I shall choose my words very carefully whilst writing this tip as it may be deemed to be a touch sensitive by some and I really do not wish to offend anyone.
This tip refers to the Old Ship pub in Stepney, a place I have drunk in occasionally for about 25 years now although not on a regular basis. I was recently down that way taking photos for a seperate VT tip on the London Marathon and decided to drop in for a pint. I remember this place when it was a traditional East End "boozer" in an area where there were many, and it was always a good example of the type. I was also aware that it is now a gay bar and I had been in there since it had been so, therefore I wasn't unprepared.
I wouldn't normally mention it in a tip on a travel site as it is not relevant but I am heterosexual and the only reason I refer to it here is that it will hopefully assist. The pub is still very much as it always was, a proper good old-fashioned "boozer" of the sort that are disappearing in such appalling numbers all over the UK. It has many of the original fixtures and fittings and still the atmosphere of what it was like years ago. No thought of a modern minimalist refurb here. I was greeted and served promptly by a "proper East End girl" of a barmaid and almost immediately engaged in conversation by a couple of the locals perched at the bar. An interesting conversation ensued. A couple of pints later and I decided it was about time to go and do what I had set out to do i.e. photograph the Marathon.
Regrettably and almost unbelievably in the light of how many pubs we have lost, the local Council, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, who actually own the lease of the place were trying to sell it off for redevelopment. Thankfully, and following great local protest and supposrt, this seems to have been averted for the present.
Looking at the posters in the pub, I noticed that the entertainment here seems to consist predominantly of "drag" acts. I do like this place as a local drinker and it is not what I believe the gay community refer to as a "scene" place. It is a long time since I was here in the evening but certainly during the day the visitor will not be offended in the slightest by the behaviour in what is a great little place.
I merely mention all the above to alert those for whom it may be uncomfortable to visit. I have always attempted to be fair in my reporting on VT and I hope I have managed to impart accurate information here without giving offence, that was certainly not the intention.
Perhaps the most recognisable monument in Stepney, and certainly the longest standing, is the Parish Church of St. Dunstan. Indeed, how it is still standing after the German Blitz of World War Two devestated the surrounding area, is in itself a miracle.
There has been a Church on this site for over 1000 years now, providing a focal point for the local community throughout that time.
Whilst the exact date is unclear, there was a wooden structure here built sometime between 500 and 952. This was in turn replaced by a stone building which was built by St. Dunstan, for whom it is named. In the 16th century, one of the Deans here, John colet, was well regarded in the field of scholarship which ultimately led to the Reformation. He was a contemporary of Erasmus and Thomas More, who used to visit him here. The name Colet lives on locally in a number of street and building names.
The subsequent centuries saw a huge increase in both the population of the area and the poverty associated with the overcrowding and social circumstances of the times. Stepney has long been a byword for inner city poverty and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, in which the Church stands, remains one of the most socially deprived areas of the UK.
In an area now predominantly Moslem, and a country inclreasingly secular, attendances are dropping, although the Church still functions.
I remember some years ago being given an impromptu and fascinating tour of the place by the then vicar, who just happened to be there as I was looking round. He showed me the board which traces the vicars of the Parish back to the 10th century, amongst other things. Whether Christian or not, it is an interesting place to have a look round.
you may wonder at the flag which I have included and it is really quite odd. Some readers may recognise it as the Red Ensign, also known as the Red Duster and is the flag of the UK's Merchant Navy which seems a bit strange even in an area with such a maritime history. There is a local story that if a child is born on a British merchant vessel, this is the Church the birth is registered at. I don't know how true it is but I can think of few other reasons it should fly here.
Update February 2013.
I recently revisited St. Dunstans to take another couple of photos and was delighted to stumble upon the grave of Capt. Henry Mudd. Mudd was a great philanthropist and built a number of almshouse which still stand near where I live. I had written a tip about it on my Mile end page so it was nice to marry the two things up.
The title of this tip refers to a very famous Dublin song called Molly Malone, much loved by Irish rugby supporters.
It is also highly relevant to this tip, which refers to Tubby Isaac's seafood stall in Aldgate. This is something of an East End institution, the original stall having been set up nearby in 1919. It is a favourite haunt of London cabbies (licensed taxi drivers) and you will nearly always see at least one black cab pulled up nearby.
If you like seafood, as I do, this place is absolute heaven. It sells the very best quality seafood, with a large variety every day (they don't sell fish, by the way).
I often buy some seafood on the way home after a few drinks in the adjacent pub, the Aldgate Exchange, which isn't a bad place for a pint.
The picture shows a large mural on the gable of a house in Cable Street, London E1, which was completed in 1993 (I remember it being done!)
The mural commemorates the "Battle of Cable Street" in 1936. Sir Oswald Moseley and his Blackshirts planned a march through the East End. Moseley and co. were fascists sympathetic to Hitler, and the East End at that time was predominantly a Jewish and working class area. Local people incluidng dockers and Trades Unionists confronted the marchers, with the police in the middle, and a pitched battle ensued. The march, however, was prevented.
The mural is on the house beside the disused Brittania pub in Cable Street between Cannon Street Road and Dellow Street.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of the TV show "Friends", but for those of you who are this might be of interest.
I have it on good authority that the characters Ross and Emily got married in a church in London, well, here it is!
I remember at the time of the filming it caused quite a stir round here.
The church is now deconsecrated and is, I believe, flats.
It is located in Scandrett Street, E1, just off Wapping High Street, almost opposite the Town of Ramsgate pub.