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.

IMG_6240

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.

http://shipandshovell.co.uk

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?

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The Mayflower*

One of my top ten pubs

Inside the atmospheric Mayflower

Inside the atmospheric 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 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 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. 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.

http://www.mayflowerpub.co.uk

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 Dove*

A cosy pub overlooking the River Thames

A cosy pub overlooking the River Thames

One of my top ten pubs

19 Upper Mall, Hammersmith, London W6 9TA

Nearest tubes: Ravenscourt Park, Stamford Brook, Hammersmith

 

The hook

I defy you to pass the Dove without pausing to  wonder: “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 in”. 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 he time-travelled or those 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 the 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

Brewery: Fullers

Open: daily

Food: served all day every day from midday

Guide dogs welcome

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.

http://www.dovehammersmith.co.uk

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?