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Jonathan Madden’s East End Pub Paintings

March 11, 2022
by the gentle author

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Today it is my pleasure to introduce the work of painter Jonathan Madden

Last Orders at The Still Star

My family had lodgings nearby, above a shop in Aldgate High St during the early twenties, so it is quite conceivable that they frequented this ancient pub. During the early nineteen-hundreds this pub, along with the The Hoop & Grapes nearby, was frequented by many of the slaughtermen and meat porters who worked on Butcher’s Row. I frequently used to drop in on my way home from St Katharine Docks where I worked in the early two-thousands. There has been a pub here since 1820 but it closed its doors finally in 2017, prior to demolition and reconstruction as part of a huge office development on the site.


‘I have lived and worked in and around London for over sixty-five years and, from my early days at art school in the seventies, I was encouraged to keep a sketchbook and record the scene in front of me. I have always enjoyed spending time in a decent pub, although the decline of many of them saddens me more and more as the years pass.

I decided to start painting them in 2015 and these first paintings were from areas around Aldgate, Whitechapel and the Highway, which is where my father’s family and his parents all lived from the late nineteenth century. I wanted to create a connection back to them. Then I expanded my search to Limehouse, Ratcliffe, Wapping and Southwark and wherever I found pubs that were architecturally interesting.

All these neighbourhoods, due to their proximity to London’s Docks, were traditionally working class. The pubs were focal points for their community, warm, mostly welcoming and often splendrous, and their demise was acutely felt. Regretfully we have lost far too many, they stand on corners like memorials now, mournful but with a quiet dignity, often covered in tags and flyposters, their life and soul dissipated.”

Jonathan Madden

The Prince of Wales, Grove Rd

The Prince of Wales on Grove Road was one of the first pubs I painted back in 2016. I isolated it from the surrounding buildings and added a stormy sky. Called the Prince of Prussia until the outbreak of WW1, it has a chequered past. In 2002, a murder was committed by the landlord which did not help its reputation and it closed in 2005. It was popular in the late nineties as a stopping place before heading off to Benjys nightclub in the Mile End Rd. I believe it is now a burger bar.

The Albion, Albion St

I painted this pub 2018, along with another in Albion St called The Little Crown. These mock Tudor pubs are often derided architecturally but I really like them. There are many decent examples around London, mainly in the outer suburbs near Underground stations. There is currently a fight from locals to save The Albion from a developer.

The Lord Napier, Hackney Wick

This was a commission and when I began the painting in 2019 it had probably been the most graffitied and most photographed pub after it pulled its last ‘official’ pint back in 1996. My client was a music producer who used to run club nights there and had good memories and affection for it. But after squatters, parties and countless raves, I am pleased to say it has now reinvented itself and is a very popular local called The Lord Napier Star.

The Star in the East, Reborn

This was in a sorry state a few years ago but is a wonderful example of Moorish influenced Victorian splendour on the Commercial Rd, an architectural gem. I am pleased to say after many incarnations, closures and re-openings it was given a new lease of life in 2019 by The Old Spot Pub Company. It is truly magnificent and I just had to paint it. I began it in mid-2021 and completed it in time to reproduce it as a Christmas card, which I thought fitting.

The Albion

There are so many Albions, I did consider producing a series of them from around the country. This abandoned pub was in a sorry state of repair when I visited Lauriston Rd back in 2018. I drew some preliminary sketches on site and from these produced an initial painting which was completed in 2019. However I was not happy with the result so during 2020, prompted by the pandemic, I decided take a different approach. I placed the pub in a new and different landscape in which I included rising water levels and a low setting sun. The graffiti on the building was how I saw 2020.

The Black Horse, Stepney

Although there are many repurposed pubs lining the Whitechapel and Mile End roads, many are easy to ignore. Nearly all are mid-to-late-nineteeth-century and this one is Grade 2 listed. Most have been converted to betting shops, fast food outlets or clothing shops. I wanted to pick one to record in paint, so I chose The Black Horse which has good proportions. It is opposite Stepney Green station and has had many incarnations, including as a gay bar before finally closing its doors in 2009.

The Royal Duke

I have walked past this pub many times and always wanted to record it. It is on the busy Commercial Rd and has been derelict for many years. It was built in 1879 and finally stopped serving beer in 1995. It then was repurposed as The Royal Duke Superstore, a supermarket, that has now closed. It has some lovely cream plaster detailing and a stone corner-splay. Owned by Trumans’ Brewery, as were many in this area, it is identified by the brewery’s signature dark green tiling on the entire ground floor.

The Rising Sun

This was commissioned in 2020 by a friend whose family used to live in the area around Upper Norwood. I explored the ghost pubs of the area and found this neat little building standing on its own on Spa Hill. I love its symmetry and its pleasant setting backing on to a small park.

The Anchor & Hope, E14

This old pub caught my attention because it stood defiant amongst the towers of steel and glass in Canary Wharf. Like a few in the area it was a local pub and very popular during the London Marathon. Unfortunately, this was not enough to save it and it closed in 2011. An successful application was made for change of use and since 2018, it has been used as a fitness centre. It is now barely recognisable as a former pub.

The Thames after the Great Flood

Known as the Rose & Crown until a fire in 1986, the Campaign for Real Ale’s South-East London Pub Guide from two years later records the Thames as being “a large single bar with aquarium,” adding “The ex-docker ghost who haunted the cellar has extended his range to the rest of the pub.” This picture is set fifty years in the future. The River Thames has flooded and a group of walkers have chanced upon the abandoned building. Its composition is loosely based on ‘Landscape with Aeneas at Delos’ by Claude Lorrain, the master of light. Canary Wharf is on the distant shore and nature has begun to spread its arms around the pub.

The Old Rose, Ratcliff Highway

I have strong family connections with the surrounding area, so felt compelled to paint this pub. Its location is on the once notorious and dangerous ‘Ratcliff Highway’, a very lively place in the nineteenth Century as a gathering place for sailors and dock labourers. From 1986 it became popular with journalists from News International when Rupert Murdoch moved his printing presses to ‘Fortress Wapping.’ Today it stands semi-derelict, with an endless stream of heavy traffic thundering past, where its primary function is to support a huge illuminated advertising hoarding on its west wall.

Paintings copyright © Jonathan Madden

You may also like to read about

Anthony Cairns’ East End Pubs

17 Responses leave one →
  1. March 11, 2022

    Lovely works!

  2. Andy Strowman permalink
    March 11, 2022

    A treat to see.

  3. March 11, 2022

    What a wonderful talent Jonathan Madden is!

    Last Orders at The Still Star is magical.

    Keep painting, Jonathan.

    Warm wishes,

    Elise (Australia)

  4. Milo permalink
    March 11, 2022

    I remember some great times in the Anchor and Hope, playing darts with friends who lived in one of the council tower blocks nearby. (Priestman point?) We’d have raucous evenings there then id weave my way down to the Thames clipper station and head off home back west…

  5. Colin Bricknall permalink
    March 11, 2022

    Excellent paintings

  6. March 11, 2022

    Fascinating and very enjoyable reading.
    It’s surprising how many of these pubs I have been familiar with . Nearly all of them. Marvellous paintings.

  7. James Hurley permalink
    March 11, 2022

    What a delightful and atmospheric collection of paintings.
    More please.

  8. Marnie Sweet permalink
    March 11, 2022

    Nostalgia–it is somehow so invigorating. Jonathan, your notes about each pub help bring

    them to life. However, next time might you add one cat on a corner, please.

    Thank you for sharing these iconic portraits, GA. It would be interesting to see photos

    of the many renovations.

  9. March 11, 2022

    Certain of us have a romance with derelict buildings. Jonathan’s affection for these old pubs gives them another life. It’s good to know that they’re still loved!

  10. Mick O'Rorke permalink
    March 11, 2022

    Great to see these evocative paintings, thank you.

    The Old Rose on the Highway should live again surrounded by proposed high-rise development. To improve the pub’s viability, I do hope the plans include sufficient space in the rear yard to include a few tables to supplement the limited space inside.

  11. Diana Cooper permalink
    March 11, 2022

    Beautiful, atmospheric paintings capturing the sad plight of pubs in this area. Hopefully some will survive.

  12. Barbara C permalink
    March 11, 2022

    The Albion is near where I live, it’s a handsome building. I’m always surprised that it hasn’t been turned into expensive flats as that’s the fate of most old pubs around here. I think some ‘guardians’ are living in it so it’s not completely abandoned.
    The last landlord and his wife were very popular in the neighbourhood and are remembered. They used to have a Shetland pony that grazed on Well Street Common opposite the pub.
    Lovely pictures, very evocative.

  13. Marcia Howard permalink
    March 11, 2022

    What an amazing talent to paint these wonderful images. Love them all!

  14. March 12, 2022

    Thank you to everyone for your very kind comments, it’s very encouraging to know that people appreciate the work. There are a few more in the pipeline, one is the wonderful George on Commercial Road, which is fighting to keep its music license and hence its survival. Thank you again. Jonathan.

  15. Arnold permalink
    March 12, 2022

    Wonderful work Jonno!

  16. Jill Wilson permalink
    March 12, 2022

    These are stunning paintings and very evocative. I always hate seeing boarded up and abandoned pubs and depicting them by themselves makes them even more poignant – so much more effective than mere photographs 0f them would have been.

    These paintings have the same resonance as works by Doreen Fletcher and I hope that the Town House will be having an exhibition of them soon…

    And yes – more please!

  17. April 4, 2022

    A wonderfully evocative series of paintings which capture a world that seems to be slipping away from us.
    Well done Jonathan.

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