Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hidden London: Beaches, Hangmen & Pirates

Sandy bay, Wapping
Spent the morning away from the computer in Wapping, East London yesterday. A real "I've lived in London all my life yet never set foot..." off the beaten track place suggested by friend J. We met at The Tower of London and turned our back on it, walking instead through St Katharine Docks and on to Wapping High Street, ending at London's oldest riverside pub, The Prospect of Whitby. So much to see, so many stories - ghosts, pirates, a hangman's noose and even a treasure hunt, all before too much wine for a lunchtime (just the one I add, but what size the glasses) &, last but not least, "driving" the train back into the centre. A real walk through history this one. Superb! 
Execution Stairs Beach, Wapping
 See the old oyster shell, and the old clay pipe fragments? Beaches beneath pubs are happy mudlarking hunting grounds as in the olden days they'd smoke their clay pipes and throw them out of the window. Oysters were once cheap, plentiful and eaten by many. "Perhaps Wapping's greatest attraction is the Thames foreshore itself, and the venerable public houses that face onto it. A number of the old 'stairs', such as Wapping Old Stairs and Pelican Stairs (by the Prospect of Whitby) give public access to a littoral zone (for the Thames is tidal at this point) littered with flotsam, jetsam and fragments of old dock installations. Understandably it is popular with amateur archaeologists and treasure hunters - it is surprisingly easy for even a casual visitor to pick up a centuries-old shard of pottery here." Wikipedia
Shardhorn on Execution Stairs Beach


"The pub was originally frequented by those involved in life on the river and sea and it was a notorious haunt for smugglers, thieves and pirates.  Other notable customers have been Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys, Judge Jeffries and artists Whistler and Turner." The Prospect of Whitby recommended: very friendly, good food, large wine glasses, resident black cat.


Hangman's noose, Prospect of Whitby
 "It was formerly known as the Devil’s Tavern, on account of its dubious reputation. In the seventeenth century, it became the pub of choice of the brutal “Hanging” Judge Jeffreys. According to legend, criminals would be tied up to the posts at low tide and left there to drown when the tide came. It is here that he sat and watched criminals he had sentenced die. Judge Jeffrey’s ghost is believed to still haunt the area."
Prospect of Whitby

As one of the early  members of the FB group "Travelling At the Front
of the DLR Train and Pretending to be The Driver", this was a perfect end to
the morning out.

Further reading: The Pirate's Who's Who, first published Burt Franklin, New York,1924, Now available as a free ebook, with thanks to the Gutenberg Project.

"KIDD, Captain William, sometimes Robert Kidd or Kid.
The trial of Kidd proved a scandal, for someone had to suffer as scapegoat for the aristocratic company privateers, and the lot fell to the luckless Kidd. Kidd was charged with piracy and with murder. The first charge of seizing two ships of the Great Mogul could have been met by the production of two documents which Kidd had taken out of these ships, and which, he claimed, proved that the ships were sailing under commissions issued by the French East India Company, and made them perfectly lawful prizes. These commissions Kidd had most foolishly handed over to Lord Bellomont, and they could not be produced at the trial, although they had been exhibited before the House of Commons a little while previously.

It is an extraordinary and tragic fact that these two documents, so vital to Kidd, were discovered only lately in the Public Records Office—too late, by some 200 years, to save an innocent man's life.
As it happened, the charge of which Kidd was hanged for was murder, and ran thus: "Being moved and seduced by the instigations of the Devil he did make an assault in and upon William Moore upon the high seas with a certain wooden bucket, bound with iron hoops, of the value of eight pence, giving the said William Moore one mortal bruise of which the aforesaid William Moore did languish and die." This aforesaid William Moore was gunner in the Adventure galley, and was mutinous, and Kidd, as captain, was perfectly justified in knocking him down and even of killing him; but as the court meant Kidd to "swing," this was quite good enough for finding him guilty. The unfortunate prisoner was executed at Wapping on May 23rd, 1701, and his body afterwards hanged in chains at Tilbury."

Extract from The Pirates' Who's Who, courtesy of the Gutenberg Project.

1 comment:

nodamnblog said...

What a great day out - I'm jealous. And you look fabulous, gorgeous coat and yowser - that looks like a very posh bag.