No. 1004: Orange Street, WC2
Orange Street, London, WC2. Photo © Roger Dean, 2013:
From the plaque that was on the exterior of the pub but, since its closure, has been removed:
The Hand & Racquet has been around in different forms since the tudor times (1600’s) – originally founded as a brewery by William Whitcomb who gave his name to the street and to the surrounding streets. They were named after some of the local brews i.e. ‘Panton Ale’ and ‘Oxen Ale’.
The Pub stayed much the same until 1827 when it moved, quite how no one knows but it moved from 21 Whitcomb Street to 48 which it is still at!
In 1865 the upstairs bar/restaurant was added by the Oldbury Family who ran the pub for over 50 years. The upstairs became a Mecca for comedy, artists such as Tony Hancock, Sid James and Tommy Cooper were often seen quaffing an ale or two!
Tommy Cooper, when the bar was split into 2 bars would use his height to peer through the windows to see if anyone he knew was in the bar, as he always tried to avoid buying other people drinks. The problem was everyone would see the fez and follow him in.
Tony Hancock’s 2 writers Galton and Simpson used the pub, which gets a mention, in many of the famous Hancock’s Half-Hours.
[The name Hand and Racquet is taken from a real tennis court frequented by Charles II that was in the close vicinity, although, the current building only dates from 1865. R.D.]