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At The Three Crowns

October 25, 2020
by the gentle author

Philip Cunningham sent me these photographs of The Three Crowns, his favourite pub in the Mile End Rd in the seventies, as fondly remembered through a haze of beer and cigarettes.

“Once upon a time, there were plenty of public houses along the Mile End Rd. On the corner of Globe Rd and Alderney St was The Horn of Plenty. On the corner of Globe Rd and Mile End Rd was The Globe and on the opposite corner was The Kings Arms. A few yards along the Mile End Rd was The White Swan and a few yards further down was The Three Crowns.

When we moved to Stepney in the early seventies, The White Swan had already gone but all the others were open and there were many more pubs within easy walking distance, so I was truly spoilt for choice.

My favourite was The Three Crowns, not only because it was nearest but because a lot of local characters went there, along with staff from the nearby hospitals and Queen Mary College, just down the road. Next door was a gambling club and the members of this spilt over into the pub too. At the entrance was a magnificent tiled picture of The Three Crowns and The Cloth of Gold.

Punters would gamble on anything but my favourite was the running races they had down Mile End Rd. At this time Ada and her dad Alf ran the pub along with Polo and Taweek who served behind the bar. Ada used to get enormous hams and, for half a crown, she made you a doorstep sandwich with thick layers of ham and as much mustard as you wanted.

When Ada retired, the pub was taken over by Terry Green and his wife Brenda. Terry had been a docker and with his severance payment he re-designed the interior in a novel design, including inverted Corinthian columns. I became great friends with Jimmy, his brother, and we wandered around the East End together looking for old buildings, breweries, pubs and places he had once lived.

Jimmy explained to me the intricacies of ‘van dragging.’ ‘What else could we do? We had no food?’ he confessed. Cathy, Terry and Jimmy’s sister, worked behind the bar, she was lovely and always greeted you with a smile.

The Three Crowns was a pub where you could meet and have good chat over a glass of beer. Unfortunately when Terry retired the pub became a music venue and conversation was no longer possible, so I went elsewhere. This incarnation did not last long but, before the incumbents left, they tried to remove the tiles of The Cloth of Gold which broke and when I last saw the ceramic mural it was totally destroyed.

The Mile End Rd is a completely straight road. So how a car could swerve off it, mount the kerb, miss a lamp post and crash into a pub is beyond my understanding. Yet this is what happened at The Three Crowns once in the early hours of the morning.

Cathy told me the full story a couple of weeks later, after the driver’s insurance company informed him of the cost of the damage, and he came round irate and full of complaints. He believed he had only knocked the front door in when, in fact, he had caused serious major structural damage, requiring the front wall of the building to be shored up and the ground floor entirely rebuilt.”

Philip Cunningham

In the days of Ada & Polo

Snooker in Ada’s day

Brenda the Barmaid

One of Terry’s notorious inverted Corinthian columns

Cathy with two students from Queen Mary University

Jimmy the Photographer, John the Fruit and pal

Brothers Jimmy and Terry (centre) and pals

Jimmy and Terry with Brenda

Terry and a pal

Regulars at The Three Crowns

The Three Crowns

After the car crashed into the saloon bar…

Photographs copyright © Philip Cunningham

You may also like to take a look at

A Walk with Philip Cunningham

Philip Cunningham’s Pub Crawl

Philip Cunningham’s East End Portraits

More of Philip Cunningham’s Portraits

Yet More Philip Cunningham Portraits

A Lost Corner of Whitechapel

Philip Cunningham at Mile End Place

10 Responses leave one →
  1. Helen Breen permalink
    October 25, 2020

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, what a beautiful building where the Three Crowns was located. I love the window arrangements in the apartments above. Perhaps the residence of the owners?

  2. October 25, 2020

    Well, Yes, expecting tomorrow Night I will have my Peaceful Pint of GUINNESS again …

    Love & Peace

  3. Adele Lester permalink
    October 25, 2020

    Fondly remember ‘Aunt Ada’ – a close friend’s aunt. Quite a character!

  4. Eric Forward permalink
    October 25, 2020

    Now an Italian restaurant I think, would never have guessed it used to be a pub. Another fantastic insight into the past.

  5. Anne Stark permalink
    October 25, 2020

    Hi, I live in Scotland and my knowledge of London is limited to say the least. I cannot explain why I get so much pleasure from seeing places I’ve never been and people I don’t know, but I do. It raises my spirits. I was brought up in the north of England during the 1960s and the photos and writings on this website strike a chord from my childhood.
    Yours, nostaglically

  6. November 6, 2020

    GA: To clarify those QMC chaps weren’t students. The one on the left was a renowned scientst who researched the conductivity of metals at degrees absolute.The one on the right was acomputer expert who installed ‘COBOL’ computer system in the QMC set up. In between is the lovely Cathy. There were students and some rough locals………me.

  7. Mike Green permalink
    November 9, 2020

    Phil and GA, thanks for posting these photos of my uncle Turksie and auntie Brenda’s boozer, The Three Crowns. As you know, Terry and Brenda are happily retired in southern Portugal now and, sadly, both Jimmy Green and his sister Cathy are no longer with us. Above the bar was a large events room which I don’t think was used and above that the living quarters where Turks, Bren and their daughter Tracey lived. Stories like the motorist who mistook the pub for a drive-in are wonderful to recall, especially as I was unable to be a regular as my local was in Kent at this time. Terry was one of nine siblings and only the four youngest brothers – all ex-dockers – are left now, the oldest being my dad, Mike, who is 93. Interesting co-incidence that the Italian restaurant that took over the premises was called “Verdi’s” which is Italian for Green’s. Keep up the good work and any more memories you can resurrect will be gratefully received.

  8. Derry O'Sullivan permalink
    January 2, 2022

    I have very fond memories of Terry and Brenda. Terry had a great sense of humour and brenda was very sweet. They were true publicans sadly a rarity these days. I was saddened to hear of Kathy’s passing I remember first meeting her in the City where she worked in Dewhurst Bishopsgate. She was so friendly and always had a lovely smile.

  9. Martin Delaney permalink
    December 19, 2022

    Terry and Brenda were dear friends of my mother and father, Rita and Brian Delaney, who were also publicans albeit out in Walthamstow. Both sadly passed away now.
    Always took a new girlfriend to the Three Crowns as I’d get special treatment from Brenda or Kathy making me look like the business ?.
    Lovely memories of Derry O’Sullivan as well. If you read this I hope you’re well.

  10. Derry O'Sullivan permalink
    June 17, 2023

    I have just read this lovely post once again and miss all those memories of the characters associated with the Three Crowns. It was nice to read Martin Delaneys post and so sad to hear you have now lost your mother Rita. Both your parents Brian and Rita RIP were the nicest people and ran the most successful of pubs. Sadly so many east London pubs have been lost together with their character landlord’s.

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