Monday, 3 March 2014
London, especially the East End, is endlessly interesting to me. It has been hugely knocked about, gentrified and changed by bombing, demolition, regeneration and speculation, but you can still see in places what it was.
Yesterday we took a walk down Cable St, famous for its stand against Oswald Mosley's Fascist Blackshirts on Sunday 4 October 1936, when residents and others, together with the police dispersed a march by the British Union of Fascists. There is a plaque on a wall just round from our flat, (but oddly in Dock St, not Cable St, though I am sure it used to be), that commemorates the event. This history pops up again as I looked out for pubs as we walked along the 1.2 miles, heading for Limehouse Basin.
First of all we came across the ex Crown and Dolphin, which look as though it is still a pub. It isn't of course, being residential. It closed in 1992 to become flats and was a Charrington house. Next along, yet another conversion to flats, but again you can see traces of its former ownership. This was the Britannia Tavern first listed in 1839 and owned by Meux, Truman and latterly, Taylor Walker. It closed in July 1996, but the tiled exterior leaves you in no doubt as to what it once was. If you squint along the top of the pub you can still see Meux's Ales and Stouts in gilded lettering, peeping through the overpainting.
Moving on through the mass of council or possibly housing association flats, we come to the ex King's Arms. Built like a very large brick shithouse, a magnificent painted Mann, Crossman and Paulin sign on a gable tells you who owned it, but sadly I can find out little about it from the usual sources.
Lastly for symmetry (though out of order by one), is the Ship, now converted to flats again and up for sale as such. No doubt about its provenance as a pub though and a little bit of history here too, as this was where the blackshirts used to drink and where they tanked up before the battle of Cable St and presumably where they retired to lick their wounds.
We finished up in Limehouse, in Narrow St, the only original part of this area as far as we could see and as it was raining, nipped into the historic Grapes, owned apparently by Sir Ian McKellen and where Charles Dickens, as a child was made to sing standing on tables. Built in 1720, it is thin, dark wooded and really rather quaint. An American tourist's dream. Alas, to finish on a low note, the Adnams Bitter displayed both warmth and flatness.
In London, some things never change.
We also popped into the Captain Kidd on the way home. By no means original, but a good and recommended Sam Smith's pub in Wapping High St.