Founded in 1520 during the time of King Henry VIII, the Prospect of Whitby lays claim to be London’s oldest riverside pub.
Although the original building burnt down in the 18th century, pints were being poured on the site of Wapping’s Prospect of Whitby 146 years before the Great Fire of London.
Where once smugglers and fishermen brought ashore their bounty, today the Prospect of Whitby’s riverside setting makes it a popular destination for today’s bankers and high financiers from across the water at Canary Wharf.
The Thameside pub was originally known as the Pelican and later the Devil’s Tavern, owing to it’s salubrious history of close to 500 years of patronage by smugglers, thieves, politicians and pirates. The Prospect of Whitby is reckoned to have been named after a ship of the same name that regularly docked beside the pub.
In whatever guise, the Prospect of Whitby has survived the reigns of several Kings and Queens of England including each of your King Jameses, all your King Georges and Charleses and both of your Queen Elizabeths.
From the Great Fire and the Black Death to the Napoleonic wars and the 2 World Wars and one World Cup of the 20th Century, many years of murder, death and macabre misadventures have characterised this unique establishment.
The pub is believed to have played host to Captain Kidd who met his end at nearby Execution Dock. Hanged for murder and piracy, his body was left hanging in chains for the next 3 years as a decomposing warning to anyone entering London’s Docklands. Indeed the infamous “Hanging” Judge Jeffreys, known for his eagerness to match fellons with their maker, regularly enjoyed the view across to Rotherhithe prior to his capture by the mob and death at the Tower of London.
Public executions were once a popular pass time akin to a spectator sport in London, and Wapping’s Execution Dock was up there with the Tyburn Tree as one of the city’s great venues for a gallows. Aside from providing refreshment for the public at hangings, the Prospect of Whitby also played host to bloody bare-knuckle boxing bouts.
Today, the pub’s long pewter bar serves pale ale hopped by ingredients unimaginable to guests of yore like Dickens, Pepys and many of the ghosts that may or may not shiver the Prospect’s timbers. Legend has it that the more pints a punter purchases, the more likely a spectre is to reveal himself to the merry imbiber.
Beers from local Woolwich craft brewers Hop Stuff are served to tourists and locals next to impressive views of the Thames from the pub’s several beer terraces and function rooms.
The Prospect of Whitby in Wapping is a monument to London’s gruesome history as a great tidal dock and a great place for a pint by the riverside.
The Prospect of Whitby, 57 Wapping Wall, St Katharine’s & Wapping, London, E1W 3SH