Prospect of Whitby

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The Prospect of Whitby from the Thames foreshore, 2006
The Prospect of Whitby, street view
Interior, 2013

The Prospect of Whitby is a historic public house on the banks of the Thames at Wapping in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It lays claim to being the site of the oldest riverside tavern, dating from around 1520.


The tavern was formerly known as The Pelican and later as the Devil’s Tavern, on account of its dubious reputation. All that remains from the building’s earliest period is the 400-year-old stone floor. In former times it was a meeting place for sailors, smugglers, cut-throats and footpads. Sir Hugh Willoughby sailed from here in 1553 in a disastrous attempt to discover the North-East Passage to China.

In the 17th century, it became the hostelry of choice of "Hanging" Judge Jeffreys, scourge of the Monmouth Rebellion. He 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 for his own safety. According to legend, criminals would be tied up to the posts at low tide and left there to drown when the tide came in. Execution Dock was actually by Wapping Old Stairs and generally used for pirates.[1]

Views from the pub were sketched by both Turner and Whistler. The writers Charles Dickens and Samuel Pepys are known to have paused to sup here.[1]

Following a fire in the early 19th century, the tavern was rebuilt and renamed The Prospect of Whitby, after a Tyne collier that used to berth next to the pub. The Prospect was listed Grade II in December 1950.[2]

On the opposite side of the road (Wapping Wall) is the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, later an arts centre and restaurant.

In popular culture[edit]

The public house features briefly in an episode of Only Fools And Horses. When Uncle Albert goes missing in one episode, Del Boy and Rodney travel around London looking for him. Nicholas Lyndhurst is shown in one scene walking out of the pub. There is also a scene from the 1956 film D-Day the Sixth of June starring Robert Taylor and Richard Todd where Taylor's character is seen with Dana Wynter's character having drinks together during the Second World War in London.

In the comic book The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Mina Harker pauses in front of the public house and says it brings back memories. She is referring to the beaching of the Demeter at Whitby in the novel Dracula.[3][4]

This pub is also featured in Vercors's novel Les Animaux dénaturés (translated variously into English as You Shall Know Them, Borderline, and The Murder of the Missing Link).

The pub also appears in Whitechapel, Series 4, Episode 4, where the body of a victim is discovered on the Thames shoreline. DS Miles briefly explains its history to DI Chandler.

A photograph of the Malcolm Price Trio was taken inside the pub and featured on the front cover of their second LP, titled 'Way Down Town', in 1965.

The pub is also reported to be the favourite pub of Squeeze member Chris Difford.

In a May 2016 episode of BBC's Eastenders, the pub is mentioned during a scene featuring Barbara Windsor and Steve McFadden when their character's Peggy and Phil Mitchell take a river cruise along the Thames.

The pub is mentioned in Louis L'Amour's novel "To the Far Blue Mountains".[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Thames Tunnel, Ratcliff Highway and Wapping, Old and New London: Volume 2 (1878), pp. 128-37 Retrieved 29 March 2007
  2. ^ Historic England. "Details from image database (206332)". Images of England. Retrieved 9 December 2008. 
  3. ^ ""Discussion about The League of extraordinary Gentlement: "[...] The sign that bothered Miss Murray was partially seen in the panel. It had the name "Whitby" on it. Whitby is where much of the action in DRACULA takes place."". 1999-03-01. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  4. ^ Moore, Alan; O'Neill, Kevin (1953). The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Chapter 2: Ghosts and Miracle: Vertigo. ISBN 978-1-4012-4083-7. 
  5. ^ To the Far Blue Mountains by Louis L'Amour 1973 Chapter 3 Bantam Books ISBN 978-0-553-90007-1

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′25.56″N 0°3′4.15″W / 51.5071000°N 0.0511528°W / 51.5071000; -0.0511528