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The Gentle Author’s Wapping Pub Crawl

November 15, 2017
by the gentle author

Four-hundred-year-old stone floor at The Prospect of Whitby

Tempted by the irresistible promise of the riverside, I set out for Wapping to visit those pubs which remain in these formerly notorious streets once riddled with ale houses. Yet although there are pitifully few left these days, I discovered each one has a different and intriguing story to tell.

Town of Ramsgate, 288 Wapping High St. The first alehouse was built on this site in 1460, known as The Hostel and then as The Red Cow from 1533. The pub changed its name again, to the Town of Ramsgate, in 1766 to attract trade from Kentish fishermen who unloaded their catch at Wapping Old Stairs adjoining. Judge Jeffreys was arrested here in disguise, attempting to follow the flight of James II abroad in 1688, as William III’s troops approached London.

The Turk’s Head, 1 Green Bank. Originally in Wapping High St from 1839, rebuilt on this site in 1927 and closed in the seventies, it is now a community cafe.

Captain Kidd, 108 Wapping High St. Established in 1991 in a former warehouse and named after legendary pirate, Wiiliam Kidd, hanged nearby at Execution Dock Stairs in 1701.

Turner’s Old Star, 14 Watts St. In the eighteen-thirties, Joseph Mallord William Turner set up his mistress Sophia Booth in two cottages on this site, one of which she ran as an alehouse named The Old Star. In 1987, the current establishment was renamed Turner’s Old Star in honour of the connection with the great painter. Notoriously secretive about his lovelife, Turner adopted Sophia’s surname to conceal their life together here, acquiring the nickname ‘Puggy Booth’ on account of his portly physique and height of just five feet.

The Old Rose, 128 The Highway. 1839-2007

The last pub standing on the Ratcliffe Highway

The Three Suns, 61 Garnet St. 1851 – 1986

The Prospect of Whitby, 56 Wapping Wall. Founded 1520, and formerly known as The Pelican and The Devil’s Tavern.

What does a cat have to do to get a drink around here?

Sir Hugh Willoughby sailed from The Prospect of Whitby in 1533 upon his ill-fated attempt to discover the North-East Passage to China.

The Grapes, 76 Narrow St. Founded in 1583, the current building was constructed in 1720 – it is claimed Charles Dickens danced upon the counter here as a child.

You may like to read about my other pub crawls

The Gentle Author’s Pub Crawl

The Gentle Author’s Next Pub Crawl

The Gentle Author’s Spitalfields Pub Crawl

The Gentle Author’s Dead Pubs Crawl

The Gentle Author’s Next Dead Pubs Crawl

11 Responses leave one →
  1. November 15, 2017

    That is one unimpressed cat!

  2. November 15, 2017

    Lovely photos, especially of the cat.

  3. Greg Tingey permalink
    November 15, 2017

    I haven’t been in “The Prospect” for several years, but it’s good to see that it has acquired proper pub “management” – namely the CAT. Superb.

    Good to see that The Grapes is still going.
    The one I miss was the Wheatsheaf, very close to the outlet from Limehouse Basin – now apparently called “The Narrow” euw.

  4. Ray permalink
    November 15, 2017

    Great post. The area has changed beyond recognition since I first drank in these pubs when working on the river in the 60s. One excellent, unpretentious boozer is the White Swan and Cuckoo in Wapping Lane.

  5. November 15, 2017

    A most excellent walk with refreshments. Nothing like a quiet afternoon in the Grapes before the crowds arrive.

  6. Connie Unangst permalink
    November 16, 2017

    Great article. Lots of good history. And I loved the black cat!!

  7. November 16, 2017

    GA – I meant to mention this yesterday. It’s probably just a typo, but you wrote that Hugh Willoughby sailed in 1533; it was 1553 of course, and poor Hugh obit’d the following year, somewhere where nuclear subs now rust.

  8. November 16, 2017

    I see the Caxton, formerly the Artichoke, on the corner of The Highway and Artichoke Hill, has now closed and become a Domino’s pizza outlet, presmably after News International departed Fortress Wapping. The pints I sank in there during a break in my shift …

  9. November 16, 2017

    GA Enjoyed these very much and didn’t even have a drink!

  10. Nigel Sadler permalink
    November 17, 2017

    Nice article. Very fortunate I still get to trek this area as Town of Ramsgate, The Grapes, Prospect and Turner’s Old Star are on my Cask Marque patch. Started wandering round here back in the 80s during my commodity trading years. Owned by Sir Ian McKellen I still enjoy seeing Gandalph’s staff behind the bar of The Grapes each time I visit.

  11. Bill Duxbury permalink
    December 3, 2017

    When I lived in Wapping in 1947 I used to stand outside the Prospect of Whitby pub with a few mates and when a posh car drew up we would run to the car and the first one to reach it would offer to keep an eye on it. The usual fee was 5 shillings so that was a bit of pocket money for a 12 year old. I never told my parents as my father would have taken the money to get himself a drink.

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