The Prospect Of Whitby,
57 Wapping Wall,
London, E1W 35H
Ghosts, violence and pirates are all part of London’s Prospect of Whitby’s murky past, says RICK HALE
On the banks of the Thames in the borough of Tower Hamlets is the traditional English tavern, The Prospect Of Whitby.
A 16th century, Grade II listed building with a history so disturbing it was once called The Devil’s Tavern.
History of The Prospect Of Whitby
Built in 1520, The Prospect Of Whitby claims to be the oldest riverside tavern in the city of London.
Originally the tavern was called The Pelican, but later it was renamed The Devil’s Tavern on account of its dubious reputation.
With its close proximity to the Thames, the tavern became a popular meeting place for smugglers, highwaymen and bloodthirsty cutthroats.
With clientele such as this, the tavern attracted ladies of the night who engaged in their profession just outside the tavern’s doors.
The tavern’s association with the criminal element ended in the 17th century, when it became the preferred hostelry of Judge George Jefferys.
Jeffreys was a Welsh judge who distinguished himself during the reign of James II. Even rising to the position of Lord Chancellor.
While on the bench, Jefferys earned himself the ominous nickname “the hanging judge” because he took pleasure in handing down the death penalty.
Prisoners were terrified to stand before the hanging judge. Because if they did, they knew their days were assuredly numbered.
Jefferys had a special dock called the ‘Execution dock” built. The condemned were executed and their lifeless bodies were then discarded in the Thames.
It was common for body snatchers to be waiting nearby to pull the bodies from the river and sell them to local medical schools.
In the 19th century, a fire was started in the tavern almost burning it to the ground.
Rather than accepting the loss, the owners decided to rebuild and renamed the tavern, The Prospect Of Whitby.
Haunting of The Prospect Of Whitby
The Prospect Of Whitby, has long been known to be a haunted location.
Several staff as well as guests have reported having encounters with the terrifying phantoms of the executed criminals whose souls may never find rest.
The waterlogged criminals who were executed by Judge Jeffreys have been spotted lurking around the execution dock. As well as in the tavern.
Several employees have reported coming face to face with these terrifying lost souls when they suddenly appear and vanish before their eyes.
Some have gotten the impression these phantoms were seeking revenge against the man who condemned them to death.
If that is truly the case, these poor souls don’t have far to look.
The Hanging Judge
According to legend, Jefferys delighted himself in watching the men he condemned to death be executed.
He had a special window built that overlooked the the execution dock, so he could indulge himself in this unnerving form of entertainment.
People have reported seeing the image of a man gazing out the window where Jefferys used to sit.
It looks as if the hanging judge is still watching men die, despite being dead for centuries.
Moll Cutpurse, was a name given to female thieves who would cut the purses from the belts of wealthy drunken men.
The ghost of a young woman wearing a doublet, breeches and smoking a pipe has been spotted hiding in the darkened corners of the tavern.
It’s believed she was a young woman who met a violent end when she attempted to separate a mark from his money.
It’s been reported that she appears and watches people as they drink. Perhaps she’s still indulging in her trade from beyond the grave.
The Prospect Of Whitby along the banks of the Thames is a tavern well known for its family friendly atmosphere. And one of the best beer gardens in the city.
Although the tavern has left it’s violent reputation far behind, the ghosts of those old days still call the pub home.