London's 300 year-old-pubs: The Ferry House (a regular series in which I visit pubs opened 300 years ago)
Where is it roughly? At the very foot of the Isle of Dogs, not far from Island Gardens station. Where is it specifically? Ferry Street (a road which non-pedants would describe as cobbled). How far is it from the Thames? Barely 40m. How would I get there with a satnav? Enter E14 3DT (but don't expect to find anywhere to park).
When did it open? 300 years ago, obviously. It didn't though, did it? Nobody knows for sure when it opened, hence the date of 'circa 1722' plastered across the front, so 2022 isn't necessarily the 300th anniversary but it's near enough. It can't be that old? Parts of the building are original but no, most of it is late 19th century.
What can we tell from the pub's exterior? Many things. a) It's called The Ferry House. b) It's the oldest pub on the island. c) Somebody's looking after the hanging baskets. d) The kitchen is currently closed. e) They take American Express. f) They have a special offer on a large bottle of Heineken. g) They have a beer garden. h) They're on the Thames Path National Trail. i) Their rooster means it used to be a Courage pub. j) They like hashtags #ginpalace #whiskeywonderland #vodkagotcha #rumandreason k) They have a very interesting chalkboard.
Oh isn't that interesting? Yes it is. What can you tell me about this ferry? It operated between here and Greenwich as early as the first half of the 14th century and was later known as Potters Ferry. What can you tell me about this ferry that isn't on the chalkboard? At the time the pub opened the ferry was operated by the Warner family, the Masters of the Royal Barges. The Potters Ferry Company bought it for 15 guineas in 1762. The ferry stopped transporting horses in the 1840s. In 1888 it morphed into the Greenwich Vehicular Steam Ferry, a cable-hauled service which set off fromdecks fitted with four sets of railway lines, but this was underused and went bust four years later. The opening of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel in 1902 ended any need for a ferry in this location.
What was the local population in 1722? Nil. Back then the Isle of Dogs was all marshes with a single dirt track leading south from Poplar to the ferry. So it's called The Ferry House because it used to cater to ferry passengers in the absence of any other local facilities? Yes. This is fascinating stuff, will you tell us more? No. It's all been blogged in impressive detail by the islandhistory.wordpress.com website where you can read much more about The Ferry House, the ferry, Ferry Street and the undeveloped Island, and quite frankly I can't compete with that.
What can you tell from the pub's website? They reckon they're the Island's oldest building in continual use. They sell a range of draught and bottled beers, cask ales, a selection of wines and a choice of spirits. They say "Dogs welcome, Humans tolerated". They show a lot of live sport. What can you tell us about the pub's interior? Nothing. Don't you think you should have gone in? I went past at 10am and it doesn't open until noon. Couldn't you have made an effort and gone back later? It sounds like a 'dogs and big screen sports' pub, so basically no.
Did any other London pubs open in 1722? Obviously yes. Which ones?The Blue Anchor on the Hammersmith waterfront first got its licence in 1722 and is still trading. The Old Ship in Hammersmith also claims a 1722 launch. The Black Dog in London Road, Twickenham, is first recorded in 1722, but is currently a Roxie steakhouse. The Bulls Head in Chiswick and The Coach and Horses in Rickmansworth both date back to at least 1722 but that probably doesn't count, plus Rickmansworth isn't in London anyway. Can we expect to read more about some of these 300 year-old pubs in future posts? Don't count on it.