One of my top ten pubs
117 Rotherhithe Street, SE16 4NF
Nearest Tube: Bermondsey
The Mayflower is yet another of those black-beamed, flower-festooned, olde worlde pubs by the Thames that are almost impossible for the passer-by to resist.
EST: 1550. Monarch: Edward VI
What US visitor could fail to be fascinated by a London pub with links to the Pilgrim Fathers’ vessel? That was obviously the thinking behind the pub’s name change in 1957, presumably by some enterprising landlord who thought he could make a bob or two from the American tourist trade by calling his pub The Mayflower.
Before that it was called the Spread Eagle and Crown and delving back even further, a previous tavern called The Shippe – built in the 1550s – stood on this site. So does it even have any links to the famous ship? Apparently so – the Mayflower was moored close to the pub when it was fitted out for its epic journey. Around 65 passengers were picked up from Rotherhithe in July 1620 before the epic voyage to the New World. It would be nice to report that the Mayflower’s captain – Christopher Jones – was a regular at the pub but sadly there is no evidence to support this. He was, however, no stranger to alcohol having made his fortune by importing wine from France on board the Mayflower. Nice job for a puritan.
Captain Jones is buried at St Mary’s Church opposite the pub. Other Mayflower links: some of the original ship’s timbers are said to have been incorporated in the building’s structure. And pub visitors with proof of a family connection to the original Pilgrim Fathers are invited to sign their names in the Mayflower Descendants Book behind the bar.
Centuries later the Spread Eagle and Crown became a great favourite with seafarers and in the 1800s it gained a licence to sell postage stamps, presumably so that sailors could write home while downing a pint in comfortable surroundings. The Mayflower remains the only pub in Britain to this day where you can buy not only UK postage stamps but US ones as well. Very useful.
The wonderfully cosy 17th century Mayflower is dark and atmospheric with wooden pews, an open fire and a deck overlooking the Thames. There are private booths as well as large tables made for sharing and making friends with other drinkers. Or maybe that’s just me.
The other stuff
Brewery: Free house
Open: every day
Food: Every day from midday
Reasonably-priced pub staples such as pies, bangers and fish and chips can be washed down with a range of colourful-sounding ales including Mayflower Scurvy, Blue Moon and Camden Hells.