A toast to the working class Hackney pub – there’s not many left
- Credit: Archant
Not interested in paying upwards of £4.50 for a pint? Fed up of fancy sausage rolls and scotch eggs? Sam Gelder tells the 150-year story of one of Hackney’s last “proper” pubs.
Pipe-smoking blokes sporting moustaches and bowler hats while sipping on a locally-brewed stout. It may sound like your average weekend in Hackney, but it’s actually a snapshot of a time long before the borough became a hipster haven.
Back in 1866 a pub named The Prince Edward opened in Wick Road, Homerton.
And it’s still there 150 years later, proudly serving food and drink in an area largely starved of community pubs.
In fact, The Prince Edward boasts of being one of two traditional boozers left in the south of Hackney that caters for an older, local clientele and doesn’t charge an arm and a leg for a pint.
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To celebrate, the pub held a party earlier this month, where regulars were joined by people passing through the doors for the first time.
Josh Clarke, who runs the Hackney Irish Social Club at the pub, said it was a “proper special day”.
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He wrote on the pub’s Facebook page: “Local affordable boozers are important – without them huge numbers of people would lose an important social outlet. Find yours and support it!”
It’s not all been plain sailing for the pub, though. In recent years, it has been threatened with demolition and nearly went the way of many drinking holes in becoming luxury flats.
But it was saved with the help of Hackney Council, which recognised its place in the borough and awarded it a special status as an Asset of Community Value. The rare title offers a layer of protection from any change of use and is owned by just two other pubs – The Duke of Wellington in Nile Street, Hoxton and The Chesham Arms, also in Homerton.
The Prince is renowned for its Caribbean, soul and Irish music nights and a warm atmosphere towards anyone who passes through its doors.
It is home to the Hackney Irish Social Club and punters can be found playing pool and dominoes of an evening.
There is actually some confusion about when it first opened its doors.
According to pubhistory.com, a renowned database for boozers across the UK, the first licensee was Thomas Gooding, a silk dealer from Middlesex who threw his launch party in 1861.
But given the trade and the amount of alcohol involved, we’ll let whoever is wrong off a couple of years.
From 1896 until 1944, the Cuthbert family owned the pub and it was known as Cuthbert’s.
It was then taken over by Bill Hobbs.
Bill ran the pub until 1963, when Joanne Croke’s parents John and Margaret Birrane became the licensees.
“They ran it until March 1990,” said Joanne.
“Until then it had been a mix of East End regulars and Irish clientele. When they left, they were the longest serving publicans in Hackney at the particular point in time.”
The current owners, who did not want to comment for the piece, made a few changes to the interior of the pub, but retained the traditional Irish designs. Time will tell whether they are still there in another 150 years.