London pub signs – The Widow’s Son…

The Widow’s Son in late 2020. PICTURE: Google Maps

This pub in London’s East End takes it’s name – or so the story goes – from the building which formerly stood on the site – a cottage belonging to a widow.

The pub’s sign showing a sailor with the hanging net of buns.

The tale goes that the widow’s only son went to sea – it’s thought this was during the Napoleonic Wars – and wrote home to his mother that she should expect him at Easter (and could she have a nice hot cross bun waiting for him)?

Tragically, the son never returned, but for the rest of her life, the widow – apparently refusing to accept he had died – continued to keep a hot cross bun for him on every Good Friday. It’s said that following her death, a net full of the unclaimed buns was found hanging from the ceiling of her house.

The site became known as The Bun House and when the pub was built on it in 1848 and named The Widow’s Son in honour of the widow’s tradition, it too carried the “bun house” moniker.

The pub has continued the widow’s tradition and every Good Friday, a sailor from the Royal Navy places a new bun in a net which hangs over the bar.

The now Grade II*-listed pub at 75 Devons Road in Bromley-by-Bow, while not particularly appealing from the outside, still has interior fittings dating from the 1870s.

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Where’s London’s oldest…canal?

London’s oldest canal is one that perhaps doesn’t immediately spring to mind when considering the city’s waterways – the Limehouse Cut in the city’s east.

Authorised by an Act of Parliament passed in 1766, the Cut was built in 1770 to link the River Lea (or Lee) – which it joins at Bromley-by-Bow – to the Thames at Limehouse.

It was designed to enable sailing barges coming down the Lee to avoid navigating the rather difficult curves in the lower reaches of the river at Bow Creek (and waiting for the tide to come in to the Thames so the barges could then go around the Isle of Dogs to the docks).

In 1968, the exit lock which led from the cut directly to the Thames was replaced by another short section of canal which linked it to what is now known as Limehouse Basin and was previously known as Regent’s Canal Dock.

The cut these days features an innovative floating towpath which leads under the A12, the northern approach road of the Blackwall Tunnel, and the old factory buildings which once lined it are giving way to modern apartment complexes and office blocks. Pictured is a section of the Limehouse Cut near the Limehouse Basin end.