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, and the pub features eighteenth century panelling and a nineteenth century facade.[1] The pub has a pewter-top bar, and is decorated with many nautical objects.[2][3] 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,[citation needed] scourge of the Monmouth Rebellion. He lived nearby[citation needed] and a replica gallows and noose hangs by the Thameside 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 John Stow it was "The usual place for hanging of pirates and sea-rovers, at the low-water mark, and there to remain till three tides had overflowed them". Execution Dock was actually by Wapping Old Stairs and generally used for pirates.[4][5][6] In the eighteenth century, the first fuchsia plant in the United Kingdom was sold at the pub.[7]

Views from the pub were sketched by both Turner and Whistler.[8]

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 ship took sea coal from Newcastle upon Tyne to London.[7][9] The Prospect was listed as a Grade II listed building in December 1950.[10] The pub underwent a renovation in 1951 to double the interior space.[11] In January 1953, the pub was raided by armed robbers.[12] The pub has been visited by Princess Margaret and Prince Rainier III of Monaco.[13]

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 video for Gilbert O'Sullivan's 1970 hit Nothing Rhymed was shot here as he was living close by in a bedsit when he wrote the song.

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.[14][15]

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.

The pub also serves as the location for a scene in D-Day the Sixth of June (1956) and the final scenes in The Old Guard (2020).[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Inwood, Stephen (June 2012). Historic London: An Explorer's Companion. Pan Macmillan. ISBN 9780230752528. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  2. ^ Paris, Natalie (18 April 2013). "England's great pubs". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  3. ^ Fodor's London 2016. Fodor's Travel Guides. 2016. ISBN 9781101878880. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  4. ^ The Thames Tunnel, Ratcliff Highway and Wapping, Old and New London: Volume 2 (1878), pp. 128–37 Retrieved 29 March 2007
  5. ^ Manners, Jamie (October 2015). The Seven Noses of Soho: And 191 Other Curious Details from the Streets of London. Michael O'Mara Books. ISBN 9781782434627. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  6. ^ Smith, Oliver (18 February 2016). "London's 11 most notorious public execution sites". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  7. ^ a b Farman, John (May 2012). The Very Bloody History of London. Random House. ISBN 9781448121168. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  8. ^ Attwooll, Jolyon (22 February 2016). "London's best historical pubs: the ultimate tour". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  9. ^ "London Pubs". Knowledge of London. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  10. ^ Historic England. "Prospect of Whitby Public House (1357505)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
  11. ^ "The Prospect of Whitby". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 17 September 1951. p. 2. Retrieved 11 September 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  12. ^ "Jail for Prospect of Whitby Raiders". Yorkshire Evening Post. 19 March 1953. p. 7. Retrieved 11 September 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  13. ^ Harris, Pearl. "The Historic Pubs of London". Time Travel Britain. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  14. ^ Nevins, Jess (10 March 2002). "Notes on League of Extraordinary Gentlemen #2". Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  15. ^ Moore, Alan; O'Neill, Kevin (1953). The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Chapter 2: Ghosts and Miracle: Vertigo. ISBN 978-1-4012-4083-7.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  16. ^ "IMDB Trivia about The Old Guard (2020 film)". IMDb. Retrieved 19 December 2020.

External links[edit]

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