9, Stoney Street, SE1 9AA
Nearest tube: London Bridge 0.3 miles
Nearest attraction: Borough Market 100ft
This attractive pub with its hanging baskets and bright green paint is situated directly opposite Borough Market. So it’s the obvious place to pop in for a pint when all that gourmet food shopping starts to pall.
EST: 1890s. Monarch: Victoria
As is often the case, the Market Porter’s official “EST” date is misleading since there has been a pub in this prominent corner position since at least 1638. It was previously named the Harrow – presumably after the town of the same name some 15 miles to the north-west. Hmm. Why it changed its name to the much more appropriate Market Porter in the 1890s is unclear. But there’s one theory – mine, actually – that the management discreetly opted for a name change after the pub featured prominently in a grisly court case.
On April 21 1890 an Old Bailey jury heard how a man called Edward Lamb allegedly stabbed a marketer named Alfred Howe – AKA “Flash Alf” – in the eye with an umbrella. The event was said to have occurred directly opposite the Harrow pub on the afternoon of February 15 1890. Both men had separately visited the pub that lunchtime – Flash Alf having apparently over-indulged while the virtuous Mr Lamb took no intoxicants whatsoever. Honest, guv. Anyway, Alf became abusive and started shouting at the accused, who he obviously knew. The alleged killing was then witnessed by at least six people, most of whom claimed to have actually seen Lamb strike the intoxicated Alfred Howe in the face with an umbrella. Some said he wielded his “weapon” like a bayonet and used considerable force. And most claimed to have heard Lamb utter variations of the words: “Dirty dogs like you ought to have been dead years ago”. All pretty incriminating, then. However, a carpenter named Alexander Brims testified for the defence saying that it had all been an unfortunate accident and that the victim had somehow managed to pitch forward and impale himself on the umbrella in a struggle. Anyway, his account must have sounded much more plausible than mine because the jury believed him and Lamb was acquitted.
The Market Porter’s more recent and decidedly more fun claim to fame is that its interior was transformed into the Third Hand Book Emporium in the film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Some sources (including the pub itself) claim it was also next door to The Leaky Cauldron in the Harry Potter films, though others say the fictional pub was actually located in Leadenhall Market. The Leaky Cauldron would definitely have featured in my blog on account of its low beams, dark panels and leaded light windows. And being invisible to non-wizards it is the epitome of a hidden London pub. Shame it doesn’t exist.
The Market Porter becomes very crowded – understandably so considering its prominent position near to Borough Market. But it retains a traditional pub vibe with all that wood panelling and real ale going on. The ground floor has a pleasing bustle but the upstairs room is the place to go for a panoramic view of the busy market below.
The other stuff
Brewery: Free house
Open: Mondays to Fridays 6.30am-8.30am and from 11am to 11pm, Saturday and Sunday from midday
Food: Served from midday every day
Besides the usual steaks and burgers, the Market Porter also serves jellied eels and pie ‘n mash in a perplexing nod to the East End (which starts a mile or so to the north-east). But whatever you choose, you can wash it all down with one of 12 local ales which are rotated every day – sometimes twice a day. The head must veritably spin. Dirty stop-outs pulling a midweek all-nighter can even begin on those beer choices from 6.30am which is when the pub opens to cater for the market workers knocking off from the graveyard shift.
Visit: King Who? for more info about the monarchs mentioned in this blog.
And follow me on Twitter at: @PubsPoemsPast