Deep & Meaningless London history pub crawl 2024

The annual Deep & Meaningless pub crawl took place on Saturday 15 June 2024. I was out of the house for 14 hours. I walked 14km and drank 14 alcoholic drinks (13 pints and a whisky) averaging 1km and one drink per hour.

The Deep & Meaningless pub crawl stems from Niall Hunt’s book. Pubs and drinking feature heavily (the hero is a journalist). In the early years we visited mainly pubs mentioned in the book. Sadly several have since closed. Now we have a new agenda each crawl.

The plan was to start at the Blind Beggar due to a connection with Niall and several other crawlers who hail from Evesham. Sadly the pub was shut when it said it would be open. So we went to the pub over the road. We cut out a pub later on but also had to divert when we realised one of our planned stops was also closed.

Pub 1, Pint 1

Pub 1: The White Hart, 1 Mile End Road, Whitechapel, London, E1 4T. Pint 1: McMullen best bitter

A pub that’s been standing since 1750 and re-built in c.1900. Sadly the mild was not available as the Landlord was only just up and open due to a big and late night Friday. Fair play to the guy for being so honest.

Chris Wheal and Niall Hunt in a pub

Early doors: Whealie and Niall

Pub 2, Pint 2

Pub 2. The Blind Beggar, 337 Whitechapel Rd, London E1 1BU, Pint 2: The Blind Beggar – its own beer, which turned out to be lager. No real ale.

The Evesham connection: Henry de Montfort was wounded and lost his sight in the Battle of Evesham in 1265 and he became the eponymous Blind Beggar. For beer lovers: “the former brewery tap of the Manns Albion brewery, where the first modern Brown Ale was brewed”. But also where Ronnie Kray murdered George Cornell. The bullet holes reman on display.

Men in pub garden

The Blind Beggar opened and has a huge garden area

Battle of Cable Street

The Cable Street mural to the anti-fascist battle of 1936 was, says Wikipedia, painted on the side of St George’s Town Hall by Dave Binnington (the designer), Paul Butler, Ray Walker and Desmond Rochfort between 1979 and 1983 to commemorate the Battle of Cable Street in 1936.

Planning for the mural began in 1976, when Dan Jones, secretary of the Tower Hamlets Trades Council, saw the Royal Oaks Mural under the Westway in west London, and asked the artist, Dave Binnington, to paint a mural in Cable Street.

A grant from the Arts Council allowed Binnington to do research before a public meeting in October 1978 to unveil his design. The local population were generally supportive, although a letter to a local paper described the proposed mural as “political graffiti”. Binnington also recruited Paul Butler to design the lower section. Many of the faces in the mural were inspired by newspaper pictures of people who took part in the battle.

The Battle of Cable Street took place on Sunday 4 October 1936 in Cable Street, as a result of opposition to a march by the British Union of Fascists led by Oswald Mosley. Anti-fascist protesters, including local Jewish, socialist, anarchist, Irish and communist groups, clashed with the Metropolitan Police, who attempted to remove the barricades erected to stop the march.

The uncompleted mural was vandalised on 23 May 1982, when right-wing slogans were painted on lower parts of the wall. Binnington abandoned the project in disgust. The top was completed to Binnington’s design, and the vandalised lower portions were sand-blasted and repainted to a modified design. The mural was completed in March 1983 and officially unveiled on 7 May 1983. The mural has been vandalised and restored several times and was restored again by Butler for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street in October 2011.

drinkers in front of mural

Forever fighting fascism

Pub 3, pint 3

Pub 3:Prospect of Whitby 57 Wapping Wall  E1W 3SH. Pint 3: The Prospect of Whitby’s own bitter

Built in 1520, this claims to be the oldest riverside tavern. Its 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 was originally frequented by those involved in life on the river and sea and it was a notorious haunt for smugglers, thieves and pirates! Other notable customers have been Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys, Judge Jeffries and artists Whistler and Turner.

Men outside Prospect of Whitby

I don’t fancy your prospects…

Wapping print battles

Wapping print dispute: On the 24th of January, 1986 Rupert Murdoch made 6,000 workers redundant by moving production for his media News International conglomerate, which produced papers such as The Times and The Sun, from Fleet Street to a new plant in Wapping.

The new plant became known as ‘Fortress Wapping’ on account of its high walls, razor wire, high tech security systems, and generally likeness to a penitentiary. ‘Fortress Wapping’ boasted the era’s most up to date computer systems, rendering print union workers redundant to the newspaper production process.

To protest at their redundancy, the print union workers organised pickets on Virginia Street, aiming to block distribution of the newspapers, as well as mass demonstrations which usually converged on The Highway in southern Wapping.

The worker’s pickets often ended in clashes with police, and Wapping became host to some serious violence, with over 1200 arrests made and over 500 police suffering injuries during the strike.

On the 5th of February 1987, the strikers were eventually defeated, the workers having failed to stop a single night of production.


Overground from Wapping to Rotherhithe, through Brunel’s tunnel to near the Brunel Museum. As well as building the world’s first tunnel through soft ground under a navigable river, the Brunels hosted the first underwater concert party here in 1827.

Pub 4, pint 4

Pub 4: The Mayflower,  117 Rotherhithe Street SE16 4NF. Pint 4 (and 5, with lunch): Southwark brewery Red.

Also claims to be the oldest pub on the River Thames. You can spot the original 1620 mooring point of the Pilgrim Father’s Mayflower ship.

Men in front of Mayflower pub

The beer pilgrims

The Pilgrim Fathers

History: Pilgrim Fathers. In American colonial history, settlers of Plymouth, Massachusetts, the first permanent colony in New England (1620). Of the 102 colonists, 35 were members of the English Separatist Church (a radical faction of Puritanism) who had earlier fled to Leiden, the Netherlands, to escape persecution at home. Seeking a more abundant life along with religious freedom, the Separatists negotiated with a London stock company to finance a pilgrimage to America. Approximately two-thirds of those making the trip aboard the Mayflower were non-Separatists, hired to protect the company’s interests; these included John Alden and Myles Standish.

These first settlers, initially referred to as the Old Comers and later as the Forefathers, did not become known as the Pilgrim Fathers until two centuries after their arrival. A chord was struck with the discovery of a manuscript of Gov. William Bradford referring to the “saints” who had left Holland as “pilgrimes.” At a commemorative bicentennial celebration in 1820, orator Daniel Webster used the phrase Pilgrim Fathers, and the term fell into common usage.

Pub 5, pint 6

Pub 5: The Angel 101 Bermondsey Wall E, SE16 4NB. Pint 6: Sam Smiths Old Brewery.

Grade II listed and dating from the 1830s, according to A London Inheritance. The listing states that the building potentially includes material from a 17th century building that occupied the same position.

Lad sat outside the Angel

The Angelic Upstarts

Salter of the earth

History: King Edward ? Manor House, Ada Salter Statue (president of the women’s Labour League). Ada Brown was born in 1866 and moved to Bermondsey to work in the slums in one of the Settlements established across London. Alfred Salter was a student at Guy’s Hospital when he met Ada at the Bermondsey Settlement.

They married in 1900 and lived in Bermondsey. Both Ada and Alfred worked tirelessly to improve conditions in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. Alfred was elected MP for Bermondsey in 1909, the same year as Ada was elected Mayor of Bermondsey. He was a Quaker and refused to serve in the forces being jailed nine times.

The first bus

We caught the C10 bus: The bus is London’s oldest form of public transport. The coachbuilder George Shillibeer began his service from Paddington to Bank in 1829, but unlike the long-established stage coach services, passengers did not need to book in advance and could hail the vehicle at any point on the route. Shillibeer called his service Omnibus (meaning ‘for all’ in Latin), though it was not affordable to most working people at the time. He gave us the abbreviation ‘bus’, now an internationally recognised term.

Pub 6, pint 7

Pub 6: The Royal Oak, Tabard St London SE1 4LF. Pint 7: Harvey’s Dark Mild. Harveys pub and CAMRA’s SE London pub of the year 2023 – The first London pub Harvey’s Brewery acquired. Located near to the site of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Tabard Inn, The Royal Oak seems to mirror, in a contemporary sense, the local ale drinking traditions that are recorded in his Canterbury Tales. Bought and kept by Harveys, the story goes, because old Mr Harvey’s grandma used to live near there. For years, every year he topped up the income of the pub owner, never letting it get done up.

Inside the Royal Oak

With their invisible friends – Harveys

The Winchester Geese

Crossbones graveyard for prostitutes: A paupers graveyard known as The Mint. The resting place for the Winchester Geese, medievel sex workers licensed by the Bishop of Winchester to work in Brothels of The Liberty and the Clink. Closed in 1853, with an estimated 15,000 paupers buried there. Dug up in the Jubilee Line extensions.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels location round the corner.

Pub 7, pint 8

Pub 7: The Market Porter 9 Stoney Street SE1 9AA. Pint 8: Harvey’s Best Bitter.

Men in the rain outside a pub

Getting wet on the outside as well as the inside

History: The Golden Hind was a galleon captained by Francis Drake in his circumnavigation of the world between 1577 and 1580. She was originally known as Pelican, but Drake renamed her mid-voyage in 1578, in honour of his patron, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose crest was a golden hind (a female red deer). Hatton was one of the principal sponsors of Drake’s world voyage.

The Bishop of Winchester

Wikipedia says Winchester Palace was a 12th-century bishop’s palace that served as the London townhouse of the Bishops of Winchester.

Southwark in the county of Surrey was formerly the largest manor in the Diocese of Winchester and the Bishop of Winchester was a major landowner in the area. He was a great power in the land, and traditionally served as the king’s royal treasurer, performing the function of the modern Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The Clink In 1129, Henry of Blois, brother to King Stephen (and grandson to William the Conqueror) was invested Bishop of Winchester, and became second in power only to the King himself. His Thames-fronted residence, Winchester Palace (of which The Rose Window of the Great Hall is still visible today), was completed in 1144 and contained two prisons within the palace grounds: one for men, and one for women. Thus Bankside became subject to the laws of ‘The Liberty (or jurisdiction) of the Bishop of Winchester’ (later the ‘Liberty of The Clink’) and was governed accordingly.

Pub 8, a whisky

Pub 8: The Anchor Bankside, 34 Park Street SE1 9EF.  Drink 9 a whisky (since the death of Iain Banks we have always toasted him and any others who have died since our last pub crawl).

The pub was rebuilt in 1676 after the great fire of London, is the sole survivor of the river taverns of Shakespeare’s time.)

Men outside the Anchor

You ‘Anchor!

Walk past Shakespeare’s Globe, Sam Wanamaker’s plaque, near the Tate Modern, across the Millennium Bridge, past National Firefighters’ memorial, St Paul’s Cathedral, and near the John Donne Memorial.

No man on a pub crawl is an island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

The Old Bailey

London’s Central Criminal Court, 1673-1913. The Old Bailey, also known as Justice Hall, the Sessions House, and from 1834 the Central Criminal Court, was named after the street in which it was located, just off Newgate Street and next to Newgate Prison, in the western part of the City of London.

Realised Ye Olde Mitre is closed. So divert to:

Pub 9, pint 9

Pub 9: The Viaduct, 126 Newgate Street, EC1 7AA. Pint 9: Fuller’s London Pride

Victorian pub, one-time jail and former gin palace with original gin booth and grand wall frescoes.

Men in pub with sunlight

The sun shines on the righteous

Wine Office

Wine Office Court (entrance to the Cheshire Cheese). Buildings in this alley gave licenses to sell wine. Excise Office was here up to 1665. Voltaire came and, says tradition, Congreve and Pope, Dr Johnson lived in Gough Square (end of the Court on the left), and finished his Great Dictionary there in 1755. Oliver Goldsmith lived at No.6 where he wrote “The Vicar of Wakefield” and Johnson saved him from eviction by selling the book for him.

Here came Johnson’s friends, Reynolds, Gibbon, Garrick, Dr Burney, Boswell and others of his circle.

In the 19th C. Came Carlyle, MacAulay, Tennyson, Dickens, (who mentions the Court in “A Tale of Two Cities”) Forster, Hood, Thackeray, Cruikshank, Leech and Wilkie Collins. More recently came Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, Conan Doyle, Beerbohm, Chesterton, Dowson, Le Gallienne, Symons, Yeats – and a host of others in search of Dr Johnson, or “The Cheese”.

Home the London Press Club (the first to do away with a requirement for gentlemen to wear ties, in the early 1960s):

Pub 10, pint 10

Pub 10: Ye Old Cheshire Cheese 145 Fleet Street EC4A 2BP Pint 10: Old Brewery

Probably the most famous pub in the world, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is one of London’s few remaining 17th Century chophouses. The sawdust on the floor is changed twice daily. Wooden bays provided by high-backed church pews and served by waiters. The site formed part of the 13th century Carmelite monastery and since 1538 a pub has stood here. The medieval pub was rebuilt in about 1667 after the Great Fire of London in 1666.

men in dark pub

Scotch egg anyone?

Fleet Street and journalism

The street became known for printing and publishing at the start of the 16th century and by the 20th century, most British national newspapers operated here. Much of the industry moved out in the 1980s after News International set up cheaper manufacturing premises in Wapping, but some former newspaper buildings are listed and have been preserved. The term Fleet Street remains a metonym for the British national press,

Take in St Bride’s Church (the Journalists’ Church but also in many films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral)

Pub11 pint 11

Pub 11: Punch Tavern 99 Fleet Street EC4Y 1DE. Pint 11: St Austell Tribute

Named in honour of the regular drinkers from the nearby Punch magazine office back in the 1840s.

Men outside the Punch Tavern

Punch drunk?

Pub 12, pint 12

Pub 12: The Blackfriar, 174 Queen Victoria Street EC4V 4EG. Pint 12: Timothy Taylor Landlord

Built in about 1875 on the site of a former medieval Dominican friary, and then remodelled in about 1905 by the architect Herbert Fuller-Clark. Much of the internal decoration was done by the sculptors Frederick T. Callcott & Henry Poole. The building was nearly demolished during a phase of redevelopment in the 1960s, until it was saved by a campaign spearheaded by poet Sir John Betjeman. It is on the Campaign for Real Ale’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors.

Men raising a glass

We few, we happy few

By this time three of us heading home decided to have one for the road.

Pub 13, pint 13

Pub 13: The Ship and Shovel, 1-3 Craven Passage WC2N 5PH. Pint 13: Badger Bitter.

A pub in two halves only linked by a tunnel in the cellars.

Three men in a bar

And then there were three

Here’s to next years’ Deep & Meaningless pub crawl. Cheers

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