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.

31 thoughts on “The Tiger Tavern At Tower Hill

  1. Alan Huntley

    I have many happy memories of The Tiger as I used to work in the building that was put up in 1965 (it was the S shaped building with a tower at the western end).

    There was also the old wine vaults which served as the offices archives which had an iron spiral staircase which took you down to a vast storage area. The musty smell down there was not off putting but was a welcome relief during the very hot summers as it was so cool down there. Wintertime it was comfortably warm compared to outside. I have never seen any written record of these vaults but would love to see photos if any of your contributors happen to have any.

    Alas we were all moved out to plush new offices in East India Dock to allow redevelopment of the site in the 90’s but I did not work in the new office afterwards.

    I seem to recall a single pub on an island in the middle of the road nearer to the Mint but as a young lad pubs did not interest me then, do you have any photos or information on this?

    I very much enjoy your blogs and the memories they stir, keep up the good work.

    1. Roderick Oakley

      The single pub on the island near the Mint was known as ‘Delaney’s’. The true name escapes me now.
      I remember the old Tiger Tavern, in the first photograph. A gloomy looking old place frequented by fish porters, dockers and lightermen.
      The new Tiger Tavern had the main working bar as a basement in Lower Thames Street, a dining area/carvery was above, slightly higher than the pavement outside.

      1. Alan Huntley

        Thank you for solving that riddle of Delaneys for me. I was beginning to wonder if I had imagined it.! I wish I took more interest in my surroundings then as they are so totally different now.

  2. Andrew

    So many pubs in such a small area! Three more on the appropriately-named Beer Lane around the corner (inspired by Hogarth?) which no longer exists. Water Lane is still on the modern map. When did Tower Dock become Petty France?

  3. Barbara Jury

    You mention a blocked off tunnel in the basement of The Tiger, I have been in that tunnel and also seen the mummified cat, I spent many hours there as my uncle was once the manager.

    1. Nick B

      Hi Barbara,

      I was a chef at the Tiger Tavern in the late eighties, we had a Toby Carvery on the 2nd floor and it was a great time. Was your uncle from Yorkshire, a Mr M Wainwright? He was the manager when I was the chef there.

      1. Dianne

        Hi All,
        I too worked at the Tiger Tavern during the early 1990s, in the Toby carvery restaurant and bar below with a bunch of Australians, New Zealanders and many other nationalities. It was great fun. Martin was the Manger initially, then he and his family left to run another pub.
        I have fond memories of my time at the Tiger.

      2. Lisa Kupferle

        Hi Nick,
        I was one of the Australians working at Tiger Tavern in 1988. Must of missed you as I married the Chef – Martin Kupferle must of been after your stint there. Still married to him now. Those were the good old days. We had so much fun – still reminisce.

  4. Ken

    I have made a couple of corrections to the above so would appreciate if you would only publish the revised comment I will send shortly. I am hoping to eventually publish a book on the Tiger and would very much love to include your father’s photos if you were agreeable (with the best possible reference to all of your work!!!). Could we perhaps discuss this – either by email or in person? As in my note – I will be in London in July. I will be staying at Herne Hill and will be happy to travel to meet you and discuss this possibility.

    Thanks Ken

  5. Ken

    I am sorry I missed your November blog on the Tiger Tavern. We have emailed before on the Tiger so thank you so much for sharing your father’s photos. I have been researching the Tiger, at a long distance, over the last few years. I am finally about to visit to London to continue my research and hope to spend time in various archives to follow up on many loose ends. I will be in London for four weeks in July and would very much appreciate if I could make contact with folk who have had an association with the Tiger in any way.

    Sadly I have come to the conclusion that the Tiger did not survive the Great Fire but was indeed proudly rebuilt. I smiled when I read your comment on the tunnel. My initial thought was exactly that – it must have been a very deep tunnel to go under the moat!!! However on the ordnance map there is an outline of where the Lion Tower once stood. It was on the Tiger side of the moat and very close to the Tiger. The lady who sold me the Tiger’s ‘re-opening plaque’ (who bought it from the last manager) told me that the owner of the Tavern was also an animal-keeper in the Lion Tower (which held the Tower menagerie) and used the tunnel to commute from the Tiger to the Lion Tower. As far-fetched as that sounds, it is indeed totally plausible. In the early 1700s the Tiger was famous for its ‘exotic birds and beasts’ and even received a Royal Visit for that reason. I would love to hear from those with first-hand accounts of the Tiger. Thank you again

  6. Martyn Cornell

    “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. ”

    While this event certainly took place in 1949, and was claimed to be a ervival of an old tradition, I know of no evidence that itv had ever happened before.

  7. Janet Thorpe (Bakewell)

    I worked at James Budgett & Son, Idol Lane and then Mark Lane in the late 1960’s and
    early 1970’s and we used to visit the Tiger Tavern during our lunch breaks and on Friday evenings.
    Lovely memories of a great time.

  8. Jacky

    In the 70’s I worked at Customs House
    And used to go during lunch and after
    Work to the tiger tavern. As far as I remember they used to have a Go Go
    Dancer in a cage. Does anyone else remember this.

    1. Steve

      Yes. I remember her name too! It was Jane. Was all part of the regular discoteque every Thurday in the early 70’s. Had some really good times there. I used to park my little mini in an underground car park next to the Tiger Tavern!!!

    2. joe clark

      yes I remember the dancer. I worked on the new at the time Tower Hotel in the early 70’s and a few of us used to go to the Tiger on Friday lunch time for a few. Would be frowned upon nowadays. I was an electrician and the main contractor was Taylor Woodrow on the Hotel.

  9. Alan Whytock

    I worked in Seething Lane for 8 years, late 50s early 60s and I had lunch in The Tiger Tavern regularly, normally a Ploughmans. I have just been to our local antiques fair and saw a beautiful silver model of a tiger on a wooden plinth with plaque – “Tiger Tavern 12 Dec 1965”. Perhaps that was the day it closed. And now my son works in an office in the new building – coincidences !

  10. Gary Collins

    Although I grew up and lived in Bromley, a group of friends and I used to go to a disco above the Tiger Tavern in the early 70’s. I clearly remember that you had to walk through the bar to get to the stairs. In the late 90’s some 20 years later I found my self in there again as a stop off with a load of work colleagues en route to a function. Always sad when these old historic venues become a casualty of modern development, but the memories live on.

  11. lorna gemmell

    My husband Douglas Anderson was Manager at the Tavern in 1988. Fond memories of the true “Eastenders” we me including Ted and his wife who ran an ice-cream van on Tower Hill. My son Callum was born during this time and the locals said he wasn’t a Cockney, but a “Jockney”…me and Doug were Scots! Weekends were strange, our trade purely from Thames boats….so bombed out until 8pm…and then we closed. We lived in the flat above the tavern, with a dumb waiter…chef used to send me up meals…happy days.

  12. lorna gemmell

    Did post earlier bu not sure if worked. My husband Douglas Anderson was Manager of the Tiger in 1988. Very fond memories of that time meeting the “true” Eastenders, especially Ted and his wife, who ran an ice-cream van on Towere Hill. My son Callum was born then and locals said he was a “jockney” rather than Cockney, because me and Doug were Scots. Happy times.

  13. Mrs Frances Vose ,nee Williams

    I worked for C.T.Bowring in the S shaped block, which was brand new in 1965.
    I was sad to see the replacement building, with no link to old London at all. When the Bowring building was built, the planners said it had to fit in with the Tower, hence its austere granite look and colour.
    I also remember the area down Lower Thames street towards Billingsgate market. A prescious bit of Old London, sadly all gone to make way for a fast roadway through London.
    I’m not impressed with all the glass strange shaped buildings that have become common place in London now. Before working for CTB, I worked in Bury Street opposite where the Gherkin is now!
    I have memories of much of East London right out to where I lived in Manor Park. If anyone wants more info I’m happy to get in touch.

    1. Sue Astles

      I would very much like to contact Mrs Frances Vose re her time at the Bowring Building. My uncle Artist Harry Ouseyand his wife Susie attended the opening and he was given commission to paint large abstract oil paintings for the company.
      I have been researching the life of Ousey after inheriting his life’s work and have hardly any details of his life around that time. The Drian and the Lincoln Galleries exhibited his work.
      I understand that Peter Bowring was a great supporter of the Arts at that time. I would be thrilled if any info came to light. Thank you.

      1. Frances Vose

        Hi Sue
        I know the name Peter Bowring, but as I was a humble 18 year old clerk, I didn’t mix with the senior directors.
        I have tried to find pictures of the Bowring building as I knew it, but only find pictures of the current building.

    2. Anthony mcnally

      I was Maitenance electrician for CTB
      ‘S’ block was great.
      East wing, north wing, south wing& west wing. All the senior Bowring execs were in the centre wing behind the escalator hall.
      Then you had the Tower block.
      Typewriter days.
      Then we upgraded to computers.
      Filing store was 2-storeys under the outdoor square.
      Went down in a water operated lift.
      The Tiger was was a great hub.
      Sorry to hear of its demise.
      Then you had the Podium shops. Kinky Boo’s.
      The shops were our private work.
      All History now,but fond memories.

  14. Peter Dixon

    I also have fond memories of the Tiger Tavern, I married a London girl at Wesleys Chapel City Road London 18 April 1969 our reception thereafter was upstairs at the Tiger Tavern. I have several photos taken there, the most poignant is one taken, toasting each other with a flute of champagne, standing on the tavern balcony with the Tower of London in the background and Union Jack fluttering on the masthead. 2 weeks later we sailed to New Zealand. Sadly subsequent visits to London show the Tiger Tavern like so many of our haunts of the 60’s is no longer there. A figment of our glorious past!! We have just celebrated our 51st anniversary. Photos available on request.

  15. Rob Davis

    I recall the Tiger Tavern from late 1972 when I was seconded from National Westminster Bank in Leicester to assist with processing the deluge of applications for Access Cards, being billeted at the London Park Hotel, Elephant and Castle, and working at Mariner House, Pepys Street; both now also demolished. The “TT” was the preferred watering hole for the “Access London” team and we all spent many a happy evening in there. I am sad to see that such places are no longer there.

  16. Iain Macdonld

    Glad I found this, I used to work with a bunch of lads doing professional carpet cleaning across London in the late 80’s early 90’s. We were regulars in Custom House working and the tiger was always our preferred lunch time stop, enjoyed many an hour in there , shame to read its no more.

  17. Anthony

    Hi all, my name is Tony.
    I worked in the Bowring building in the 70’s/.
    Fantastic architecture.
    Tha vaults were out of this world.
    I was a sparky and went down in the Rope lift many a time.
    One night in the Tiger Tavern a soldier walked in from the Tower of London.
    IRA days.
    Left his rifle in the grounds, climbed the railings and got on the beer with me.
    There was an escalator outside that took you to an entrance.
    Recall a shop there on the Podium called Kinky Boo.
    Vincula House was part of the complex & was one of only 3- buildings in London with 13- stories high.
    Another was Foundation House & the other eludes me.
    On the square by the church when I was a kid 12 years old, there was Jonny Eagle who would bend an iron bar across his arm & get out of a sack that was tethered in chains.

  18. Colin Whiting

    From my mother’s memoirs 1939-1940 She was a WREN working at the Port Authority Building. Some of it is illegible sorry.
    Although’ we had no rum, we went over to ‘The Tiger’ on Tower Hill for supper when we were on the evening watch. The Tiger was the first public house I ever entered and remains the most memorable. A Victorian Gin palace, it was decorated with souvenirs of the 1914 war, in themselves fascinating and with a certain appropriate mess. The clientele included the 189………. Stationed in the Tower of London; it was thanks to them that the damage to the Tower, when the blitz finally came, was not very much greater.

    The River Patrol people also sometimes dropped in, when passing, with their P.O, A.P Herbert. I only saw him once and was thrilled, having read his book “Holy Deadlock” which was part of his successful attempt as an independent M.P., to change the divorce laws. The really important people at the Tiger, though’, were the Campbells. Mrs Campbell’s father was the licensee and for some reason – illness? Mr and Mrs Campbell wee running the pub.

    At the time, they moved and worked together in such perfect harmony that they struck me as being the ideal married couple. They gave themselves the task of making all the service people not only welcome, which one would expect in a pub, but seeing to it that when the main services were continually bombed out of action food was available. Night after night after night we would go in relays of two or three to the Tiger for tinned salmon or corned beef sandwiches and a drink. Mrs Campbell had a Primus stove and hot things were often welcome.

    There was absolutely nowhere else in the blacked out evenings where food and a break from the message room or other office could be got. My knowledge of drink was limited to vin ordinare.

    When Mrs C asked me what I was having I hardly knew what to say and feared the expense. Often it was “on the house”. This was no gain for I felt honour bound to ask Mrs C to drink with me.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.