The Prospect of Whitby is a historic public house on the banks of the Thames at Wapping in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It lays claim to being the site of the oldest riverside tavern, dating from around 1520.
The tavern was formerly known as The Pelican and later as the Devil’s Tavern, on account of its dubious reputation. All that remains from the building’s earliest period is the 400-year-old stone floor, and the pub features eighteenth century panelling and a nineteenth century facade.
The pub has a pewter-top bar, and is decorated with many nautical objects. In former times it was a meeting place for sailors, smugglers, cut-throats and footpads. Sir Hugh Willoughby sailed from here in 1553 in a disastrous attempt to discover the North-East Passage to China.
In the 17th century, it became the hostelry of choice of "Hanging" Judge Jeffreys, scourge of the Monmouth Rebellion. He lived nearby and a replica gallows and noose hangs by the Thameside window, commemorating his custom. He was chased by anti-Royalists into the nearby Town of Ramsgate, captured and taken to the Tower for his own safety.
According to legend, criminals would be tied up to the posts at low tide and left there to drown when the tide came in. Execution Dock was actually by Wapping Old Stairs and generally used for pirates. In the eighteenth century, the first fuchsia plant in the United Kingdom was sold at the pub. Views from the pub were sketched by both Turner and Whistler. The writers Charles Dickens and Samuel Pepys are known to have paused to sup here.
Following a fire in the early 19th century, the tavern was rebuilt and renamed The Prospect of Whitby, after a Tyne collier that used to berth next to the pub. The ship took sea coal from Newcastle upon Tyne to London. The Prospect was listed as a Grade II listed building in December 1950.
The pub underwent a renovation in 1951 to double the interior space. In January 1953, the pub was raided by armed robbers. The pub has been visited by Princess Margaret and Prince Rainier III of Monaco.