The Prospect of Whitby, Wapping, E.1
Don’t we all at times have silly ideas? One of mine was that there
were no really “good” inns or pubs that were worth inclusion in
this book, except those in the City, the West End, the outer suburbs,
and, of course, the country.
But a hint was given to me that a place out in the East End of
London was well worth visiting.
Having ascertained that this place, called The Prospect qf Whitlgy,
had a dog, I went without any prospects of seeing anything
picturesque, and made my way to Wapping.
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The Prospect of Whitby
I had to walk from the station, and closed my eyes to the view
of the surroundings, because nobody but a blind man could get
any enjoyment out of that walk, which is just a journey past ware-
houses, wharves and factories, with cranes and lorries, to keep you
company. But when I arrived at my goal,’I came to the conclusion
that my walk, however long or dreary, was worth while, because,
to start with, a sign outside the building told me the place was
built in I520. ‘
When I entered and met the landlord and took one quick look
around, I realized that I had stepped into history. And furthermore,
who was I anyway to complain about that walk, for a peep into the
visitors’ book told me that people from all and every part of the
world have journeyed to visit The Prospect of Whitby.
In fact, this pub is of such historic interest that the Home
Office has a standing arrangement with the landlord that a telephone
call will immediately prepare him for a visit from a V.I.P.
Now, all these thousands of people who have so far visited
this famous hostelry have gone ostensibly to see the building, its
great collection of antiques, objets d’art and curios, and the wonderful
view of the Thames with its maritime activities. I also enjoyed
all these, but with an added interest, which of course was, as you
have no doubt guessed, my canine lady friend Buzz.
Buzz – Heinz Cross
Now this little lady, although only ﬁfteen months old, is already a mother.
The responsibilities of motherhood don’t hang heavily upon her
shoulders by any means; in fact, she is remarkably skittish and
frivolous, and I suspect she considers that the very name of her
home offers much for her future. Her master tells me she does
everything but talk, and being of the feminine sex, that is perhaps
all to the good. So we’ll leave her now in blissful ignorance of her
own parentage, for, as you can see by the drawing, she is of the
so-called “Heinz” variety, and proud of it.
As I have stated before, this pub dates back to I520 in the
reign of King Henry VIII, and is the oldest riverside tavern in
London. You can today, if you wish, as many other people have,
dine and quaﬁ‘ your ale in “Ye Pepys’ Room”. Today, the Ancient
Society of Pepys””-under the Chairmanship of the Earl of Sandwich
-“hold their monthly meetings in this room. And it is so secret
that whilst they are in session, not even the landlord is allowed
into his own room.
Everyone can see the old oak chest, which looks to me suspiciously
like an ancient sea chest; it is placed in the corner of the room.
But its contents are also secret, and it has presumably a very strong
lock. You can look out across the river to Rotherhithe, and even
imagine Sir Hugh Willoughby, Sir Martin Frobisher and their
companions taking their repast prior to sailing from a nearby
reach, in the latter half of the sixteenth century, for the Northern
Judge Jeffries would sup Ale
Again, should you be sitting there in that room, history says
that you’ll be in the room in which Judge Jeffries would sup and
gaze at his victims swinging from the gibbets at the nearby Execution
On the walls among many works of past and present-day
artists there hangs (a corner of it is just showing in the illustration
of Buzz) a most interesting Sounding Chart of Hardwich Harbour
_Woodbridg Handefordwater; and enscrolled on this chart in
an ornamental panel is the following:
“To ye Honorable Samuel Pepys Esq., secretary
of the Admiralty of England. President of ye Royal
Society and Master of ye Trinity House of Deptford
Shord. This chart is dedicated and Presented by
Captain Greenvil Collins Hydrog to the King 1680.”
A traditional story of Wapping is that on the foreshore here the
bodies of executed pirates were tied to stakes and left hanging
“until three tides had gone over them”
~ There is every reason to suppose that The Prospect of Whitby
is the original of the “Six Jolly Fellowship Porters” in Dickens’
Our Mutual Friend, and that it was from one of its verandas that
Miss Abbey called down “Does anyone down there know what
has happened?” when she was told there was “summat run down
in the fog”.
Dating Back to the Smugglers
We do know for a fact that the tavern owns its name from a
ship called the Prospect which made many journeys from Whitby
in Yorkshire to London laden with grey-stone with which both
London Bridge and Tower Bridge were built.
The inn dates back beyond the bad old days when the notorious
Ratcliff Highway was in its prime. If only it could talk, what
stories it could tell of the smuggling when cargoes of tobacco and
rum were run alongside on moonless nights and passed through
trap-doors at high water from boats riding below: stories of raids
and rascals; of ﬁghts and ,flights; of drawing of knives and cutlasses;
tales of robbery and death, with the river for a graveyard, and
bodies bearing ugly wounds ,boating with the tide down the long,
dark waterways towards the sea.
But, enough of my gruesome imagination”here’s a secret for
you. Should you fancy popping in for a pint to see the great and
fascinating collection of curios, when you stand at the bar y0u’ll
be standing over a covered-in cock-ﬁghting pit. Should you happen
to go there at night, the only ﬁghting y0u’ll have will be to
get that pint that you feel you so richly deserve.
You won’t, unfortunately, see Buzz because she hates crowds,
but there’s no telling who you she might see, for everybody of note
goes there sooner or later. If not, their education has been sadly