There are very few things that London has perfected more than the humble pub. And look, you’d bloomin’ well hope so – they’ve been around for long enough. One that’s been around for a particularly long time is the Prospect of Whitby in Wapping. Drenched in history and dating all the way back to 1520, this is the city’s oldest waterside watering hole and has welcomed some pretty interesting clientele over the years.
From sailors and smugglers to painters and princesses; many famous (and infamous) faces have walked the original stone floor and whet their whistle at the pewter-topped bar. It’s now a popular Thames-side hotspot for Londoners and tourists alike, offering lovely views, decent pints and a fascinating peek into the area’s intriguing history of piracy and river crime.
The history of the Prospect of Whitby
When the east London boozer first set up shop back in 1520, it went by the name of ‘The Pelican’. However, due to its proximity to the river, it became a popular hangout for smugglers, pirates and local criminals. This – understandably – earned the tavern and bit of a bad rep and it was quickly nicknamed the ‘Devil’s Tavern’.
It wasn’t until the early 18th century – after a fire burned down the original building – that the pub was rebuilt and rebranded as ‘The Prospect of Whitby’. The current name is said to have come from a collier vessel that regularly moored on the bank outside.
A reminder of the Prospect of Whitby’s dark past can be seen with the noose and gallows that hang off of the balcony. The noose marks the spot of Execution Dock – a hanging site where many river criminals (including the infamous pirate, Captain Kidd) were sentenced to death. Delightful, right?
Nowadays, the Prospect of Whitby is a Greene King pub offering many original fixtures and a big outdoor terrace to soak up some riverside rays. The building is said to be haunted (I can’t imagine why…) and the pub offers ghost tours and other eerie events to keep its spooky history alive. Ale and apparitions – a match made in heaven, hey?