London is full of amazing places with long stories and exciting stories to tell. For a South East London pub this couldn’t be truer. The Mayflower Pub in the heart of Rotherhithe is the oldest pub on the Thames, with a history dating back to the 16th century.
Over the years the pub has taken on many faces, first as The Shippe pub around 1550 then it was rebuilt as the Spread Eagle and Crown in 1780. Since 1957 Southwark’s iconic pub went by the name The Mayflower, in a nod to the nearby landing steps the Pilgrim Fathers traveled to embark the ship Mayflower overseas in 1620.
Today, the pub proudly celebrates its long history by being covered in historic decor from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. Punters cannot escape the historical significance of the incredible things that happened here in times before ours.
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From the hilarious sign outside the front of the building jokingly saying ‘children without supervision will be sold to the local workhouse’, to the many other signs signifying its storied past, the pub proudly wears its history as a award ribbon.
With such a rich history, the pub is obviously a must-visit spot for tourists coming to the city. However, that doesn’t mean the pub has lost its relevance to the local community it serves. According to Sueleen Berongoy, the pub’s former general manager who now organizes events for the Black Dog Pub Company, the pub attracts both tourists and locals.
She said: “We’re so lucky to have a real mix of people. We have regulars who come, we have people who come here especially for the atmosphere. We have a lot of people who come here because they want to sit outside and be by the Thames, especially in the summer months.
“We get tourists, we get a lot of American tourists and Dutch tourists. We’re very lucky to have a real mix of people showing up. We do great food, we drink great, we make great beer .”
Like many old London pubs, the Mayflower is quite limited with indoor space downstairs. However, the feeling of comfort and privacy only adds to its authentic charm.
Luckily for diners, there’s an upstairs space with more seating, which was rebuilt in the 1950s after much of the top floor was destroyed by WWII bombing. One of the defining features of the pub is its patio space which takes riverside drinking to a whole new level.
When the tide is high, punters can find their feet wet as the river surges over the deck. On some occasions the pub is even forced to completely close the outside area and protect the pub with sandbags stacked in front of the doors.
Sueleen told MyLondon: “A lot of people don’t realize that when they’re on the terrace, we’ve told people it might get high, you might get wet. They don’t realize you’re literally looking under your feet and the tide is right there.”
She recalled seeing the Thames splash right up to the door and added: ‘I saw tables floating over there during a very bad spring tide.
Although the pub’s history is an important part, it remains strong as a friendly boozer with great food. According to the pub’s website, they offer “the best fish and chips in London”, and many of their visitors seem to agree. One visitor raved about the “amazing fish and chips” on Tripadvisor, while another similarly said “the fish and chips are to die for”.
With such legendary status, it’s no wonder the pub has attracted a number of famous faces. Sueleen said: “We brought in a few people in terms of [famous faces]. We had Will Ferrell who booked and came in and sat down with his family. That’s probably the biggest name.”
The iconic pub has managed to honor its incredible history without getting stuck in the past. While the pub’s history is a big part of its charm, it’s not based solely on its legendary status. Instead, it ticks all the boxes you could still want in a local pub – great menu, friendly staff and awesome views.
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