Memories of drinking in pubs around Bow

The Ordell Arms, Bow, once had it's own football team

Geezer, Ray Gipson, interviewed in 2015

Ray said that he’s spent all his life living in Bow, “… though my Mum was evacuated to have me as a baby, but after 10 days came back to Bow.”

Reminiscing about pubs in and around the East End Ray said that the pubs acted as Community Centres.

When he was young his parents used to dress up on Saturday nights and go to The Ranelagh Arms (closed 2000) or the Addington Arms (demolished early 1970s). Young Ray was taken along to sit outside with a lemonade and an arrowroot biscuit.

The Ranelagh Arms Bow photographed Nov 2023
The Ranelagh Arms Bow photographed Nov 2023
Arrowroot biscuits are still available
Arrowroot biscuits are still available

“When I was about 16 and I had been a work about a year, my Dad was too old to sign up for the army during the war so they made him an ARP Warden.

“In his spare time he worked as barman in the Bow area to make an extra few quid. One of the pubs he used to work in was The Bridge House, which was slightly east of Parnell Road along Tredegar Road. It was a Ben Truman pub with their lovely green tiles ouside. He took me in there when I was about 16 and he treated me to a pint of bitter.”

The Bridge House pub shown on Tredegar Road in a 1953 Street Directory
The Bridge House pub shown on Tredegar Road in a 1953 Street Directory

“What I liked about it was the company in there. You met people and you talked to different people, and you found out a lot more about life. That the my start of my going in pubs.”

The Bridge House pub 187 Tredegar Road
The Bridge House pub 187 Tredegar Road

Pub Football Teams

“I always liked sport – particularly football. Most of the pubs had football teams.”

Ray started playing in the Hand and Flower football team. As he got older he realised that there were better footballers around than he was, so he took on the job of running the team.

The photo above is of the Hand and Flower football team in the mid 1960s. Ray Gipson is on the left.

“I started off being secretary of the football team, which is a thankless job, but someone has to do all the paperwork, and the organising. Anyway, to cut a long story short, for many years I run local football teams in a lot of the pubs around here, and some successful teams, and that sent me from one pub to the other.

“Jack Morgan was an ex Regimental Sergeant Major in the Grenadier Guards. He loved football, and he sponsored the Hand and Flower team up to the hilt. Jack Morgan was the landlord of the Hand and Flower. In the Hackney and Leyton League we done really well.

“Then we went from there to the Ranelagh, which is another pub that’s gone in the Roman Road. I run a team in there and from there we went round to the Ordell Arms, which is another pub that’s gone. We had a lovely team in there, and then finally we ended up in The Iceland [now the Lighthouse], which is still there. That is where my football management career finished when we finally packed up.”

The Ordell Arms Bow photographed Nov 2023
The Ordell Arms Bow photographed Nov 2023
The Lighthouse 421 Wick Lane, once called The Iceland, and before that The Railway
The Lighthouse 421 Wick Lane, once called The Iceland, and before that The Railway

Boozers as Community Centres

Ray said, “I can remember when I first got married and had a couple of kids, I always belonged to a Loan Club in one of the pubs, because you couldn’t borrow money anywhere around here. No one had bank accounts, you had to have collateral to have a bank account and you had to have guarantees to have a bank account. But pubs had bank accounts.

“If you belonged to a local pub Loan Club you started paying in money [cash from your weekly wage packet] from the first week in January. In summer you could have a loan out of your money plus a bit more on top, to have a weeks holiday down in a caravan somewhere. After the holidays you’d have to repay anything you owed and coninue to pay in a bit each week for Christmas, buying the kids presents and all that. That’s how hundreds and hundreds of local people could afford things like an holiday, and to pay for Christmas.”

Ray said that there were lots of things you could do in pubs, for example dart matches and shove ha’penny, “I was never very good at Shove Ha’penny, but in this area Shove Ha’penny was really good, there were some wonderful Shove Ha’penny players.

Shove-Ha'penny-Boards are available from Jaques
Shove-Ha’penny-Boards are available from Jaques

“The Old Three Tuns which was at 185 Bow Road, facing the church, was a breeding ground for good Shove Ha’penny players. They ran the Shove Ha’penny League in that pub.”

Ray remembered, ”Darts teams, women’s darts teams, but it was the camaraderie in the pubs, meeting people from other pubs playing in the teams but also the live music.

“The live music was unbelievable, they had some lovely live music in half a dozen pubs within walking distance from the Roman Road.

“For the Sunday Dinnertime drink everyone that came out was suited and booted.

“Back in time some of the old ladies would get their husbands suit out of the Pawn Shop because he was going out Sunday dinnertime to have a drink, and it would go back in again Monday morning to put food on the table for the rest of the week.

“There weren’t a lot of pubs that done food as per se, not hot food, there weren’t many pubs that done roast dinners and things like that. You could usually get like rolls and sandwiches in a pub, especially for Dart Matches or Shove Ha’penny. If you were playing another team they were free.

“On the counter in most good pubs there was money boxes, there was one for the kids day out to the seaside, there’s one for the Beano for the men and another for woman as they used to have separate Beano’s They were usually trips to Southend because it was the nearest place. So recapping pubs were a complete Community Centre.

“Another thing that I mustn’t forget – people kept an eye on everyone, especially the old people. Anyone who was in some sort of predicament, it might be ain’t been seen for a while, someone would know where they lived and would go around their house, to check they was okay.

“People might need to run a collection in the pub to help ‘em out, get them over a bad spell, that’s when I say they were communities.

“You usually met your girlfriend in the pub, often someone else’s daughter.

“Every friend I’ve got I met in the pub and through sport or football, and I still know now we’re in our 70s. I still see em, we still have a drink, we still talk about the times, the games we played over Hackney Marshes and Victoria Park, the Shove Ha’penny. All the different pubs we went to. Pubs was part of my life, and it was a good part of my life, and I will never forget it and I am glad that I done it.”

Question: How do you think the pub is going to be in the future with the public change?

Answer: “My son’s had a pub, he’s had a couple of pubs. It is a hard business to run in my opinion. There’s too many people who’s got their fingers in the pie, in a pub. There’s the brewery, there’s the holding company, there’s the landlord and then the poor publican that’s got to make a living and all. You don’t realise all that when you go in a pub now and they want £4.50 for a pint of beer.  The problem is you can go in a supermarket and it costs you a pound… that is what’s killing the pubs.

“So the pubs have got to do things different, like doing proper food.” But then Ray went on to speak about the cost of eating out not being something that the ordinary people can do on a regular basis.

This flags up the demographic changes that have happened in Bow over the last 20 years. The high cost of buying property in Bow has been driven up by incomers to the area who do have the money. So to survive many pubs have adapted to this new clientel, almost abandoning the older residents. Some pubs, like The Hand and Flower, are now restaurants, not pubs at all.

Ray wanted his words to go down in posterity, to be available in fifty and in a hundred years time, “Because, there’s a lot of youngsters that don’t know what they’ve missed.”

Alan Tucker

One comment

  1. great feature.
    pubs were very much an important part of east end life.

    anyone remember the teterden arms in devons rd bromley by bow?
    chris savory

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *