THE SHIP AND SHOVELL

IN MY TOP FIVE

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 established on either side of Craven’s Passage near Charing Cross Station. Stumbling across London’s only two-part pub (apart from the Euston Tap, as my son has helpfully pointed out) 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 of the two 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 the 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 staying in the city in 1665 and helping to maintain order during the Great Plague 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 bar and Victorian décor. The pub on the left is much more quaint and characterful, however. The mere handful of seating places include two cosy booths and an adorable cubby hole partly shielded by screens and provided with your own personal coat hooks. My only gripe about this “snug” was that it would have been snugger with the addition of comfy chairs in place of the pub stools. The walls of both hostelries are covered with 17th century sailing paintings and Shovell memorabilia as you would expect.

IMG_6240

The other stuff

Hall and Woodhouse are the brewers behind the Ship and Shovell – less well known than your Greene King’s and your Fullers but equally passionate about their beer. Food options include the inevitable fish and chips 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.

http://shipandshovell.co.uk

For a complete list of pubs, go to the home page.

THE MAYFLOWER

IN MY TOP FIVE

 

Historic Rotherhithe pub linked with the original Mayflower vessel of Pilgrim Fathers' fame

The Mayflower

117 Rotherhithe Street, SE16 4NF

Nearest Tube: Bermondsey

 

The hook

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.

 

The history

EST: 1550. Monarch: Edward VI

What visitor from the US would not be fascinated by a London pub that boasts links to the first Pilgrim Fathers vessel?

The Mayflower actually stands on the site of a different pub – The Shippe – which was built around 1550 and stood close to where the Mayflower was later fitted out for its epic journey. Around 65 passengers were picked up from Rotherhithe in July 1620 before the Mayflower set sail for the New World via Plymouth.

The pub that replaced The Shippe – the Spread Eagle and Crown – was apparently a great favourite with seafarers. 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. In fact the Mayflower remains the only pub in Britain to this day where you can buy US and UK postage stamps.

It was only named The Mayflower in 1957, presumably by some enterprising landlord who thought he could make a bob or two from the American tourist trade. And perhaps there was good reason for this renaming: the pub is said to comprise some of the original ship’s timbers in its structure.  Pub visitors today with proof of a family connection to the original Pilgrim Fathers are invited to sign their names in the Mayflower Descendants Book, which is held behind the bar.

The ambiance

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.

The other stuff

Reasonably-priced pub staples such as pies, bangers and fish and chips are all on offer and can be washed down with a range of well-kept ales.

http://www.mayflowerpub.co.uk

For a complete list of pubs, go to the home page.

THE DOVE

Cosy pub with a deck on the Thames and a history as long as your arm

The Dove, Hammersmith

 

IN MY TOP FIVE

 

19 Upper Mall, Hammersmith, London W6 9TA

Nearest tubes: Ravenscourt Park, Stamford Brook, Hammersmith

 

The hook

I defy you to pass the Dove without stopping to admire and wondering: “Shall I go in?” Everything about this cosy old pub screams; “Pick me, pick me!” Maybe it’s the blackboards outside that actually say: “Come inside”. It isn’t rocket science but if you give people a reason to call in they just might. A pub with a sign outside saying: “Great food served here” tells you nothing. But for a moment you will find yourself thinking: “Hmm. GREAT food. That’s my favourite kind”.

 

The history

EST: 1790s. Monarch: George III

The Dove has many historical claims to fame being reportedly the site of lovers’ trysts between Charles II and his mistress Nell Gwyn. However,  Charles died in 1685 and the Dove only became a pub in the late 1700s. So either this is stretching the truth or these romantic encounters occurred during the Dove’s previous incarnation as a coffee house. Mind you, some sources say the management only started serving coffee in 1740 and the Merry Monarch was long dead even by then, so reports are somewhat confused to say the least. The pub is also said to be the place where Scottish poet and playwright James Thompson wrote the words to Rule Britannia! in the 18th century. And famous 20th century customers have included American author Ernest Hemingway and English literary critic Graham Greene.

The public bar is reputedly Britain’s smallest and measures a mere 4ft by 7ft 10in. Some say it was built to allow the landlord to gain a full liquor licence since two bars were needed to fulfil the criteria. There is no real proof to this story but the tiny addition certainly enhances the quaint, doll’s house-feel of this attractive riverside pub.

 

The ambiance

The Dove has a traditional woody interior and more nooks and crannies than a pub this size deserves. When we went one Sunday lunchtime we easily found a seat in the cosy, wood-panelled main bar. In one corner there was a lone woman with a pot of tea while in a window sat an elderly couple sharing the Sunday papers. It was fairly obvious that this was their weekly tradition and the pub has a distinctly local vibe. There is a restaurant area plus a lovely, flower-bedecked balcony overlooking the Thames.

 

The other stuff

Guess what – the Dove does GREAT food. This is based on very limited experience since my family and I all ordered the fish and chips. But it was the best pub fish and chips with the lightest of beer batters, the fluffiest of chips and the most authentic mushy peas that any of us had had for years. Other menu highlights include sea trout fillet and Dorset lamb while Fullers beers on tap include London Pride and ESB.

http://www.dovehammersmith.co.uk

For a complete list of pubs, go to the home page.