Pubs and taverns have always held a special place in the community – never more so than in the East End of London between the wars. For the working people they were a refuge from overcrowded living conditions (houses, and sometimes rooms, often shared with other families) and offered respite from hard manual labour. Alcohol helped, of course. As did music, convivial company, and on winter days the warmth of a fire where the coal was paid for by someone else. They were where you could catch up with neighbours or bemoan your lot. The dockside pubs where also where the hiring was done for ‘the lump’ (casual labour).
Nearly all of those listed below have gone now. But there is a wonderful resource The Lost Pubs Project where you can explore how some of them met their demise. For housing mainly, but in Poplar and on the Isle of Dogs a few had to make way for major infrastructure such as the Blackwall Tunnel.
Many pubs were so named because of Poplar’s River Thames and seafaring connections. Such as:
Fish & Ring
The Three Mariners
Hope & Anchor
Dock House Tavern
Old Steam Packet
But my favourite – because it has the most colourful history attached – was the Coat & Badge in Chrisp Street (of market fame). Sadly no longer there, it was named after the prestigious prize awarded to the victor of the apprentice waterman race. The oldest rowing race in the world, it began in 1715 and still takes place on the River Thames on a course between London Bridge and Cadogan Pier, Chelsea. The winner is presented with a scarlet coat augmented by an enormous silver badge – hence the pub name. Below is a wonderful photograph of 20 winners between 1868 and 1904. Don’t they look splendid?