UK and London history, mostly pubs

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Kings Arms, Neptune Street , Wapping

Wapping index

The Kings Arms is actually in Neptune Street, Wellclose Square, which links at 211, St George Street. The opposite side of St George Street is in St Georges East; it was right behind the Court House in Wellclose Square, and was part of the original architecture of 1670. The landlord of the King's Arms was responsible for feeding the prisoners of the gaol behind the Court House. To get to the gaol you entered the King's Arms by a doorway presumably on the left hand-side of the main entrance. Here a stone staircase led down from the first floor of the Court House, and another staircase led down to a courtyard and the prison. Part of the prison has been transferred to the Museum of London. During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it was the custom for estate agents who sold properties in East London, very often by auction at Garraway's Coffee House in the City, to leave printed details of the properties at the King's Arms for collection by potential buyers. We know this from numerous advertisements in the Times. As far as I can make out, the King's Arms was pulled down in the early years of the 20th. Century, possibly around 1912. It is shown as a vacant site on the OS map for 1916. I have been looking for an illustration / picture / photograph of the King's Arms for many years, but have found nothing.  ***

A listing of historical public houses, Taverns, Inns, Beer Houses and Hotels in Wapping London  - in East London. The Wapping East London listing uses information from census, Trade Directories and History to add licensees, bar staff, Lodgers and Visitors.

The following entries are in this format:

Year/Publican or other Resident/Relationship to Head and or Occupation/Age/Where Born/Source.

The Swedish philosopher Swedenborg first came to London in 1766, he stayed at the King's Arms, being a newly developed area settled by Scandinavians. Nearby, at Princes Square, a Swedish church built 1728, has Swedenborgs father as its absentee bishop, and occupied by the Rev Arvid Ferelius.***
1766/Erik Bergstrom/../../../"The Swedenborg Epic" by Cyriel Sigstedt ***

1839/James Allen/../../../Pigots Directory ****

[At 6 & 7 Neptune Street in 1861]

1861/Phebe Allen/Licensed Victualler, Widow/68/Pullmouth, Cornwall/Census ****
1861/Phebe Donelly/Daughter, Wheelwright/36/Chelsea, Middlesex/Census
1861/June Brannon/Niece/39/Clerkenwell, Middlesex/Census
1861/John Catmore/Waiter/18/St Georges East, Middlesex/Census

1869/Mrs Phoebe Allan/../../../Post Office Directory ****

1881/Thomas Wasmuth/Licensed Victualler/58/Whitechapel, Middlesex/Census ****
1881/Susan A Wasmuth/Wife/35/Stepney, Middlesex/Census
1881/Susannah E Wasmuth/Daughter/3 months/Wapping, Middlesex/Census
1881/Richard F Wasmuth/Step son/12/Stepney, Middlesex/Census
1881/Henry F Wasmuth/Step son/11/Stepney, Middlesex/Census
1881/Florence Lawrence/Visitor, Sempstress/48/Stepney, Middlesex/Census
1881/Martha Hall/Servant Domestic/55/Wapping, Middlesex/Census
1881/William A Potter/Barman/18/Suffolk/Census

1884/Thomas Wasmuth/../../../Post Office Directory ****

1891/Thomas P Wasmuth/Licensed Victualler/66/Whitechapel, London/Census ****
1891/Susannah A Wasmuth/Wife/44/Stepney, London/Census
1891/Susannah L Wasmuth/Daughter/10/Wapping, London/Census
1891/Mary Wasmuth/Daughter/8/Wapping, London/Census
1891/Maud Wasmuth/Daughter/6/Wapping, London/Census
1891/George Wasmuth/Son/4/Wapping, London/Census
1891/Henry Bennett/Stepson/21/Stepney, London/Census
1891/Martha Hall/Servant/60/Wapping, London/Census

1901/James Sorrell/Licensed Victualler/44/Chelmsford, Essex/Census ****
1901/Bessie Sorrell/Wife/42/Pollermore, Devon/Census
1901/Kathleen Sorrell/Daughter, Shoe shop assistant/20/Finchley, Middlesex/Census
1901/John Sorrell/Son/13/Chelsea, Middlesex/Census
1901/Bessie Sorrell/Daughter/11/Chelsea, Middlesex/Census
1901/George Sorrell/Son/9/Chelsea, Middlesex/Census
1901/Arthur Walker/Visitor, Decorator/44/Farnham, Kent/Census[At 6 & 7 Neptune Street in 1861]

"Round the corner, in Neptune Street, is a public- house, the "King's Arms," the proprietor of which has a prison on his premises. Hidden away from the passing throng, unknown, I imagine, to the majority of Londoners, there are the cells and the plank beds - aye, even the fetters and the strait jackets of the days when the poor prisoner was poor indeed, the cells in which, some of the Peninsular prisoners pined, and where many a famous felon languished.
The landlord of the house is amiable, and permits us to see the grim remains of a bygone day and an obsolete prison system.

He takes his keys, and we pass through a side door into a hall. From the hall a fine old staircase leads to the court-house. But the cells are below. We pass down a narrow, dark stairway, through a brick kitchen, and across a paved yard, and presently we are in the cells.

Here they are, as they were two hundred years ago. The door has to be unlocked with heavy keys, the massive bolts have to be unshot, and thick, black, forbidding doors have to be forced back upon their hinges before we can enter the dungeons.

The old prison was known as the Sly House, because people who were seen to enter it were rarely seen coming out again. There was a subterranean passage that led from this prison to the Tower, and to the docks; and it was along this subterranean way that prisoners passed on their way to the "Success," the famous convict ship.

Standing in one of the cells with its plank bed, the heavy fetters stapled to the wall, the grating of the little window closed, and the candle lighted, we people the dismal dungeon with forms that have long since passed away.

Many of the prisoners handed their names down to posterity by carving them on the woodwork. There are foreign names and Irish names and English names. One inscription is that of Mr. Stockley, the gentleman who had the doubtful honour of being the inventor of the pitch plaster. This was clapped over the mouth of the victim to prevent him drawing public attention to the fact that he was being assaulted and robbed.

Another poor prisoner dropped into poetry and carved a significant verse upon the wooden wall:

"The cupboard is empty,
To our sorrow;
Let's hope it will
Be full to-morrow."
The fact that our forefathers had to put up with dungeon life for being poor is illustrated by the inscription: "Please to remember the poor debtors. 1758."

It is a strange experience to grope your way through these gloomy cells, to come out through a bar in which a group of waterside loafers are discussing the free feeding of poor school children, and pass thence into the sunshine of the square, with its Mission to the Jews, its lodging-houses for alien immigrants, its modern warehouses and work-rooms, and a group of lads absorbed in the latest cricket scores as set out in the 3.30 edition of a halfpenny paper." George R. Sims in Chapter Ten of " Off the Track in London", Jarrold and Co., 1911   ***

*** Provided By Michael Larsen

**** Provided By Kevan

And Last updated on: Tuesday, 29-Dec-2015 16:51:14 GMT