Situated on one of the most historical reaches of the Thames, the Anchor lays claim to fascinating, and somewhat gruesome historical associations.
The first official record of the Anchor was made in 1822, however, other records tell of a more macabre past. As well as being the site of a Roman grave and a venue that held bear and bull baiting pits, the site on which the Anchor lies was also allegedly used for plague pits during 1603.
It was most likely that the Anchor owes its name to an early owner of the brewery, Josiah Childs, who gave the pub its current name in 1665. Childs was closely involved with the navy, to whom he supplied ‘Masts, Spars and Bowsprits as well as stores and small beer’. At one time the locals referred to this pub as ‘Thrales of Deadman’s place’, as ‘Thrales’ referred to the brewery at the time.
Sitting just a stone’s throw away from the pub is perhaps its most famous neighbour, the original Globe Theatre site, which stood 1598 to 1613. It is supposed that Shakespeare himself enjoyed a pint of ale or two within the walls of the Anchor. Built within metres of the original site, the modern reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe opened in 1997.
Throughout history, the Anchor has been used as a tavern, a brothel, a brewery, a ship’s chandlers, and has played host to a wealth of notable patrons. It is said that Doctor Samuel Johnson, another of England’s best known literary figures, was a close friend of the Thrale Brewery owners and a regular drinker at the Anchor. As the single most quoted English writer after Shakespeare, Doctor Johnson wrote many essays, poems and books, including his dictionary of the English Language.
In May 1773, the Anchor hosted a superb and unique meal which was attended by influential figures of the time, such as artist Reynolds, Irish poet Oliver Goldsmith, actor and author of ‘Heart of Oak are out Ships’ David Garrick and Irish statesmen Edmund Burke.
It was from this pub that in 1666 famous diarist Samuel Pepys witnessed the awesome destruction of the Great Fire of London. He wrote in his personal diary that he took refuge in ‘a little alehouse on bankside... and there watched the fire grow’. The Great Fire swept through the central parts of London, gutting the medieval City and destroying the majority of London’s homes.
The original building survived the Great Fire of 1666, however ironically burned down sometime later when a fire devastated the area. It was then rebuilt between 1770 and 1775 by Win Allen, to become the superb pub we see today.
The pub contains a room dedicated to the ‘Clink’ prison, which can be found nearby in the aptly named Clink Street. The Clink, owned by the Bishop of Winchester, was built for the detention of religious non-conformists. It was in use from the 12th century until 1780, when it was burned down during the Gordon Riots, never to be rebuilt. The Clink Prison was the first prison in which women were regularly confined.
In more modern times however, the Anchor’s picturesque scenery has been featured in such block busters as ‘Get him to the Greek’ and ‘Mission Impossible I’.