Historical London Walk Pubs and Pirates

from Tower of London to Canary Wharf

3 hours

Walking a part of London rarely visited by tourists we tell the compelling and fascinating story of the development of the London docks. By the 19th century London had become the most important trading city in the world.

Everything imaginable was imported spices, tea, furs, carpets and the storage facilities were vast. There was enough rum stored to make the entire country drunk, enough indigo to dye the Thames blue and a store big enough to house 250,000 mutton carcasses at any one time.

Pubs and Pirates London Walking Tour
A friendly pirate at Execution Dock

But there is more to this walk than the story of trade. Discover a darker side of London life. A life where pirates and crooks abound and where the law showed no mercy to those caught in the act. We visit the site of Execution Dock, tell the story of the very first police force in London and reveal the fate that befell those found guilty of piracy.

If this area fascinates us today, it was no less so to writers and painters in the past. Charles Dickens, William Hogarth and JMW Turner were frequent visitors. In fact Turner was said to have owned a pub, the Old Star in this area.

Sticking to the riverside path this walk runs from the familiar splendour of St Pauls to the less familiar waterfront at Wapping. As we revisit the haunts of the press gangs, pirates and their pursuers we pass pubs such as the Town of Ramsgate, the Grapes and the Prospect of Whitby, which have changed little in the intervening years.

Much of this walk is along the Thames Path and so for large sections we are well away from the noise and bustle of the traffic.

Pubs and Pirates London Walking Tour
The Prospect of Whitby, formerly known as the Devil’s Tavern
Pubs and Pirates London Walking Tour
Tobacco Dock
Pubs and Pirates London Walking Tour
Outside The Town of Ramsgate in Wapping High Street

Did you know?

  • Queenhithe is the only surviving Saxon inlet on the modern waterfront and will be familiar to fans on The Lavender Hill Mob – it is here that Alec Guiness falls into the Thames to be rescued by two police officers.
  • St Katherine Docks were once famous for the import of sea shells, amongst other goods. The question is, why import shells??
  • Wapping started life as a Saxon settlement – the place of Waeppa’s people.
  • The Town of Ramsgate pub was once known as The Red Cow – apparently this was a reference to the landlady!
  • If you were found guilty of piracy you were hanged on a short rope. This was a particularly cruel punishment as it took a long time for the victim to die of strangulation.
  • Offenders hanged at Execution Dock had the right to drink two pints of beer just before their execution.
  • JMW Turner owned a pub in Wapping called the Old Star – it is said he painted the Fighting Temeraire from this spot.

Tour Gallery A few snaps from our recent Pubs and Pirates tours.

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