Beer history london pubs

A trio of East End riverside pubs (Wapping & Limehouse)

We love exploring London on foot, particularly East London. There’s always something to catch your eye in this area of contrasts — the strange mix of the very rich and the very poor, incredibly old buildings poking out between 1960s concrete blocks, five-for-a-pound samosas next to £50-a-pop sea-bass restaurants.

And if you’re interested in beer, pubs and/or brewing history, there’s stacks to see, if not necessarily to drink. About a year ago, we posted these photos of old Truman, Hanbury and Buxton signs. This time, the theme of our walk was riverside pubs. We didn’t plan a particular route or crawl, we just headed for the river around Wapping to see what we could see.

Firstly, we were intrigued to find ourselves on a Brewhouse Lane, just off Wapping High Street, which featured “improved industrial dwellings” from 1864 and Chimney court, complete with chimney. It definitely looks like an old brewery complex, but a bit of internet research hasn’t yet shed much light on which brewery, or when it was in operation. John Rocque’s 1747 map of London shows the street in exactly the same location. If anyone can shed any further light or even suggest where to go to get further information, we’d be grateful.

Our first beer stop was the Captain Kidd, on Wapping High Street, just behind Brewhouse Lane. This Sam Smith’s pub looks like it’s been there for centuries, but apparently only dates from the 1980s. They’ve made great use of the old building in which it’s housed, with big windows looking over the Thames. There’s also a small beer garden/yard. The usual Sam Smith’s selection is available, plus food. All in all, a really nice spot.

Wapping High Street continues east and becomes Wapping Wall. There you’ll find the famous Prospect of Whitby which dates from 1520 and claims to be the oldest riverside tavern. The place just oozes history and has lots of prime riverside views. In the summer,the small beer garden under the massive weeping willow is beautiful; in the winter, it’s a cosy place to look out onto the grey Thames and read your favourite East End Dickens scenes. The beer selection is unexciting (London Pride and Greene King products) but it’s in reasonably good nick.

After the Prospect of Whitby, we kept following the Thames Path eastward. Wapping becomes Limehouse and on Narrow Street we passed “The Narrow”, once the home of the Taylor Walker “Barley Mow brewery”, now a Gordon Ramsey gastropub. Maybe it’s nice, maybe it’s not. We didn’t go in.

The Grapes, further along Narrow Street, is claimed to be the inspiration (or one of the inspirations) for the “Six Jolly Fellowship Porters” pub in Our Mutual Friend. We’ve got no primary evidence to support this, but Zythophile is bold enough to repeat the suggestion. It’s definitely an old place (current building from 1720), with a great atmosphere and nice beers — among them, London Pride, TT Landlord and a guest, this time Bateman’s Valiant.

There’s a deck out the back where you can sit and hear (and occasionally feel) the Thames lapping up against the wall. It almost felt like we were beside the seaside, particularly with the stormy skies and choppy water. Bliss. The first photo in this post was taken there.



The Captain Kidd is at 108 Wapping High Street, E1W 2NE. Further west from here (no. 62) is another old pub, the Town of Ramsgate, which we found out about afterwards. That’s the disadvantage of being spontaneous and not planning.

The Prospect of Whitby is at 57 Wapping Wall, E1W 3SH. The nearest tube station for the Captain Kidd and the Prospect of Whitby would be Wapping, but it’s shut until 2010 for East London Line refurbishment. Try Docklands Light Railway to Shadwell instead. Or have a bit of a walk from the City. You’re bound to see something cool.

The Grapes is at 76 Narrow Street, E14 8BP. Closest public transport is Limehouse DLR station.

We didn’t have this walking guide from the local council yesterday. Might have been nice if we had!

8 replies on “A trio of East End riverside pubs (Wapping & Limehouse)”

Nice pics, more than evocative to me…..
Made feel homesickness from Britain. Thanks a lot for the memories your pics brought to my mind.

Haya Salud, amigos

If you had called into the Town of Ramsgate, you would have seen their more enlightened beer policy gives you are fair bit of choice as well as standard brews. It is on my list to revisit, but I got detained in the Captain Kidd last time!

Not certain what the brewhouse was on that Brewhouse Lane either: it seems too far east to be connected to the Red Lion brewery (Parsons, and then Hoares), one of the “Big 12” London porter brewers, who were down Thomas More Street (then known as Lower East Smithfield).

I love the pewter bartop in the Prospect of Whitby: every pub should have one.

Chela, Stonch – thanks! We might put a few more pictures up on our Picassa account.

Tandleman – I hope detained in a pleasant way?

Zythophile (and anyone else who has a yen for this kind of thing) – we’ve found a couple of references to the Star Brewery, New Crane, Wapping, including here. New Crane Steps / Place is a bit further east from Brewhouse Lane, so I’m not that convinced it’s the same place.

Perhaps it had stopped being a brewery early on? But the buildings definitely look like a brewery complex of some kind.

Further to the identity of the brewery on Brewhouse Lane, it was Pickard & Co according to this map from c 1792

Roberts Pickard & Maitland according to this directory from 1794

and just Pickard & Maitland in later references.

Historical fiction note: in Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe books, the hero is said to have been brought iup in an orhanage in Brewhouse Lane, Wapping.

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