About The Grapes
The Grapes has stood on the pebbled Limehouse Reach in London for nearly 500 years. Over its extensive history it has played host to Elizabethan new-world travellers, Victorian writers, and has even been depicted in popular culture in a number of books and films.
History of The Grapes
Although its current building dates from 1720, a pub has been on this same site in London’s Limehouse district since 1583. The area of Limehouse was first settled as one of the few healthy areas of dry land among the riverside marshes, and by Queen Elizabeth I‘s time it was at the centre of world trade.
It first started serving local dockworkers and sailors of the Limehouse Basin shipping industry and claims to have served explorer Sir Walter Raleigh, who set sail from this point on this third voyage to the New World.
The neighbourhood became a popular haunt of writers such as Arthur Conan Doyle who used the local seedy atmosphere and characters as a setting for a Sherlock Holmes story.
Charles Dickens also used the local area for creative inspiration and included the pub in the opening chapter of his novel ‘Our Mutual Friend’.
The Grapes has survived much, still standing throughout The Blitz bombing during the Second World War, and remains a friendly ‘local’ for Limehouse residents.
The Grapes Today
Today, The Grapes is a traditional Victorian long bar with a hearty and welcoming atmosphere, featuring wooden panelling and warm, burgundy-coloured walls that are decorated with oil paintings. There’s also a small heated terrace that overlooks the Thames.
Visitors today can get cosy in the Dickens Snug area, where the author is said to have danced on the tables. The interior pays tribute to not only its past, with a complete set of Dickens books scattered around its shelves, but its present, as it alludes to the pubs current owner. A tiny statue of Gandalf from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ sits in the corner: an amusing hint to the identity to the Grapes pub landlord, actor Sir Ian McKellen.
Getting to The Grapes
From Kings Cross Underground station, it’s best to take the Northern line to Bank, then change onto the DLR at Bank and hop off at Westferry. From Westferry, head southwest on Limehouse Causeway towards Salter St, then continue onto Narrow St. From there, it’s pretty easy to find. Being located fairly centrally, the pub is a scenic hour and a half walk from Kings Cross, since not all those who wander are lost…
Explore the great British tradition of popping in for a pint at the local and discover history along the way at these illustrious old boozers.
Whilst London is packed with historic landmarks, a trip to the local pub also serves as a surprisingly informative way of exploring the capital’s unique past. The oldest pubs in London offer a rather refreshing way to explore local history whilst enjoying another old custom – drinking a pint.
From fires to wars, body snatchers to pirates, these quaint taverns have seen a lot throughout the centuries. London literary legends such as Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Samuel Pepys often used the bohemian atmosphere and raucous behaviour of the local clientele as a source of creative inspiration for their writings. So step back in time with a visit to five of the best old boozers in London which all have a place in English history.