The West India Dock Tavern

It is well known that there were once many pubs on the Island, but I still come across old pubs that I’ve never before heard of. One of those is the West India Dock Tavern, which was once at the southern end of Cold Harbour (very close to The Gun). Before talking about the pub, though, a little historical context…..

In 1800, the City of London Corporation completed the construction of a canal across the Isle of Dogs, with the intention of shortening sailing times between the City and the sea. Known as the City Canal, it ran from just north of the future City Arms (hence the pub name) to the location of the future Blue Bridge.

city canal

City Canal, 1800


City Canal


The City Canal was a financial failure, however. The need to negotiate locks at both ends meant sailing times were not significantly reduced. This, along with the fee to use the canal, made it unattractive to ship owners. A few years later, the West India Dock Company purchased the canal from the City of London Corporation, eventually combining it with the Timber Dock to form the West India South Dock.

city canal 2




In order to build the City Canal in the first place, the City had purchased land across the Island, some of which was no l0nger needed when the canal was completed. One such plot of land was at the southern end of Cold Harbour. It was here that Samuel Lovegrove built his tavern, completing construction in 1830.


1870 map (from Survey of London, The Athlone Press). No. 9 is the Fishing Smack pub, no. 27 is the Gun.

Note that the path of Cold Harbour road in this map differs from the present-day route. Today, the west-east section, close to the Gun, is further north. The bridge over the lock is also in a different location today. Here is a combination of the old and new, to help with visualisation:


1870 and 2010

In this only known image of Lovegrove’s West India Dock Tavern, the artist was looking west along the City Canal entrance lock. The bridge in the distance has just cleared the lock, and the lock bridge is visible on the left.

west-india-dock-tavern-b1830-coldharbour 15065135562

West India Dock Tavern

The tavern was large and attractive, and – one would have thought – in a perfect location for attracting trade. But, it was not a success, and after Lovegrove died in the 1840s the tavern could not be sold. After years of dereliction, it was demolished in 1854. Timber firm, Lenantons took over the site in 1870s and used it for storage and boat-building.

This photo, taken by Peter Wright not so long ago, shows approximately the same view. Approximately, because precisely the same view today would be obscured by the Blue Bridge, and Peter Wright would be in the river (the entrance to the lock is much wider these days).


Equivalent view today

A row of houses was built on the site of the tavern in 1890, a row that is still standing (quite remarkable by Island standards). I took this photo of the row almost a year ago, after Con Maloney and I had enjoyed a couple of pints in the Gun (we couldn’t afford more than a couple).

Cold Harbour, 2013

Cold Harbour, 2013

The West India Dock Tavern has a very short history, but now I’m going to have to update my Island pub article at:

And the pub map at:

As well as finding out more about other recently-discovered Island pubs and beer houses: Glendower, Highland Mary, King’s Arms, Waterman’s Lodge and Black Boy……

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3 Responses to The West India Dock Tavern

  1. Veronica Treen says:

    Hello from Western Australia. Thanks so much for creating this post. An ancestor of my husband’s sailed from Blackwall Reach to Australind in 1840 with a team of surveyors on board the schooner Island Queen. Prior to their departure a collation was held at Lovegrove’s West India Tavern. I have tried to research Lovegrove’s in the past but could find nothing online. I was thrilled to come across your blog post not only with information about Lovegrove’s but a fantastic overview of the whole area. Thanks very much. Great work. Veronica

    • That’s great Veronica, it’s thrilling for me to read that a blog article can mean something like this to someone. If there’s any more information you need about the area, don’t hesitate to ask. Cheers. Mick

  2. Pingback: You say Coldharbour, I say Cold Harbour | Isle of Dogs – Past Life, Past Lives

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