Tag Archives: Tower of London

The Tiger Tavern At Tower Hill

It seems that hardly a week goes by without another pub closing somewhere across London. This is not a recent phenomena as significant numbers of pubs have been closing since the last war. Some were damaged and not rebuilt, some closed when local industries shut down, population changes have had a significant impact and others just disappeared during redevelopment.

I have already covered a couple of these, the Gun Tavern in Wapping, and the Ticket Porter in Arthur Street.  For this week’s post I am at Tower Hill looking for the location of another lost pub, the Tiger Tavern. Here is my father’s photo of the pub in 1948:


The whole area to the west of Tower Hill has been rebuilt a couple of times since the last war, so I turned to the 1895 Ordnance Survey map to locate the pub. The Tiger Tavern was on Tower Hill, also known as Tower Dock. I have circled the location in the extract from the map below, the pub is marked P.H.


As the whole area has been rebuilt, I needed a reference point and luckily there is one fixed point which has not changed in over 100 years, the entrance building to the subway, marked in the above map inside the circle with the wording Subway Entrance. (the subway was originally a way to get across the river, but was not open for too long and has since been used to carry utilities under the river – this is somewhere I would really like to visit).

The subway entrance building is opposite the southern boundary of the Tiger Tavern.

The following photo is looking across to the location of the Tiger Tavern in 2016. The subway entrance building is just below and behind the tree on the far left. I could not get to the exact point where my father took the above photo as the visitor centre buildings are now on the spot.


Behind the visitor centre buildings and this is the location of the Tiger Tavern, now the location of a Wagamama with floors of offices above.


The entrance building to the subway – the only remaining reference point in this area.


I could not find out that much about the Tiger Tavern. It appears to have been originally established around 1504 and over the centuries went through a number of changes and rebuilds with the building in my father’s photo being constructed in 1893. This building lasted untill 1965 when the whole area was redeveloped with a new office complex and a very different Tiger Tavern taking up part of the ground and upper floors. This last incarnation of the pub was demolished in 2002 along with the office buildings to make way for the latest office complex, although this development did not include a rebuild of the Tiger Tavern so after 500 years, Tower Hill is without a Tiger Tavern.

According to The London Encyclopedia by Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert, the Tiger Tavern had the mummified remains of a cat said to have been stroked by the young Princess Elizabeth when she was held a prisoner in the Tower. The entry on the Tiger Tavern also claims that there is still a tunnel from the Tavern to the Tower, although  (writing in the 1983 edition when the 1965 version of the pub was in existence) this has now been blocked off.

I have to admit I would be surprised if there was a tunnel as it would need to be deep enough to pass under the moat around the Tower, a not inconsiderable depth and distance to go from the Tiger Tavern into the Tower – but it would be fascinating to imagine that one did exist.

I could not find any references as to the source of the pub’s name, although there was a Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London for many hundreds of years and tigers were part of this collection so perhaps this was the source of the name.

Researching newspaper references to the Tiger Tavern throws a light not just on the pub, but also on London life over the years. In the 14th February 1895 edition of the London Evening Standard there is an account of one of the tricks that would be used in London pubs to get a bit of extra cash:

“Charles Farmer, John Dumont and William Chapman were charged with loitering with intent to commit a felony, and with what is called ‘ringing the changes’ at the Tiger Tavern, in Tower Dock. Mr Maitland, solicitor, prosecuted. Two City detectives, named Cox and Shepherd, watched the Prisoners for a considerable time, and saw them enter various restaurants in the City. Finally, Farmer went to the Tiger Tavern, where, being served with refreshments, he first tendered a half-sovereign in payment. Having received the money he wanted the coin back, as he preferred to change a sovereign. Ultimately, in the confusion, he succeeded in getting the barmaid to give him 10s more than he was entitled to. During this time the other two Prisoners were in an adjoining compartment. When the police entered, Farmer voluntarily returned 10s, saying he had received too much change. All the Prisoners had been previously convicted, and pleaded guilty. Mr Alderman Green sentenced them each to three months hard labour, commending the skill and ability of the detectives.”

An advert appeared in the Morning Advertiser on the 22nd July 1840:

“WANTED a respectable YOUTH from 14 to 15 years of age, who will be instructed in the general routine of the business of a Wine-vault, and treated as one of the family – one who has not been out before, and the son of a Licensed Victualler would be preferred. Apply at the Tiger Tavern, Tower Dock, City, this day and to-morrow, between the hours of five and six p.m.”

The Surrey Mirror of the 6th September 1901 provides an example of how employers could be the victim of fraud, including the owner of the Tiger Tavern:

“Before the Kingston-on-Thames County Bench on Monday, a man giving the name of Henry Henderson, 43, described as an agent of Long Ditton and New Malden was charged on a warrant with having obtained 2s by false pretences with intention to defraud Mr. Thos. Faier, of the Tiger Tavern, Tower Dock, London. The prisoner was undefended. Mr Faier stated that in June last he saw in several London newspapers an advertisement which represented that a woman named ‘A. Gage’ wanted a situation as ‘cook-general’ and which gave an address in Long Ditton. He wrote and requested ‘A. Gage’ to call upon him and in return he received a letter signed ‘H. Henderson’ which stated that if he sent 2s as an entrance fee ‘A. Gage’ would be sent to him. he sent 2s and on June 18th received another letter from Henderson stating that Gage had been instructed o call upon him. Gage, however, did not come, and two letters which he subsequently wrote to Henderson were ignored”.

The article then goes on state that the police were called in and Detective Inspector Scott called at the address of Henderson and arrested him. He found a large pile of ashes in the back garden from burnt correspondence and also went to another house in New Malden used by Henderson where he found a large pile of letters from other people who had also sent 2s but had not received any visits from the advertised person. Henderson was receiving 60 complaints a month which gives an idea of how many people he had defrauded out of 2s. The article does not state whether A. Gage existed – I suspect not.

For more cheerful news, it was reported in the paper for the 26th February 1887 that:

“Mr. F. Dewhurst, boatswain of the steamship Queen, has been presented with a watch and a written testimonial by J.J. Hunt and friends at the Tiger Tavern, Tower Hill, for gallantly rescuing a man named Hopkins from drowning when he fell from a barge loading alongside the steamship Queen, of Custom House Quay, a short time ago.”

A number of ceremonies were held at the Tiger Tavern. Every ten years, the Lord Mayor of London would be invited to the Tiger Tavern to taste the beer, which is also poured on a seat and the taster invited to sit. If the trousers stick to the seat then all is well and a laurel garland is hung outside the tavern and around the neck of the landlord. The Scotsman on the 20th December 1949 reported on this event:

“The Citizens of London one and all proclaim their defiance of the rigours and vexations of the times and their will to stand fast for the upholding of the might, the unity and the weal of this Realm – so ran the text of a cheerful  invitation to attend to-day the hanging of a laurel and holly ale garland over the portal of the Olde Tiger Tavern on Tower Hill. The tavern’s hospitality according to the invitation would run on this day to the tasting of ‘wassail bowl, fettled porter, lamb’s wool and mulled ale (of the best)”.

The article then goes on to describe the Lord Mayor raising the garland, and various drinks being served by waitresses in Elizabethan dress (this was in 1949 and I suspect the Tiger Tavern was now looking to the future and to trade more on the historical connections rather than just as a local pub. The addition of ‘Olde’ to the name and waitresses in Elizabethan dress point to this future).

The article also describes what was served, apparently based on 1732 recipes:

Lamb’s Wool – roasted apples, sugar, sherry, nutmeg, ginger and strong ale

Wassail Bowl – sugar, warm beer, nutmeg, sherry and slices of toast

Fettled Porter – run, stout, cloves, ginger and sugar

Mulled Ale – barley wine, rum, sugar, nutmeg, cloves and ginger

That is my Christmas drinks sorted !

There are many other accounts of ceremonies held at the Tiger Tavern, weddings, job adverts, barmaids being robbed, customer deaths etc.  It was strange to think of this long and detailed history of Londoners at the Tiger Tavern standing outside what is now a rather bland office block and chain restaurant.

The following photo helps fix the location of the Tiger Tavern. In my father’s photo above, the building to the left of the pub has been destroyed, this is the side wall that can be seen to the left of centre in the photo below.


The Tiger Tavern survived the Great Fire of London and as can be seen in the above photo it was one of the few buildings in the block that survived the Blitz, but it could not survive the development of the area in the last 20 years.


Tower Bridge

A brief post today as unfortunately work commitments have been rather heavy over the past week. Here are three photos that my father took in 1948, the first two show the northern approach to Tower Bridge with the third showing the view across to the City from Tower Bridge. This last photo really makes you wonder how we plan the City and the buildings that tower over their surroundings.

Firstly, standing on the approach road to Tower Bridge. The Tower of London on the right. The cranes that still lined the river are visible to the left and right of the bridge. The sign on the left warns that heavy goods vehicles much cross the bridge at 8 miles per hour.

Tower Bridge 3

68 years later and I am standing in roughly the same spot on a very sunny day – always a mistake due to the deep shadows. It should have been easy to locate the precise location, however I believe that the slip road to the left in the 1948 photo has been moved back, slightly further north.

Tower Bridge 4

My 2016 photo also shows an empty road, a bit deceiving as I had to wait a lengthy period to get a clear road.

The next photo is a bit closer to the bridge.

Tower Bridge 2

And in 2016.

Tower Bridge 5

The photo below was taken from the bridge, looking over to the City of London. Look at the background and the church spires of the City churches are standing above their surroundings. To the left of centre, the Monument is standing clear and slightly to the left of the Monument, in the background, is the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

It is low tide, and along the bank of the Thames is the artificial beach, with stairs down from the walkway alongside the Tower.

Tower Bridge 1

And the same view in 2016. I did not time the tide right, but the beach and the stairs have long gone. If you look carefully, just to the right of the red cranes, the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral can just be seen, with slightly further to the right, the very tip of the Monument.

Tower Bridge 6

But what really intrudes into the 2016 view is the 20 Fenchurch Street building, better known as the Walkie Talkie building. Whilst the City cannot stay static, this building is just in the wrong place and the intrusive top-heavy design does not help.

I doubt that my father, standing on Tower Bridge and looking at the view over the City, would have imagined that it would look like this, 68 years later.


The Disappearing Cannon At The Tower of London

Walking around London it is easy to see many of the major changes to the city. The constant building, new towers adding to the skyline, however sometimes small changes can go unnoticed although they still have a profound impact on the character of an area and memories of the past.

One such change is the disappearance of the cannon that once lined the walkway running along the River Thames in front of the Tower of London.

I had not really noticed how much had changed until I was looking through some of my father’s photos and found the three photos from 1947 that I feature this week.

In the first, a range of cannon lined the river. I remember these from childhood walks and school visits, and for years before they had been a feature that no visit could ever have been complete without climbing one of these cannon.

Tower of London Cannons 3

I walked down to the Tower one recent Sunday to see how much had changed. The weather was dull and rain was expected, so the lighting was not that good. The following photo is my 2015 photo from roughly the same position. The majority of the cannon have been removed, although a couple remain, looking rather sad up against the approach to Tower Bridge at the far end of the photo.

Tower of London Cannons 5

I do not know when they were removed or why, I can only guess. Perhaps health and safety considerations, although falling was an accepted risk of climbing anything as a boy. An understandable reason could have been damage to the cannon. Making more space in this area is possible as it really does get crowded at the peak of the tourist season. Or perhaps the fact that they all seemed to be pointing directly at City Hall on the south bank of the river may have made certain occupants rather nervous.

What ever the reason it is a loss of some of the character of the place.

Standing at this point, it is fascinating to consider the incredible amount of change that the Tower of London has seen during the centuries. Just in the last 70 years the changes have been remarkable.

Whilst here, my father also took the following photo. I do not think this was to capture the south bank of the river as the warehouses must have seemed a rather fixed feature of day to day London activity, rather it was probably to photo the ship that was about to pass under Tower Bridge.

What the photo does show is the amount of change along this part of the river, which in 1947 still consisted of rows of cranes and their associated warehouses along with a steady stream of cargo ships mooring alongside. The warehouses on the left of the photo are the ones that lined Pickle Herring Street which I featured here.

Tower of London Cannons 2

The following photo shows the same scene today. I was able to position the photo accurately using Southwark Cathedral. If you look to the far right of both photos, you can just see the four spires on the top of the tower of Southwark Cathedral.

I doubt that anyone looking across at this view in 1947 would have expected this scene to host Europe’s tallest building in the decades to come.

Tower of London Cannons 4

The next photo my father took followed the ship as it passed under Tower Bridge.

Tower of London Cannons 1

It was just about to pour with rain when I took the following photo so the lighting is very poor. Apart from the missing cannon, the scene is much the same today. The top of the old Anchor Brewery building behind the southern approach to Tower Bridge provides a convenient reference point to get the right position for the 2015 photo.

Tower of London Cannons 6

The walk between the Tower of London and the River Thames is still a great place to watch activity on the river and the view along the south bank, however with the removal of the cannon it has lost some of its character and childhood memories.


Tower Hill And The Growth In London Tourism

Much of what I have written so far has been about the physical change across London. How the buildings and streets have changed so considerably over the last 70 years, however there are many other ways in which London has changed and for this week’s post I want to use a series of photos to show that whilst a specific area has not changed that much physically, it is now playing a very significant role in London’s position as one of the major world tourism destinations.

Tower Hill is the area to the north-west and western side of the Tower of London. Tower Hill, in the words of Stow was:

“sometime a large plot of ground, now greatly straitened by encroachments (unlawfully made and suffered) for gardens and houses. Upon the hill is always readily prepared, at the charges of the City, a large scaffold and gallows of timber, for the execution of such traitors or transgressors as are delivered out of the Tower or otherwise, to the Sheriffs of London by writ, there to be executed.”

There is a long list of those executed on Tower Hill, with the last being the execution of Lord Lovat on April 9th 1747. At this execution, a scaffolding built to support those wishing to view the execution collapsed with nearly 1,000 people  of which 12 were killed. Apparently, Lovat “in spite of his awful situation, seemed to enjoy the downfall of so many Whigs”.

The following shows the Tower of London from a survey in 1597 showing the moat and the area to the north-west and west that formed Tower Hill.

tower of London 1597

The western end of Tower Hill. as can seen in the above picture, has long been the main land based gateway to the Tower of London, countless numbers of people must have walked down Tower Hill on their way to the Tower of London, for many, not in the best of circumstances.

The moat was drained in 1843 having long been described as an “offensive and useless nuisance”. After being drained workmen found several stone shot which were identified at the time as being missiles directed at the Tower during a siege in 1460 when Lord Scales held the Tower for Henry VI and the Yorkists cannonaded the fortress from a battery in Southwark.

The following postcard is from the first decade of the twentieth century. I suspect it was taken from the top of the tower of All Hallows by the Tower looking over the Tower of London with part of Tower Hill in the foreground with the approach running down towards the main entrance on the right. Transport is lined up along the approach, taking visitors to and from the Tower.

tower hill postcard 2

My father took the following photo looking up Tower Hill from a position to the extreme right of the above photo in 1948 (all of the following three photos from 1948, 1977 and 2014 were taken in the summer at roughly the same time, early afternoon as can be seen by the direction of the shadows).

The moat is just over the railings to the right. The large building behind the trees is the Port of London Authority headquarters. From the Face of London by Harold Clunn:

“Many courts and alleys were swept away between 1910 and 1912 to make room for the new headquarters of the Port of London Authority. This magnificent building, designed by Sir Edwin Cooper, stands on an island site enclosed by Trinity Square, Seething Lane and the two newly constructed thoroughfares called Pepys Street and Muscovey Street. Constructed between 1912 and 1922, it has a massive tower rising above a portico of Corinthian columns overlooking Trinity Square, and the offices are grouped around a lofty central apartment which has a domed roof of 110 feet in diameter”. 

The “massive tower” is a very striking local landmark both from the surrounding streets and from the Thames.

dads tower hill

The colonnaded building which can partly be seen at the top right of Tower Hill is the memorial to the men of the Merchant Navy and the fishing fleets who died in the two world wars. Some 36,000 names are listed of men who “have no grave but the sea”.

I find the detail of these photos fascinating, from left to right below. An Ice Cream seller in a white coat with his ice cream cart, one of which was bought for the boy in the middle photo and on the right behind the phone box is a Police Box, probably better known these days as a Tardis. Note also how common military uniforms were on the streets of London, even three years after the war had ended.

detail - 1

Now fast forward 29 years and I took the following photo in 1977 when I first stated taking photos of London with a Russian Zenit camera (all that pocket-money could stretch to at the time). The camera had a tendency for the shutter to stick and unlike digital cameras, you did not know this until after the film had been developed. This is one of the photos where it actually worked.

my 1970s tower hill

The scene is very similar. the coaches show the start of mass tourism to London and there are additional telephone boxes including one for Intercontinental Calls  (this was still at a time when intercontinental calls were the exception and expensive to make).

Now fast forward again another 36 years and I took the following photo in early August 2014. Fortunately I now have a much better camera and I thought converting to Black and White would allow a better comparison with the previous photos.

When I took this, planting of the poppies for the “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” installation had only just begun and it had not generated the level of visitors seen in October and the start of November. This was a typical summer’s day on Tower Hill.

This photo also has cranes in the background which now appears to be mandatory for any photo within the City.

my 2014 tower hill

The Tower of London is now one of the major tourist attractions in London as can be seen on almost any day in Tower Hill. New ticket offices, food outlets and visitor displays have been built down the left hand side, the telephone boxes have disappeared and the ice cream seller with his ice cream cart from 1948 would be hard pressed to manage the industrial scale of ice cream vending now seen on Tower Hill on a summer’s day.

Visitor numbers to London have risen dramatically over the last few decades. In the last ten years they have risen from 11.696 million in 2003 to 16.784 million in 2013 and the first half of this year’s numbers show a 7% increase over the first half of last year.

Of these visitors in 2013, 2.894 million visited the Tower of London in 2013. I doubt that these numbers could have been imagined on that summer’s day in 1948.

Tourism is one of the many factors that are changing the face of London, and with numbers continuing to increase this influence will continue.

I recommend a visit to Tower Hill late on a cold winter’s evening, when it is possible to look over the moat, across to the Tower without the noise and hustle of the crowds and with a little imagination, see the Tower as it has been for centuries as a functioning garrison, fortress and prison. There is also an opportunity to briefly experience the Tower at night. The Ceremony of the Keys takes place every night with admittance starting at 9:30 pm. Whilst with modern-day security systems this ceremony is now probably more ceremonial than functional it does provide a glimpse of the Tower at night and of a ceremony which has been in existence for at least 700 years. Again, a cold winter’s evening is the best time to experience this event. Tickets are free from Historic Royal Palaces and can be found here.

You may also be interested in my post on the Tower Hill Escapologist which can be found here

The sources I used to research this post are:

  • London by George H. Cunningham published 1927
  • Old & New London by Edward Walford published 1878
  • The Face of London by Harold Clunn published 1932
  • The London Tourism numbers are from the Greater London Authority Data Store which can be found here
  • Figures for visitors to the Tower of London are from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions and can be found here (which also has a fascinating list of visitor numbers to the majority of UK attractions)