It’s not really a town, it’s an old boozer in Wapping and one with a hell of a back story.
This building dates from 1748. Before that there was a pub on the site called The Red Cow and it was here that the horrible old hanging Judge Jeffreys was caught while trying to escape capture and prosecution following the regime change of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 (details below). I’ve just finished reading Neal Stephenson’s book “Quicksilver” (which at at 918 dense pages long is no mean feat) and this incident was featured in the story. Jeffreys was a complete rotter and the pub deserves credit for its role in his capture.
The Wapping Old Stairs which you can see at the end of the alley by the side of the pub are famous. There is a post – still there – where pirates were tied at low tide so that they would drown as the tide rose. Charming! This is where Captain Bligh inspected the Bounty before it’s voyage and the mutiny of its crew. It was also here that fishermen would land fish to avoid paying the taxes that would be charged if they landed nearer to Billingsgate Market. Many of those fishermen came from Ramsgate in Kent and this was how the pub’s unusual name came about.
Enough history. The pub itself has a pleasant interior. It’s not modernised like The Gun, praise The Lord, but neither is it olde worlde cute like The Grapes and The Prospect Of Whitby which means its a proper local’s pub rather than part of the tourist trail. Food is old school functional. I was, I’m ashamed to say, a little overhung when I visited and so could not face a pint but the locals I spoke to said the beer was well kept. Staff were friendly. Well worth a visit.
The pub was featured in Alan Reeve-Jones book London Pubs. It was illustrated rather nicely by Miriam McGregor and I replicate the image with a recent photograph for comparison which shows that not much has changed since then.
The history bit: judge Jeffreys the horrible hanging judge was captured here, from Wikipedia:
“During the Glorious Revolution, when James II fled the country, Jeffreys stayed in London until the last moment, being the only high legal authority in James’s abandoned kingdom to perform political duties. When William III’s troops approached London, Jeffreys tried to flee and follow the King abroad. He was captured in a public house in Wapping, now named The Town of Ramsgate. Reputedly he was disguised as a sailor, and was recognized by a surviving judicial victim, who claimed he could never forget Jeffreys’ countenance, although his ferocious eyebrows had been shaven. Jeffreys was terrified of the public when dragged to the Lord Mayor and then to prison “for his own safety”. He begged his captors for protection from the mob, who intended “to show him that same mercy he had ever shown to others”.