Great London Pubs No. 2: The Prospect of Whitby
The Prospect of Whitby is London’s oldest riverside pub – the pub site dates back to 1520. The original flagstone floor survives and the pub also has a rare pewter-topped bar, as well as old barrels and ships’ masts built into the structure. The pub has great views over the Thames, from the beer garden to the first floor terrace.
The pub was originally frequented by lightermen, watermen and others who made their living on the river and at sea. It it was a notorious haunt for smugglers, thieves and pirates. Famous customers include Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys, ‘Hanging’ Judge Jeffries and the artists Whistler and Turner.
It used to be called The Pelican, but was also known as The Devil’s Tavern. Sir Hugh Wiloughby sailed from here in 1533 in a disastrous attempt to discover the North-East passage to China. Judge Jeffries lived nearby and a noose hangs by a window, commemorating his custom. He was chased by anti-Royalists into the nearby Town of Ramsgate, captured and taken to the Tower. According to legend, criminals would be tied up to the posts at low tide and left there to drown when the tide came in.
The pub is now surrounded by newbuild flats and bankers’ loft apartments, which take the edge off a bit. The Mayflower is along this stretch of East London river and probably the better pub.