Update, September 2017: A lot more photos and updated information (including the odd newspaper article) have emerged since this article was originally posted in 2014. The article has been updated to include these. I’ve also tried to arrange the photos in chronological order, and give credit to their sources.
This is a photographic record (plus the odd drawing or painting) of all the original pubs on the Island. By original, I mean that they were around before 1980, before the LDDC and Canary Wharf. By 1980, many had already disappeared, and I am sorry to say that most of the rest have disappeared since then.
The title of the article refers to pubs and beer houses, and I should explain what a beer house is. In Victorian times, it was permitted to sell beer without getting a license. Unfortunately, a side effect of this was that beer houses were never inspected, and became renowned as dens of vice and crime. The law was quickly changed to make sure that all premises were licensed, but most Island pubs were beer houses at one time. The exceptions were the grander establishments such as the Queen, Cubitt Arms or Lord Nelson. From the start, these were large, licensed premises aimed at the well-to-do (who were not actually to be found in any appreciable numbers on the Island); they were all to be found around Cubitt Town.
The photos come from numerous sources – too numerous for me to know – but I must express my thanks for the very many photos taken by Tony Alltoft, Peter Wright and Steve White, as well as those from the Island History Trust collection. The map extracts accompanying each pub entry are mostly from the 1890s Ordnance Survey series.
I thought this would be an easy and lazy post: mostly photos, not that much text, more of a photo blog really. It turned out to take a lot more time and effort than I expected, but then I do think the results have made it worth it. Potentially, this post has turned into the definitive inventory of the pubs on the Island.
Pubs Featured in this Article
Showing year of opening and closure (occasionally estimated)
Anchor & Hope (1829-2005), Courage
Blacksmiths Arms (1895-2001), Watney/Trumans
Builders Arms (1864-1940), Whitbread
City Arms (1811-2012), Mann, Crossman & Paulin
Cubitt Arms (1864-2011), Truman
Dock House (1850-1937)
Dorset Arms (1860-1997), Mann, Crossman & Paulin
Ferry House (1700-present), Courage
Fishing Smack (1700s-1948)
Folly House Tavern (1753-1875)
George (1865-present), Watney
Glendower, 296-298 West Ferry Rd (dates unknown, no images)
Glengall Arms (1830-1932)
Great Eastern I (1860-1940), Charrington
Gun (1722-present), Taylor Walker
Gut House (1600s-1810)
Highland Mary, 252-254 West Ferry Rd (dates unknown, no images)
Ironmongers Arms (1860-1920)
King’s Arms, on river wall at present-day New Atlas Wharf (dates unknown)
Kingsbridge Arms (1839-2004), Whitbread
London Tavern (1860-1960), Charrington
Lord Nelson (1855-present), Charrington
Magnet & Dewdrop (1850-1995), Watney Combe Reid
Manchester Arms (1858-1941), Taylor Walker
Mechanics Arms (1818-1920)
Millwall Docks Tavern (1869-1940), Taylor Walker
Millwall Tap (aka Vulcan Arms), 112 West Ferry Rd (dates unknown, no images)
North Pole (1860-2014), Watney/Truman
Pier Tavern (1863-2013), Whitbread
Pride of the Isle (1846-1960), Mann, Crossman & Paulin
Prince Alfred (1870-1940), Truman
Prince of Wales (1859-1940), Mann, Crossman & Paulin
Princess of Wales (1862-1970), Charrington
Queen (1855-2004), Whitbread
Robert Burns (1853-1991), Truman
Ship (1835-present), Watney
Tooke Arms (1853-present), Watney
Torrington Arms (1856-1910), Ind Coope
Union Arms (1830-1960)
Vulcan (1882-1992), Taylor Walker
Watermans Arms I (1813-1920)
Watermans Arms II (1853-present), Taylor Walker
Waterman’s Lodge, Totnes Cottages (dates unknown, no images)
West India Dock Tavern, Cold Harbour (1830-1840)
Anchor & Hope
41 West Ferry Rd. Opened as a beer house in 1829, and closed in 2005. The building was recently renovated and turned into flats (which involved the sad death of one of the construction workers), but the exterior still retains some semblance of its former self.
25 West Ferry Rd. Opened as a beer house around 1895, and converted to a restaurant in 2001 (named ‘Rogue Trader’, but later renamed ‘Aniseed’).
99 Stebondale St. Opened in 1864, and described as destroyed in WWII (although the wartime photo in this album does show that at least the shell of the building survived the 1940 blitz raids that flattened the rest of Stebondale St).
The pub was built by Jonathan Billson, who also built 26 other houses on Stebondale St. The location was the corner of Stebondale St and a short extension of Billson St which was originally planned to extend further into what became Millwall Park, to meet an extended Douglas Street (later Douglas Place). The collapse of the 1870s house building market on the Island put paid to these plans. The Whitbread brewery extensively rebuilt and enlarged the premises in 1891. The LCC purchased the site of the Builder’s Arms in 1965 so it could be incorporated into Millwall Park.
City Arms (aka City Pride)
1 West Ferry Rd. The original City Arms opened in approximately 1811 by the owner of the former Gut House. The current building opened in 1936, closed at the start of 2012, and was demolished in October of the same year. At the time of writing (March 2013), there are plans to build a high-rise residential building on the site.
The City Arms was renamed to City Pride in the 1980’s.
262 Manchester Rd. Opened in 1864 and closed in 2011. The pub was built by Henry Smallman, also responsible for building The Queen. The building exterior is far plainer than originally, with the more ornate features removed in the 1960’s.
26 Cuba St (corner of Alpha Rd). Opened as a beer house c1850, and demolished in 1937 when this road junction was annexed by Millwall Docks.
377-379 Manchester Rd. Four houses were built by James & Richard Bowley between 1860 and 1864 in a row known as “Dorset Terrace”. In 1860, James Bowley obtained a license to sell ale and beer at no. 377. Twenty years later the beer house was extended to include no. 379. By this time it was already known as the Dorset Arms.
In 1913, the two houses were demolished, replaced by the public house that was present until its closure in 1997 and subsequent demolition.
26 Ferry St. In 1700, the ferry to Greenwich departed from an area which was not much more than farmland. There was a starch factory near the ferry landing, and when this closed around 1740, the premises were rebuiilt/renamed to become the Ferry House – probably serving refreshments to ferry passengers. The present Ferry House was built in 1822, making it certainly the oldest (still existing) pub on the Island, and one of the oldest buildings.
9 Coldharbour. A pub was present at this location in the 1750s, then known as the Fishermans Arms. It was rebuilt in 1893, and then demolished in 1948.
Folly House Tavern
In August 1753 Thomas Davers, esquire, of the Middle Temple, acquired the copyhold of 1½ acres of the Osier Hope, a parcel of riverside land south of Blackwall, where he built, ‘at vast expense, a little fort . . . known by the name of Daver’s folly’. In financial difficulty, Davers surrendered his property in August 1754.
The first occupant to sell liquor was Henry Annis, who became copyholder in 1755 and obtained a licence in 1758. The name Folly House first occurs in 1763. Nothing is known of the original structure, which was apparently altered by Annis by 1757. Additional buildings for the accommodation of ‘Friends and Customers’ were erected in the mid-1760s by William Mole, who also made use of the surrounding foreland as a garden. Perhaps because of its convenient riverside location between Greenwich and Blackwall, the Folly House was a popular venue for whitebait suppers throughout the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
When the property was auctioned by Mole’s widow around 1788 it contained a variety of rooms ‘for the accommodation of genteel company’, an extensive pleasure- and kitchen-garden, a paved causeway, and a landing-place leading to a terrace of 186ft in front of the river.
In 1800 possession of the Folly House and surrounding land passed to Benjamin Granger, the Blackwall coal merchant, who appears to have added to the existing group of buildings almost immediately. A plan of 1817 shows the public house, its outbuildings and gardens (which at the time included a cockpit), with smaller buildings flanking to the north and south. Pictorial representations of the Folly House of this period are somewhat inconsistent and the tavern may have been considerably altered or even rebuilt on a number of occasions. However, the evidence indicates that it was a two-storey main building of three bays facing the river, with a shallow gable roof surmounted by a balustraded balcony. The building was extended to the south, further away from the riverside, where the terrace featured a row of triangular shelters or bowers for patrons.
Further alterations and additions to the property in the 1830s and 1850s included the building of a new causeway, 60ft long. The tavern enjoyed a resurgence in business with the growth of shipbuilding yards on the riverfront in the 1850s and 1860s, until it was closed in 1875. The building was later incorporated into the premises of Yarrow’s.
– British History Online
114 Glengall Grove. Opened in 1865, rebuilt in 1932, and still doing business. The original building was erected in 1864–5 by George Read, who was also responsible for 57 houses in Glengall Grove. Its prominent position close to the docks and Millwall Docks station was exploited by its landlords: rooms were available for businessmen’s meetings and dining rooms and a large billiards room for their relaxation.
In 1889–90 William Clark, the licensee, was instrumental in relocating Millwall Rovers football club, which then became Millwall Athletic, at a new ground nearby (approximately where ASDA is now located), and the George became the club’s headquarters. In 1895 Clark’s successor, Lewis Innocent, mortgaged the premises to Watney Combe Reid, which acquired the freehold in 1927. In 1932 the building was demolished and replaced by the present structure.
296-298 West Ferry Rd (dates unknown). Mentioned in trade directories around the time of the construction of the Great Eastern – one of many pubs or beer houses profiting from the ship’s construction.
367 West Ferry Rd. Opened in the late 1830s, built by Henry Bradshaw, a local grazier. Over the next few years Bradshaw added some very small cottages at the back of the public house, built terraced houses along the main road and the new Cahir Street, and more cottages along Marsh Street.
The Glengall Arms was bought in 1925 by the London Diocesan Fund for use as a priest’s lodging and clubhouse in connection with St Cuthbert’s Church. It was acquired by the LCC in 1932 and demolished, together with nearby houses, for public housing developments (Arethusa House and other flats on Cahir St).
395 West Ferry Rd from c1860 to c1940.
27 Cold Harbour. First named the King & Queen (in 1722), the pub was also known as the Ramsgate Pink, and then Rose & Crown, before getting its current name in 1771. The building we see today is 19th century.
West Ferry Rd (approx. at site of City Arms). In 1660, the Thames breached the river embankment (thanks to gravel quarrying in the vicinity), and after repair there remained a large inland pond known as the Poplar Gut. The Gut House was built on the site of the breach, and did business until approximately 1810 when the owner had to make way for the new City Canal. He acquired land close by and built the first City Arms there.
252-254 West Ferry Rd (dates unknown). Mentioned in trade directories around the time of the construction of the Great Eastern – one of many pubs or beer houses profiting from the ship’s construction.
210 West Ferry Rd. The Barnfield Estate, not much more than a marsh on the Isle of Dogs, was purchased by the Ironmongers’ Company in 1730. In the 1850s the owners commenced with house building on the estate, including three public houses within a very short distance of each other on the West Ferry Rd: Magnet & Dewdrop, Ironmongers’ Arms and The Vulcan. (Actually, technically, only the Ironmongers Arms was a public house, the other two were beer houses.) The Ironmonger’s Arms survived until at least 1921.
3-5 Tooke St, opened c1880. The Islanders was more usually named by locals as Sexton’s, after the landlord Maurice John Sexton. It retained the nickname long after he had gone. The pub was best known as the first headquarters of Millwall Football Club in its early days around 1885. The Islanders was destroyed in an air-raid during the blitz, in the early hours of 7 September 1940.
The Islander Public House in Tooke Street Tooke Street looking towards Alpha Grove on the Bank Holiday of 6 May 1935, this was a street party heldto celebrate King George V’s Jubilee. The Islander Public House, built around 1858, became the first HQ of Millwall Football Club.The owners of the JT Morton jam and marmalade factory in West Ferry Road formed them as Millwall Rovers in 1885. The owners of the factory had recruited extensively for workers in Scotland. Hence most of the team’s early members came from north of the border and thus the club immediately adopted the Scottish flag’s rampant lion as its motif. At a meeting held in the Islanders pub it was decided to call the new team Millwall Rovers. The Islander was used as their changing roomsin their first season. At this time it was more generally known as “Sextons” after the landlord Maurice John Sexton, this nickname continued well after he had gone. On Sept 7th 1940, during the world war two blitz, the pub and many of the surrounding houses in Tooke Street were destroyed by a high explosive bomb. Tooke Street was cleared of housing in the 1960’s and the street no longer exists. The picture was given to us by Arthur Ayres, along with two other pictures of the party taken from his home in Tooke Street opposite the Islander pub. These are the only known pictures in existence of this much-loved old pub and we thank Arthur for bringing them to light after so many years.
– Peter Wright
Only recorded on maps, with the accompanying King’s Arms Stairs, nothing is known about this pub (to me at least). First mentioned in this 1835 newspaper clipping, and accessible only via the Mill Wall, then still a public path on top the embankment that ‘circled’ the Island.
By the 1860s it seemed even more inaccessible.
And by 1875 there was no sign of the pub, but – intriguingly – there is note of a brewery. I’ve seen a photo of a beerhouse on Westferry Road apparently belonging to this brewery, but know precious little about it. A few years later there was no longer mention of pub or brewery.
154 & 156 West Ferry Rd. First mentioned in 1839, it was demolished in 2004.
393 Manchester Rd, built on the corner of Glengall Rd and Manchester Rd in 1860 by Charles Davis, who was responsible also for building the Pier Tavern.
For a brief period during the 1880s and 1890s the London Tavern was a ‘cooperative public house’ managed by a society. Local police inspector Carter described to to Charles Booth in an 1897 ‘perambulation’ around the Island as: “neat and well-kept appearance from the outside…..run by a cooperative society, ‘the only known of in London’ said Carter, ‘and respectably kept’.”
The pub survived WWII and was closed in 1954. After that it survived into the 60s as a one-storey shell.
1 Manchester Rd. The Lord Nelson was built in 1855 and is one the few remaining original Island pubs that is still doing business. Originally there was a statue of Lord Nelson on the roof corner, but this and other ornate features have been removed.
In 1884 the Lord Nelson also served as the business premises of the “Millwall & Cubitt Town Omnibus Co.”
In 1886, Millwall Rovers left their Millwall headquarters at The Islanders pub in Tooke St, and moved to the Nelson. For the next 4 years the team played at a ground behind the pub (where Manchester Grove is now located).
Magnet & Dewdrop
194 West Ferry Rd. This pub was re-named the Telegraph in 1985. It closed in 1995 and was demolished in 2001.
308 Manchester Road (corner of Samuda St). This pub was built in 1858 and was badly damaged in an air raid in around 1941 – and subsequently demolished.
18 West Ferry Rd. Built on the corner of Regent’s Wharf as a beer house in 1818. It was still standing in the 1920s. Approximate location:
Millwall Docks Tavern & Hotel
West Ferry Rd, by the Millwall Dock entrance just north of Kingsbridge. This pub opened in 1869 and was destroyed in the blitz.
The North Pole
74 Manilla St. The North Pole occupies four house plots fronting Dolphin Lane, which were originally sold by Robert Batson in 1808–9 but remained unbuilt upon until the 1860s, until a beer house was built. The present shop-front dates from 1913. The pub closed in 2014, but the building remains in place.
283 Manchester Rd. This pub was built in 1863 and converted to a restaurant in March 2013. The restaurant has since closed.
Pride of the Isle
20 Havannah St (corner of Cheval St). This pub was built in 1846, and appeared in the 1960s film ‘Sparrows Can’t Sing’, although it was renamed The Red Lion in the film. It was demolished in the 1960s to make room for the Barkantine Estate.
22 Tobago St. The Prince Alfred beer house (aka The Ash Bucket) was rebuilt as a pub in 1906 for Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Company.
Prince of Wales
2 Folly Wall. Built by 1859, was in poor order by the 1910s, and destroyed by WWII bombing.
Princess of Wales
84 Manchester Rd. Known locally as “Mac’s”, this substantial pub was built in 1862. It was closed at the end of the 1960’s in connection with the demolishing of a long stretch of Manchester Rd to make room for George Green’s school.
571 Manchester Rd. This pub was built in 1855 and was was called the Queen. In its latter days it was owned by Allied Breweries and in the 1980s it was called Queens for a while, and finally Queen of the Isle from 1995. It was demolished in 2004.
248 & 250 West Ferry Rd. This pub was present by 1853, and closed in 1991. The building now houses a mosque, a community centre and a take-away food outlet.
290 West Ferry Rd. In the 1830s, houses along West Ferry Rd, close to Maconochie’s Wharf, were built. Two were later rebuilt as The Ship public house, which is still doing business.
165 West Ferry Rd. This pub was present by 1853, at the corner of West Ferry Rd and Janet St. It was rebuilt at a location approximately 40 yards further along West Ferry Rd in 1970.
34 West Ferry Rd. Present since 1856, the Torrington Arms was built by the Spratley family from Stepney (who later moved to the Folly House) along with a number of small houses. These houses were pulled down in the 1890s or 1900s. The Torrington Arms, albeit de-licensed, but after 1909 was described as fit only for demolition.
Union Arms (aka Pin & Cotter)
Built in the 1830s and still doing business in 1960. Postal address was 102 West Ferry Rd, but it was some yards up a narrow road which was an extension of (and named) Mellish St, sometimes named Union Rd.
Union Road, dividing the Tooke and Mellish estates, was a narrow way with a lay-by to enable two carts to pass each other; it was little more than an access to the iron works on either side. The Union was the last of a row of small houses built by Henry Bradshaw probably in the mid-1830s.
The Union and the house next door were knocked into one in about 1866, at the height of Millwall’s prosperity. Subsequently the premises fell into disrepair, and in 1914 were rebuilt for Truman Hanbury & Company by W. Pringle of Bow to the designs of Bruce J. Capell. Cheaply fitted out, the new Union was a typical beerhouse of its date, the upper front cement-rendered and painted, the ground-floor front faced with glazed green tiling. There were two public bars, divided by a screen. III-placed to attract any ‘jug trade’, the Union nevertheless survived until the Second World War. It was still standing, albeit in a ruinous condition, in 1960.
– British History Online
240 West Ferry Rd. The Vulcan was established by 1882 and was named to reflect the heavy industry prevalent in the area at the time. By 1992 all the industry had gone and the pub closed, becoming a grocer’s store and then a restaurant.
Waterman’s Arms (formerly Newcastle Arms)
1 Glenaffric Avenue (formerly Newcastle St). The pub was built in 1853, and was then known as the Newcastle Arms – it was extensively remodelled in the 1930s and renamed Waterman’s Arms in 1962. In 2011, this pub was renamed the Great Eastern.
In 1962 it achieved fashionable status when writer and broadcaster Dan Farson became the licensee. Farson’s declared aim was to create something of an old-time music-hall atmosphere. For a time the Waterman’s Arms enjoyed a ‘trendy’ reputation, with many famous visitors and performers.
Waterman’s Arms (the original)
6 West Ferry Rd. In 1813 George Henn, a ship-chandler, built a beer house, later called the Waterman’s or Watermen’s Arms. It survived until at least 1921.
West India Dock Tavern
Cold Harbour, 1830-40 (approx)
Beer house at the end of Claude St, close to Millwall Pier, in a jumble of wooden structures built around the windmill (which was built in 1701). The windmill and all the buildings were burnt down in January 1884.