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A Good Day Out East....

A trip into the deepest parts of the East End of London which involved visiting a couple of classic pubs, then some football glory, plus a stop-off in Farringdon a few minutes down the Hammersmith & City line from Kings Cross....


It was a bright blue sunny morning as the train pulled into Kings Cross, the temperature several degrees higher than when we'd left a cold and frosty West Yorkshire a few hours earlier. Shortly afterwards we were heading east on the Hammersmith and City line, with a plan to pay a visit to Wapping, the riverside area which once was a thriving hive of maritime activity and where several historic and interesting pubs are situated. However, when we arrived at Whitechapel, whose shiny, modern interchange belied the lowly status given to the area on a Monopoly board, we were unable to access the relevant platform of the Overground by which we were going to complete our journey to Wapping (it turned out later that there had been rather limited services operating on that line during the day).

So it was back on the eastbound underground service, with Plan B taking us to Plaistow (pronounced Plar-stow to the uninitiated), where about 5 minutes walk from the underground station we came to our first pub of the day. The Black Lion is a former coaching inn which dates back to around 1747, with wooden beams, exposed brickwork, and a generally attractive interior which lies behind a partly wooden fronted exterior. A few oldish dudes were sat at tables facing the bar whilst in the background a TV screen was showing some sport. The pub is a free house and from a choice of several beers on hand pump we all went for a pint of Captain Bob, a 3.8% bitter from the long-standing Mighty Oak brewery who are based in Maldon in Essex. Served as is the tradition in these parts sans sparkler, it was a nicely-balanced beer with subtle fruit aromas coming through from the addition of New Zealand hops. A solid NBSS 3 rating for the beer which we enjoyed in a very pleasant pub.


The boys enjoying their beers in the Black Lion, Plaistow

It was about a mile as the crow flies to the nearest pub in the Good Beer Guide from the Black Lion, but being unfamiliar with the area we opted to take a slightly longer but easier route to avoid getting lost by following the main road until we turned on to the Barking Road on which the pub was situated. It was very much a case of old meets new all the way; a few remnants and grand buildings from previous ages jockeying for space with shiny modern new apartment blocks, whilst the tables groaning with fresh fruit, vegetables, and other merchandise outside the many shops and market stalls reflected the influx of African and other cultures into a once traditional part of London giving the area a vibrant, cosmopolitan feel. That contrast between old and new was no more clearly illustrated then when we arrived at our chosen pub.

The Boleyn Tavern (opening image) is a rambling pile of unashamed pub porn, prominently positioned at a crossroads near to the site of the former ground of West Ham United FC. It features a stunning exterior with turrets and stucco plasterwork, is Grade ll-listed, and on CAMRA's National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. Dating from Victorian times, it sprawls over a total of seven rooms and is a feast of dark wood screens, etched glazing, wooden and tiled flooring, and other traditional features, although some of them were recreated during a £1.5 million refurbishment in 2021 by owners The Remarkable Pub Company which aimed to restore the by then somewhat faded pub to the way it looked when it was first opened in 1900. We walked in via an entrance on the corner which took us directly into the bar on which there were 4 hand pumps, with all five of us ordering a pint of Five Points Best. Most of the tables were taken in this part of the pub, some with diners, and so we moved into an empty adjacent section located behind a screen with its own door and bar access. The beer was very good, well-balanced and amber in colour, and I rated it as 3.5 on the National Beer Scoring System scale. I went to the loo and had a look around the pub on my way back. There was a spectacular room with a food servery and an amazing glazed skylight in what was once apparently a billiard room, whilst in another there were comfortable-looking Chesterfields alongside traditional dark wood tables and chairs. On the walls there were black and white photographs of the area as it used to look, whilst there was a corridor full of photographs of teams and match shots of West Ham United over the years.

Image: Campaign for Real Ale 

The football connection is very strong here. When West Ham United used to play next door to the pub, the ground was known as the Boleyn Ground. Whilst particularly in later years it was generally referred to as 'Upton Park', which is the name of the area, it was still the official name for the ground until the club upped sticks in 2015 and moved to Stratford and took up residence at the more prosaically-named London Stadium, leaving their former ground to be demolished and disappear beneath a sea of concrete and glass. On match days the pub would be full with West Ham fans, and to see those old faded black and white photographs of former players including the famous three of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, and Martin Peters who helped England win the World Cup in 1966 was to take a journey back into a football of a former era. Incidentally, there is a statue featuring Moore, Hurst, and Peters on a roundabout opposite the pub. 


The Boleyn is a fascinating and stunningly attractive pub, and is an essential place to visit whether you are in this part of London or not, as it is definitely worth making the effort to come here. It is conveniently situated only a few minutes' walk away from Upton Park underground station which is served by both the District and Hammersmith and City lines. As a first time visitor I have to say that it is the best traditional pub I have come across for some time.




Spectacular: The Boleyn Tavern, Upton Park

Football was of course the reason we were in the area. We had come down south to watch Halifax Town take on Dagenham & Redbridge FC in the National League. We caught the tube from Upton Park and, after passing through previously unregistered stops called Upney and Becontree in the seemingly interminable sprawl of housing and identikit industrial estates in this part of London, we alighted at Dagenham East tube station. From there it was a brisk 5 minute walk to the Chigwell Construction Stadium, the home of the Daggers. The ground was busy, the club had been holding a Diversity Day which had reached out to local community groups  with cheaper tickets for all, as a result of which the crowd of over 3.700 was well above the average here for the season. Unfortunately for the home side, the game didn't go their way, a largely forgettable game being decided by a brilliant goal from Town's maverick forward Andrew Oluwabori which caught the home goalkeeper flatfooted. It extended the current match winning run to 4 for the away team as it finished Dagenham & Redbridge 0, Halifax Town 1.

Action from Dagenham & Redbridge 0, FC Halifax Town 1

After the game we decided to head back towards Central London and stop off at Farringdon, one stop short of Kings Cross and close to the traditional Jewellery District of Hatton Garden. We changed lines at Aldgate East, and a few minutes later we alighted at Farringdon where our next pub greeted us opposite the exit to the underground station. The Castle is apparently another Grade ll-listed pub although it wears its charms more loosely than the Boleyn Tavern where we'd been before the football. It is attractive, though, with one main room featuring the bar, with a further room up a flight of stairs beyond the bar. It was busy, with many of the punters watching Scotland close in on victory over England in the rugby on a large TV screen. We were more focussed on what was on the bar, and were delighted to find that on one of the three hand pumps they were selling Jarl from Fyne Ales. We tried to find somewhere to sit, but all berths were taken, and we then shuffled and danced around as people tried to get past us when we found a small area in which to stand. The Jarl, as if to compensate for the business of the pub, was in fine form, worth I reckoned a pretty solid NBSS rating of 3.5. It would be interesting to call here another time when it is less busy and check it out properly.

The Castle, Farringdon

It was less than a quarter of a mile to the next pub, turning to the right as we left the Castle, and then right up a quiet street past a small green area, and then left on to Britton Street where about half way along we came to the Holy Tavern. There were tables out in front and despite the air being cooler than it had been earlier in the day, there were a few takers for them. We walked in and it was quite busy, but we managed to get to the bar and get served quickly enough, and even managed to find an empty table to plonk down at. There was a familiar look about this dimly-lit, seemingly historic pub. And then it came to me, I had been here before. I went to ask one of the guys behind the bar, and he confirmed that, yes, it had formerly been known as the Jerusalem Tavern. I had called in many years ago after finishing my working day meeting up with suppliers in nearby Hatton Garden and before catching the train back up North. Back in those days it was run by St Peter's, whose brewery is named after the historic moated hall near Bungay in Suffolk in which it is based. 


Despite its appearance, there has only been a pub here since 1996; prior to that it was a clock-making workshop and before that a merchant's house. It was recreated in the style of an 18th century tavern in keeping with the age of the building and with its dim lighting, candles on the tables, real fire, and old wooden tables it certainly looks the part. There were several beers on this evening from St Peter's, but despite that the pub is now a free house, and I spotted another beer on sale from an East Anglian brewery, Lacons. Unusually, the cask beers are drawn from the cellar using air pressure, and are dispensed via taps on fake barrel ends behind the bar. I had a pint of Gold Dust, a 4.5% light golden ale, which was another enjoyable beer (NBSS 3.5). There was a great, somewhat bohemian, atmosphere in the Holy Tavern, and I can highly recommend a visit.
 
The atmospheric Holy Tavern, Farringdon

And from there we made our way back to Kings Cross, where provisions for the train journey home were bought by some of the group. After battling passed the queues at Platform 9 and 3/4 we had just enough time for a quick pint at the Parcel Yard, which must be one of the busiest pubs in the country. Not that we had any problem getting served, it is just that it is that big with its sprawl of rooms capable of holding a large number of customers. We bought our drinks, me going for the obligatory pint of Fullers London Pride (NBSS 3), and we found a table in one of the former waiting rooms to the side of the bar. 

The Parcel Yard, Kings Cross

We finished our pints and headed down to the platforms, where our train was in and people were already boarding. As our train rattled northwards, I looked back on the day's events; we'd been to some wonderful pubs, drunk some pretty good beer, and despite missing out on going to Wapping, the transport connections had otherwise all worked in our favour. And to cap it all, we'd seen our team win at the football. All in all, it had been a pretty good day....

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Comments

  1. Chris this is a reminder of old times indeed ( although to be fair I was in the Black Lion just before Christmas ). Glad you had a good trip but bet that you were astonished at the prices as much as how much better public transport is down there. Great blog Tony

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