The Grapes, Limehouse

The Grapes is a Grade II listed public house situated directly on the north bank of the Thames in London's Limehouse area, with a veranda overlooking the water. To its landward side, the pub is found at number 76 in Narrow Street, flanked by former warehouses now converted to residential and other uses.[1]

The Grapes
Grapes, Limehouse, E14 (3679094059).jpg
View of the pub from Narrow Street
The Grapes, Limehouse is located in London Borough of Tower Hamlets
The Grapes, Limehouse
Location within London Tower Hamlets
General information
TypePublic house
Location76 Narrow Street,
Coordinates51°30′31.61″N 0°2′2.67″W / 51.5087806°N 0.0340750°W / 51.5087806; -0.0340750Coordinates: 51°30′31.61″N 0°2′2.67″W / 51.5087806°N 0.0340750°W / 51.5087806; -0.0340750

The Grapes is owned in partnership by the actor Sir Ian McKellen, the theatre and film director Sean Mathias, and Evgeny Lebedev, publisher of the Evening Standard newspaper.[2]


The current building dates from the 1720s and is on the site of a pub built in 1583. It was formerly a working-class tavern serving the dockers of the Limehouse Basin. In the 1930s it sold beer from the adjacent brewery owned by Taylor Walker. It survived the intense bombing of the area in World War II, and is just outside the Docklands commercial zone built in the 1980s.[3]

Local areaEdit

View of the pub from the river at low tide

Limehouse was settled early as a dry bank suitable for growing, easy building upon and import, export, chandlery and fishing—most of many times wider Poplar to the east was the low-lying fields of the Isle of Dogs used for the keeping of marsh sheep with the national markets in the City just west. To the west before the City were the similar small wharf and early built-up 'Tower Division of Middlesex hamlets' of Ratcliff, Shadwell, Wapping and St Katherine by the Tower each with their own urban settlements; together with Limehouse covering no more than a square mile in total. By Queen Elizabeth I's time, Limehouse joined with its neighbours as a doorway to world trade in the City and to ships embarking across the British Empire; a contemporary Limehouse-based world explorer was Sir Humphrey Gilbert. From directly below The Grapes, Sir Walter Raleigh set sail on his third voyage to the New World.

In 1661, Samuel Pepys' diary records his trip to lime kilns at the jetty just along from The Grapes.

Artistic referencesEdit

In 1820, the young Charles Dickens visited his godfather in Limehouse and knew the district well for 40 years. The Grapes appears, scarcely disguised, in the opening chapter of his novel Our Mutual Friend:

A tavern of dropsical appearance ... long settled down into a state of hale infirmity. It had outlasted many a sprucer public house, indeed the whole house impended over the water but seemed to have got into the condition of a faint-hearted diver, who has paused so long on the brink that he will never go in at all.

Other popular writers were drawn by huddled buildings, wharves and docks by the bustling river: Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray; Arthur Conan Doyle, who sent Sherlock Holmes in search of opium provided by the local Chinese immigrants; and, more recently, Peter Ackroyd in Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem.

Narrow Street is also associated with distinguished painters. Francis Bacon lived and worked at No. 80, and Edward Wolfe at No. 96. James McNeill Whistler painted a Nocturne of Limehouse. On The Grapes' walls are an oil painting, Limehouse Barge Builders, by the marine artist Napier Hemy; watercolours of Limehouse Reach by Louise Hardy; and Dickens at The Grapes by the New Zealand artist Nick Cuthell.[4]


  1. ^ "". Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  2. ^ "Sir Ian McKellen's grape expectations". Evening Standard. 12 January 2012. Archived from the original on 27 July 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  3. ^ "The Grapes". Archived from the original on 19 November 2011. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
  4. ^ "The Grapes History". The Grapes. Archived from the original on 6 November 2011. Retrieved 4 November 2011.

External linksEdit