There’s been a pub on the site continously since 1550. This particular incarnation, however, was built in 1780 and only became The Mayflower quite recently in 1957 when it was renamed – possibly to cash in on the craze for the naval history of South London that the arrival of the Cutty Sark had sparked in Greenwich in 1953 and which partly led to renewd interest in and the regeneration of that part of London.
Although not its original name, The Mayflower can claim strong associations with the ship that carried the Pilgrim Fathers to the New World in 1620. The ship sailed from Rotherhithe and the skipper of that trip, Captain Jones, is memorialised in the church across the road from the pub and would almost certainly have been inside for a drink. The Pilgrims may well have joined him. They famously landed in the Americas at the place where they ran out of beer after having been at sea for two months. Beer was safer to drink than water in those days; the Mayflower was not close to being a party ship.
The Mayflower Pub is compact with what were probably originally a series of small rooms now knocked through into a larger single room that has a bar in the middle of the side wall. The characters of the old rooms remain in the slightly different feel to each of the drinking and eating areas. The back of the pub has a small terrace that looks out onto the Thames. It is dark within the pub and the walls are packed with old pictures, maps and photographs all framed and covered with a sprinkling of dust which look solid and apt but also have quotes about drinking and eating painted onto them that are a little twee and trying too hard. Despite that, The Mayflower still reaches back to how old London pubs once were and, although now firmly on the pub tourist trail along with The Prospect Of Whitby and The Grapes on the other side of the river, it retains, like them, its essential nature as a riverside boozer.
But it is not just a boozer. This building, which also acts as a milestone with the legend “London Bridge 2 Miles” written on the front, was also once a riverfront Post Office and continues to be licensed to sell postage stamps.