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide lavatory rolls and a bar of soap, per basin but no other toiletries. We do not provide hairdryers.

Smithfield and St Bartholomew

The history of Cloth Fair is closely bound up with two names which mean something to all Londoners, and to many people from elsewhere - Smithfield and St Bartholomew.  To most people the one means meat and the other means medicine; but there is far more to it than that.

A weekly cattle market was held in Smithfield - the smooth field outside the city walls - from the 12th century at least, and flourished from 1327 when it received Royal Charter and became the King's Great Market.  Every Friday drovers would bring livestock from the country to sell to the butchers of the City of London, and they continued to do so until the middle of the 19th century. Only then did it become purely a meat market.

Immediately to the east and south of the market ground, and also dating from the 12th century, were the Priory and Hospital of St Bartholomew - the commercial and the spiritual existing happily side by side.  The Priory presided over, and profited from, the activity at its gates, and once a year it launched into commerce itself, because as part of its endowment it had the right to hold an annual fair on the feast of St Bartholomew, 24th August, and the days preceding and following it.

By Elizabethan times, Bartholomew Fair was one of the great events of London, with many different trades represented there and sideshows and spectacles of all sorts, but originally it involved only the cloth trade - and so Cloth Fair, because it was on the site of this street that the fair was originally held, in the early days when it was contained entirely within the priory precinct.  The booths were set up on the green to the north of the church, covering the burial ground and even extending into nave of the church itself - this was not considered sacrilege then, a rental of 1306 unconcernedly listing rents paid "from the stalls that are inside the Church and those fixed to the church outside".

Later the fair overflowed into Smithfield and the streets around, but in the medieval period the main entrance was an archway on the site of the present entrance from Smithfield to Cloth Fair, which was locked at night in order to safeguard valuable goods.  Here the proclamation was made declaring the Fair to be open:

"OYEZ! OYEZ!

All manner of persons may take notice that in the close of St. Bartholomew the Great and West Smithfield, London, and the lands and places adjoining, is now to be held a fair for this day and the two days following, to which all persons may freely resort and buy and sell according to the liberties and privileges of the said fair, and may depart without disturbance, paying their And all persons are straitly charged and commanded, in his Majesty's name, to keep the peace, and to do nothing in the disturbance of the said fair as they will answer to the contrary, at their perils; and that there be no manner of arrest or arrests, but by such officers as are appointed.And if any persons be aggrieved let them repair to the court of Pie-Powder, where they may have speedy relief according to justice and equity. God save the King and the Lord of the Manor!"(Early 17th-century version)

It was not until after the dissolution of the priory in 1539 that houses were built in this area.The priory buildings, together with the right to hold Bartholomew Fair, were bought in 1543 by Sir Richard Rich, for the sum of £1064 11s 3d. He was Chancellor of the Court of Augmentations, which was responsible for the management and disposal of the monastic estates, and so was in a good position to snap up the best of them; he had already moved into the Prior's House in 1540. It was his grandson Robert, 3rd Baron Rich, who began to build on a serious scale, after he came into the property in 1581. This Lord Rich was also husband of Penelope, the Stella of Sir Philip Sidney's sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella, who "Hath no misfortune but that Rich she is".  E.A. Webb, whose immensely detailed Records of St Bartholomew’s Priory (1921) is the chief source for the history of the area, says that houses were now built in Long Lane, Cloth Fair, Kinghorn Street, Middle Street and Newbury Street:

After having obtained from the queen, in the year 1583, confirmation of his rights and privileges, he started to cover the vacant ground by granting apparently thirty-one year building leases. This was in or about the year 1590, for in that year Lord Rich wrote to a Mr Hicks to ask Lord Burleigh to persuade the Lord Mayor of London not to stop his building at St. Bartholomew's. This appeal unfortunately seems to have been effectual as the erection of the crowded buildings went on; in fact it appears that Rich exceeded his rights, for about the year 1595 the Court of Aldermen directed that "Lord Rich be waited upon touching a building set up by him on the city's soil near Gt. St. Bartholomew's"; and later they directed that "an encroachment in Long Lane near St. Bartholomew's by the tenant of Lord Rich be viewed".

It is probable that the buildings in Long Lane, and from the church to the Smithfield gate of the Fair (that is to say the buildings on the north side of the great churchyard), and the buildings, demolished in 1917, in Cloth Fair eastward of the north door of the church, were completed by the year 1597, for the leases in the rental of 1616 date from that year.

The north and south sides of Cloth Fair, Kinghorn Street, and the north side of Middle Street had leases dating from 1598.

The leases on the south side of Middle Street, on both sides of Newbury Street, and from Sun Court to New Court, dated from 1608 to 1614.  The houses were probably all finished, or nearly so, when Lord Rich conveyed the property to his son Henry on the latter's marriage with Isobel Cope, in the year 1612.  Building, however, was still going on somewhere in the parish between 1651 and 1653; even as late as 1669 there is a record that the Court of Aldermen ordered "a stay to be made of buildings in the parish of St. Bartholmew", but this was probably in the Close precinct.

Lord Rich's development did not go unopposed; according to Webb a great outcry was raised at the erection of houses on this land, known to many as the "Great Green of the Fair". His profiteering was flagrant too, the houses being crowded in, tiny tenements into which people were crammed.  Speaking of further, and similar, development by Lord Rich's son Henry, created Earl of Holland, a letter from a Thomas Gundrey to the Earl of Middlesex in 1636 describes the poor of the parish as "a commodity the parish hath gotten by the Earl of Holland's building". But the protests were no more effective than were those which, paradoxically, were made in 1914-1917 when most of these houses were swept away. There was, in any case, no need to fear that so profitable an event as the Fair itself would be threatened.  Because once a year, the houses and shops were turned into fairground booths, it being a condition of the leases that this should be so. Webb quotes a later example, a lease by the 2nd Earl of Holland to John Wotten, cloth worker, of a messuage in Newman's Row, Cloth Fair (see the tour which follows) containing a cellar, a low room, a shop, two chambers and a garret:

"Except and always reserved out of the present demise unto the said Robert Earl of Holland, the low room or shop of the same messuage or tenement for the space of seven daysin every year during the term hereafter mentioned, that is to say the feast day of St. Bartholomew the Apostle and the three days next before and the three days next after the said feast, to be had and used as a booth or booths in the said fair there by such person or persons to whom the said Robert Earl Holland shall from time to time yearly during the said seven days and for the use aforesaid let and dispose the same."

Before long these new and controversial houses in Cloth Fair and the neighbouring streets were an integral part of the City, and came to be regarded all the more in that, standing outside the actual city walls, they mainly escaped the Great Fire of 1666.  As such they survived into this century as a relic of "Old London", the only place where the true feel of the crowded medieval - or Elizabethan - city could be obtained.  It was also, by 1900, a squalid and insanitary slum and so, for praiseworthy reasons, some of its most ancient and important buildings were swept away.

The debate between conservationists and improvers is recorded in the newspapers of the time, and it is amusing to compare this with the conservation battles of today. Fortunately, for nearly a century before artists and photographers had been recording the street, with its ancient houses and the alleys and yards leading off it, and many of their works are retained in the museums and libraries of London. With the help of these, and other sources such as Trade Directories and Census returns, it is possible to put together a tour of the street as it was in the late l9th century when, as Webb its chief historian says, very little change had occured since 1616, the date of a Rental drawn up for Lord Rich, giving precise details of all the houses on his land. We start at its western end, on the northern side, and return along the south, to finish by St Bartholomew's churchyard, where it all began.

An important street in the history of London

The Landmark Trust bought Nos 39-45 Cloth Fair in 1970 from Mr Paul Paget.  Mr Paget had bought and restored No 41/42 in 1930, to serve both as a home for himself and John Seely (later Lord Mottistone) and as an office for their architectural practice.  It is reputedly the only house in the City to date from before the Great Fire of London, the last survivor of many such houses that stood in the street until the early 20th century, and it might well have been demolished too had Seely and Paget not come to its rescue.  

He told the story of how it came about in an interview that he gave to Clive Aslet shortly before his death in 1985, which appeared in the Thirties Society Journal for 1987

When the practice was going reasonably well the partner said:

"You know I think we ought to be in the City". He gave the word, and every weekend was spent in hunting round for a possible property in the City. And there again it was quite incredible luck because we chanced across this ancient little street with a pre-Fire of London house for sale for £3,000 freehold. It's unbelievable. We persuaded the parents to provide the necessary cash, and of course it did prove to be wildly rewarding - a wonderful shop window. We spent blissfully happy years there.

We went there in 1930. Then my father, who was on the point of retiring from being Bishop of Chester, was like most bishops and had got nowhere to go. He got rather miserable about the thought of retiring. We were able to buy the next door property, so I had some very beautifully engraved notepaper with the heading 39 Cloth Fair; and I wrote to him and said "Here is your new address".

My father was very, very reluctant, so I employed an artist [Roland Pym] to do a decoration for the bathroom.  I remember offering an illustration of this to the then very popular weekly glossy called The Tatler and this was published as the frontispiece of that week's issue under the caption "Bathroom for a Bishop".  You can imagine that my father found it of some embarrassment when facing his other bishops at the Athenaeum Club."

Most of the other houses in Cloth Fair had been demolished during the First World War and afterwards, leaving only this small group of houses at the western end; it is possible that Nos 43-45 would have gone as well, if they too had not been bought by Mr Paget:

In the end we bought the street. John Betjeman,with whom we had come into contact over a battle about a television mast in the Isle of Wight, came down to lunch and said: "But of course I've got to live here". So in he moved next door [in 1954]. We really had very pleasant neighbours. The houses were so close that the neighbours across the alleyway could see us carving the Sunday joint - it was so close that you almost felt as though you should hand a plate across.  So when eventually we got possession of the house on the other side of the alleyway, we decided that this should never happen again and we blocked up the window. This was such a terribly gloomy aspect that we got Brian Thomas to paint a scene of the Sailor's Return. This was a lovely thing to look out at. I used to hear the tourists being conducted round the City and the guide would stop and say: "Here is a very interesting case of a window that was blocked up at the time of the window tax". Brian Thomas was a mural and stained glass painter, some of whose work can be seen in St Paul's.

At No 40, underneath No 39, the cloth warehouse of Mitchell, Inman & Co, served as a reminder of the traditional trade of the area, but in general by 197O the tenor of the street was more literary and professional.  An antiquarian bookseller, Frank Hollings, occupied No 45, Sir John Betjeman still lived on the upper floors of 43, with the quantity surveyors Godfrey Smith in the offices below, and the firm of Seely and Paget continued to occupy No 41.  The nurses of St Bartholomew's Hospital had a hostel at No 39. 
 
Changes have occurred since then, as tenants have come and gone, and the Landmark restoration work has been carried out.  For a time the Landmark Trust itself occupied the office at No 43.  The firm of Seely and Paget moved to Christchurch Tower in 1976, and after failing to attract a City Livery Company or some such institution to take their place, it was decided in 1980 that the buildings in this block - the Jacobean
house and the warehouse - should be sold.
 
In 1974-75 No 45 was restored and refurbished - the only change in appearance being the restoration of glazing bars to the windows.  The rest of the work was stuctural - rebuilding parapets and chimneys, strengthening the front of the building over the shop front and repairing the roof; while inside the kitchen and bathroom were improved but otherwise the existing arrangement of rooms was kept to.  When the work was completed Mr Heath of Priory Antiques moved in on the ground floor and the flat above was let to Miss Jean Imray, who worked for the Mercers Company and who had lived at No 44 (now 46) for many years.  When she left in 1981 the flat became a Landmark.

After much thought and many changes of plan work started on the remaining buildings in 1986. These included No 43a - now 8, Cloth Court - which had been a butcher's shop since before 1900, and was bought by Landmark after the last owner, Sivier's, moved out in 1973. The idea was to convert the whole of the ground floor area into a wine bar, while making three flats on the floors above.  This meant extending the single storey extension behind No 43 to run right across behind the two houses (which may originally have been one), at the same time creating a flat area which could become a roof garden for the flats.
 
As with No 45, the main work was structural; a number of steel ties and joists had to be inserted to strengthen the floors and in particular to give extra support to the wall above the shop front; and the parapets of both houses had to be taken down and rebuilt, along with the gable end of No 43, which was bulging badly.
 
A new door and a second window were made at the back of 43, to give access to the roof garden and to allow the bathroom a window of its own.  Otherwise everything was left as little disturbed as possible, all original fittings being retained.  The flat was redecorated, but still looks much as it did when lived in by Sir John Betjeman.  To achieve this some problems had to be overcome:  the wallpaper in the sitting room, for
example, a William Morris design called Acorn, was no longer made in exactly the same colour, but Sandersons agreed to print it specially. 
 
The wine bar windows are new, but the facia (apart from some of the brackets which had to be replaced) is original, dating from around 1800, as does the back entrance to Sivier's in the passage.  Sivier's front entrance in Cloth Court was also left as it was, although it is of later date than the other shop fronts, probably dating from the 1890s, when Maples & Co, Meat Contractors, set up business there.

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QuestionWhat's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.