It was a case of ‘rain-stopped-play’ for London Shoes last week – but fortunately I had a topic ‘on-the shelf’ ready to be deployed for such occasions.
A couple of week ago when I was wandering around Forest Gate in east-London, doing the ‘Trebor Factory’ blog – I happened to stumble across a pub that I used to frequent years ago in the early 1970’s, when – in my early teens – I used to pop into this place on my way to Upton Park to watch my beloved West Ham Utd play.
When attending the Hammers ‘home’ games as a young teenager, as an obvious underage drinker – I used to steer clear of all the boozers close to their Boleyn Ground – as not only were they a little bit ‘lively’, there was always a fairly strong Police presence close by.
So – I used to pop into to the much more out of the way and sedate “The Spotted Dog” pub, deep in a residential area about a 10min walk from the Hammers ground – where I would try my luck at getting away with the odd half of lager & lime or two, or getting someone else (often a complete stranger) to get one in for me .
Anyway – whilst conducting the Trebor blog, it just so happened that I came across the old ‘Spotted Dog’ pub again – which I had naturally assumed had been long closed down.
‘The Spotted Dog’ in Upton Lane–Forest Gate–E7 was always a very well know and popular pub amongst local residents and east Londoners – but it wasn’t until I did a little bit of research on it that I was amazed to find out just how important a part it has played in certain aspects of London’s history – something that I, and I’m guessing many others, don’t have a clue about.
Historic records indicate that there has been a house on the current site of the pub, since the late 15th century & early 16th century – a time when the surrounding area was completely rural, and known as the ‘District of Upton’.
King Henry VIII laid claim to most of the land throughout the ‘Upton’ district – as it was just east of the City, and so easy to get to.
Henry VIII used to use this rural land just to the east of the City – to undertake his favourite pastime of ‘hunting’.
The site, of what later became the Spotted Dog pub, became one of the many ‘hunting lodges’ Henry VIII had scattered across the then rural districts of London.
It is said that the property on the site was given to the King’s ‘Master of the Hounds’ – and the house and its grounds were expanded to accommodate the ‘Kennels for the Royal Hounds’.
Old Henry’s ‘Master of the Hounds’ was granted a special Royal licence by the Crown to make personal profit from refreshing travellers passing that way – and as a result, the lodge soon became one of London’s most well-known taverns/inns.
In 1665 the famous author of the time Daniel Defoe refers to The Spotted Dog throughout his famous book ‘History of the Plague in London’ – as it was a common location for people living in the City who were trying to escape the devastation of the Great Plague, to escape to, and camp out in the fields surrounding the tavern – in the hope that they wouldn’t succumb to the fatal disease.
Throughout the following century, and now named ‘Ye Olde Spotted Dog’ the tavern was a popular place for ‘drovers’ to stop off at for refreshment, when transporting their cattle to the City markets.
Following the ‘Great Fire of London’ in 1666, the City’s merchants temporarily moved out of the devastated City, and conducted their daily business trading meetings at the ‘Spotted Dog’ – and so it sort of temporarily became London’s Stock Exchange.
By the early Victorian era, the pub continued to be extremely popular – particularly with the wealthy owners from the nearby London Docks, who had built their ‘country retreats’ in the pubs nearby fields – a few of which of these buildings are still in situ today.
By the late Victorian period, with the invention and expansion of the railway – thousands of new terraced houses were built in the area to accommodate London’s rapidly increasing population – and by the end of the 1800’s the area was no longer classed as ‘rural’ because up to 250,000 people were now living in what were once fields.
Also In the late 1800’s / early 1900’s, The Spotted Dog Inn leased out a big portion of its land to one of London’s oldest amateur football teams ‘Clapton FC’ who built their home ground right next door to the pub – and it is still there to this very day – which is kind of strange bearing in mind that Clapton itself is an area that is actually located a few miles further north, up near Hackney.
In the 1950’s the Government included The Spotted Dog pub in their ‘National List of Buildings of Architectural or Historic Interest’.
Throughout the late 50’s early 60’s the Spotted Dog underwent many transformations such as becoming a steak house eatery.
In 1967, because of its fascinating history and the fact that the building was still in situ and operating – The Spotted Dog was granted Grade II Listed status – protecting its external structure.
And as I mentioned earlier – I used to frequent the place now and again in the early 1970’s on my way to and from West Ham home games.
However, by the early 2000’s, whether it be as a result of geographic or cultural reasons, The Spotted Dog seemed to have lost its previously held charm and popularity, and as a result slowly started to fall into a state of disrepair.
In 2004 the Spotted Dog pulled its very last pint – and, having been a tavern for 500 years, sadly had no option other than to close down.
But that’s not the end of the story – because the buildings on the site have Grade II Listed status – it is protected and can’t just be knocked down to make way for new structures such as much needed housing etc.
This restrictive architectural situation means that, since 2004, the Spotted Dog, with its immense history and visibly elaborate and unique external features, particularly for an inner city building, has simply been left to rot and decay, to the extent that it is now just an ugly eyesore to the area.
Personally, I feel it sad, for a building and site that has such a wealth of ‘local’ history, and a place that clearly holds so many happy memories for past generations – that some sort of funding can’t be found to restore the building to its former glory and turn it into something useful like an education centre for local school kids to visit, so that they can learn and see what their area used to be like in olden times – such a shame, but nevertheless, I still have my happy memories of the old place.
Hope my accompanying photos help bring this little story to life for you.
See below-a full summary of the photographs relating to ‘The Spotted Dog’ blog