The Ship and Shovell*

One of my top ten pubs

1-3 Craven Passage WC2N 5PH

Nearest tubes: Charing Cross, Embankment

IMG_6246The Hook

Why settle for one pub when you can have two? That was obviously the thinking behind the landlords of the Ship(s) and Shovell(s) when they were first established on either side of Craven’s Passage. Stumbling across one of  London’s very few two-part pubs (see the Euston Tap) you will assume you are seeing double and then start to wonder whether these jolly red inns are actually mirror images of each other inside?


The history

EST: 1852. Monarch: Victoria

The two terraced houses that make up the Ship and Shovell were built in in the 1730s when the most southerly one had a clear view of the river via a porthole-like window. This enabled the dockers and carters who frequented the inn to keep an eye on the Thames and watch for ships that might need divesting of their coal and other goods. The buildings were later replaced and the pub was listed as the Ship and Shovel in 1852. It seems the perfect name for a pub whose clientele used to shovel coal from a ship. But in 1997 its name was changed to the Ship and Shovell (with two Ls) to commemorate the life of a 17th century sea admiral.

Sir Cloudesley Shovell was born in Norfolk and rose through the ranks of the Royal Navy from cabin boy to Admiral of the Fleet. He battled pirates and foreign seafarers before ending his life in a shipwreck off the Scilly Isles. In other words: he had no tangible connection with Charing Cross whatsoever. Craven Passage itself was named after the first Earl of Craven (also from the 17th century) who gained London’s respect by, well, not being craven. When the Great Plague ravaged the city in 1665 he stayed put and helped to maintain order rather than fleeing to the countryside like so many other noblemen.


The ambiance

To answer your earlier (hypothetical) question, the Ship(s) and Shovell(s) are entirely different inside. The pub on the right as you approach from Villiers Street is a pleasant but unremarkable London boozer with an ornate Victorian décor. However, the pub on the left is much more quaint and characterful. Its handful of seating places include two cosy booths plus an adorable cubby hole partly shielded by screens with its own personal coat hooks. My only gripe was that comfier chairs would have made this “snug” even snugger. The walls of both hostelries are covered with 17th century sailing paintings, mostly linked to the obscure Captain Shovell who provides a touch of swashbuckling glamour that coal-shovelling somehow fails to deliver.


The other stuff

Brewery: Hall and Woodhouse

Open: Every day except Sunday

Food: Midday till 3.30pm (4pm on Sundays)

All your basic pub food options are available but I opted for the chili cheese chips – guaranteed to blow the mind of any culinary thrill-seeker. Besides the chili my chips were also topped with coriander, jalapenos and English mustard. My tastebuds still haven’t recovered – but in a good way.

For a complete list of pubs, go to the home page. And to see a list of pubs by their nearest tube station, go to Where’s my pub?


The Anchor

34, Park Street SE1 9EF

Nearest Tube: London Bridge

The hook

The Anchor has a prominent position on Bankside as you emerge from Borough Market via Clink Street. Its attractive outside seating area is the focal point and when you pass by on a summer’s day you will find yourself yearning to join the riverside throng.

The history

EST: 1770s (in this incarnation). Monarch: George III

Where do I start? The current Anchor pub was built between 1770-75 on the site of an earlier inn named the Castell on the Hoop, which dates back a cool 800 years. Bustling Bankside would have been unrecognisable then: the narrow mediaeval street was lined with wharves and warehouses while the air was filled with the stench of fish and the unsettling sounds of bear-baiting arenas and brothels. Inhabitants of the latter were known locally as “Winchester Geese” because the Bishop of Winchester owned the brothels and claimed the tax revenues. Nice. A few centuries later this area was the heart of Elizabethan theatreland and Shakespeare may have been a local since this was his stamping ground. The Anchor was a haunt of river pirates and smugglers during its colourful history: when repairs were carried out in the 19th century a wealth of ingenious hiding places for stolen goods and contraband were discovered. This pub has also burnt down (twice) and rebuilt (twice). Other claims to fame are that diarist Samuel Pepys witnessed the Great Fire of London from the comfort of this pub in 1666, and that dictionary supremo Dr Samuel Johnson used to pop in for a pint when he wasn’t engaged on thinking up new words. Sometimes: “ale” and “pipe” are the only words you need.

The ambiance

The main bar is a large oak-beamed space broken up into pleasant nooks and cubby holes. But if you can’t find a seat, keep going: there’s a warren of dark rooms spread out over several levels and you will doubtless find an ambiance to suit your mood among the comfortable lounges, bars, mezzanines and galleries.

The other stuff

Brewery: Greene King

Open: Every day

Food: Every day from midday

The Anchor has a great terrace that’s the place to be in summer. Here you can order Pimms by the jug and watch the world go by overlooking the Thames.

For a complete list of pubs, go to the home page. And to see a list of pubs by their nearest tube station, go to Where’s my pub?