Monopoly: The Pubs of Whitechapel Road

My first post of 2010 (as many as three posts ago) was focused on the Monopoly board, so now that 2011 has come, perhaps it’s time for the second property along, which is Whitechapel Road, completing the brown set. Of course, rents along this thoroughfare of E1 are more than £60 now, but even having shed its 19th century reputation for criminality (a time when there were prominent slums in the area, and Jack the Ripper was committing his crimes), it’s still a relatively impoverished area. Moreover, where the community had originally comprised Jews from Spain and Portugal in the 17th century onwards (with a new influx of Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews in the 19th century), it has since the late-20th century given way to primarily Bangladeshi immigrants, and is now dominated by the smells of the many restaurants and the vibrant colours of the clothing shops and stalls of the street market (which can be found most days along the main part of the road near the Tube station).

The Blind Beggar (Whitechapel E1)
Figure 78. The Blind Beggar (Whitechapel E1).

Remaining Pubs

Of course, like any historically working class area, there were many pubs. Only a handful are still trading (one of which, The Nag’s Head, is a seedy-looking ‘gentleman’s venue’), and it seems as if more close with every passing year — only in the past year has The Grave Maurice closed, while Bar Nakoda (formerly The Black Bull) could be listed in the Good Beer Guide as recently as 2009.

Most well-known of those which are left is probably The Blind Beggar (Whitechapel E1, fig. 78), at the Eastern end of the road, just before it turns into Mile End Road. As the building itself makes clear, it was built in 1894, but like many Victorian public houses, it replaces a much older structure, and the pub has existed on the site since the 17th century. It is named for a popular tale of a nobleman who was reduced to poverty after being blinded in battle, and came to beg in the area; the rather elaborated story (as depicted on the pub’s sign, and set out in a 17th century play, The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green) has him subsequently being taken in by a noblewoman.1 Latterly, it became famous for being the location of William Booth’s first public sermon (against the vices harboured within), leading him to create the Salvation Army, and for being the site of a 1965 murder committed by local gangster Ronnie Kray.2

Of the other remaining pubs, there’s a pub aiming for a younger demographic called Indo as well as a rather gaudily-painted pub, the LHT Urban Bar, alongside the Royal London Hospital (accounting for the pub’s original name, The London Hospital Tavern). The only other drinking destination is more of a bar and music venue, The Rhythm Factory, though it was a key venue for the early-2000s rise of such bands as the Libertines and The Others.

Closed Pubs

Obviously, being predominantly Islamic, there is little call for pubs from the Bangladeshi population, and this may account for the relative few which remain. However, there are still quite a few remnants of a more alcohol-saturated history, even if those former drinking dens which can still be spotted lack the grandeur of the greatest Victorian pubs. Ground floors have been gutted for shops (as with small pubs such as The Lord Napier and The Lord Rodney’s Head, among others), though the larger building of The Royal Oak still leaves an imposing trace.

Probably the most striking former pub, mainly for not having had its ground floor (yet) replaced by plate glass, is Bar Nakoda (Whitechapel E1, formerly the Black Bull, fig. 79). The pub dates back several centuries, but has been rebuilt in mock-Tudor style in the early part of the 20th century.

Bar Nakoda (Whitechapel E1), now closed
Figure 79. Bar Nakoda (Whitechapel E1), now closed, formerly The Black Bull.

Footnotes:

[1] Taken from T.F.T. Baker (ed.), “Bethnal Green: Settlement and Building to 1836,” A History of the County of Middlesex, vol. 11, Stepney, Bethnal Green, pp. 91-95 (1998, online), accessed 18 January 2011. Further information from J.P. Alcock, London Inn Signs (Stroud: Tempus, 2007), pp. 28-29.
[2] More information on Wikipedia.

Appendix. List of Whitechapel Road pubs.

NORTH SIDE
5. The Angel and Crown. Demolished.
11-13. The Two Bells. Demolished.
17-19. The Nag’s Head (originally The Nag’s Head and Woolpack, on the same site). Still trading, albeit as a strip pub.
53-55. The King’s Arms. Demolished.
97-99. The Dolphin. Demolished.
133. Indo (formerly Ye Olde Blue Anchor and originally The Blue Anchor). Still trading.
181. The Duke’s Head (originally The Duke of Cumberland). Demolished.
187. The Pavilion. Still standing, now a shop called The Money Shop.
199. The Black Bull. Still standing, since known as Bar Nakoda, now a restaurant called Bombay Grill.
217. The Old Red Lion (originally The Red Lion). Still standing, now a shop called Sidhu.
233. The Star and Garter. Still standing, now a takeaway called Whitechapel Fried Chicken.
235. The Lord Napier. Still standing, now a shop.
269. The Grave Maurice (for a time called Q Bar at the Grave Maurice). Still standing, now a bookmakers.
285. The Lord Rodney’s Head (later Flunky Monkey, originally The Rodney’s Head). Still standing, now a shop called Shoe Box.
299. The Lord Nelson. Still standing, now a shop called Keya.
317. The Queen’s Head. Still standing, now a bookmakers.
337. The Blind Beggar. Still trading.
345. The Duke of Cambridge. Demolished.

SOUTH SIDE
14. The Old George (originally The George and Dragon or The George, on the same site). Still standing, since a sandwich shop, but now closed.
16-18. Rhythm Factory. Still trading.
78. The Veteran. Demolished.
100. The East London (originally The Earl of Effingham). Demolished.
120. The Royal Oak. Still standing, now a shop called Audiostar.
142. The Earl of Aberdeen. Still standing, now a shop.
176. LHT Urban Bar (originally The London Hospital Tavern). Still trading.
214. The Earl of Warwick. Demolished.

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8 responses to “Monopoly: The Pubs of Whitechapel Road

  1. Hi Ewan,
    Feel free to use any of the street changes, road renumbering over time, etc – Whitechapel 200 years ;
    Best
    Kevan

  2. Thanks, I did indeed check those helpful lists when compiling my appendix!

  3. Ah, I miss the Lord Rodney’s Head. Fantastic boozer, lined with tongue and groove panelling, loads of old clocks, Bar Billiards and a barman who looked like the Sgt Major in ‘Zulu’. I think the name of the bar that replaced it was actually spelled ‘Funkee Munkee’ , which somehow makes the demise of one of the East End’s best pubs even worse.

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  5. blackwatertown

    Not a great area for bars – been in the Blind beggar and the UHT Urban Bar (which was friendly).
    But there’s a great great great curry house – called Tayyabs just round the corner on Fieldgate Street – it’s a treat for the taste buds and a lot of fun. Very busy, but good. I was there last week. I recommend it.

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