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Painting the Turks Head, Wapping

During lockdown the one thing that kept me sane was going for long walks and taking photos of buildings that interest me. One such building is a pub called the Turks Head in Wapping, East London. To me, the building is beautiful, a cube shaped mini palace! I love the maroon tiles that surround the pub's name, the sash windows, the slim brick columns that separate each downstairs window and the lovely brick chimneys. Unfortunately there wasn't a wooden pub sign hanging from the wrought iron hooks that would usually house it, I would love to see the original sign displayed in all it's glory. The surrounding trees and shrubs give the pub a village like feel making you forget you are in East London for a moment.

This pretty pub hides a gruesome secret, it is said to be the pub where many years ago condemned men were given their last flagon of ale on their journey from Newgate Prison to Execution Dock.

A pub has been at this location since at least 1896. During World War II the pub was run by an eccentric landlady, Mog Murphy, and it stayed open all hours for service personnel seeking news of their loved ones. There is a plaque on the wall outside the pub that commemorates this.

The pub was open until the 1950s when it became a storage depot for the Parks Department but sadly a fire reduced it to a shell.

A campaign in the 1980s led by Maureen Davies and the wild women of Wapping, the Turk's Head Company, a charity they set up to improve local life, bought the derelict building from the council and restored it. The income from the rents of the cafe and the studios above it pays for charitable activities.

The pub was originally located in Wapping High Street but it is now located on the corner of Green Street and Tench Street (previously called Bird Street). There is a commemorative plaque on the upper wall of the building which commemorates the erection of a building on this site in 1706. This engraved stone is on the upper part of the building, the upper larger stone says "Bird Street. Erected Anno Dom 1706" and the lower, smaller stone, says "Rebuilt 1766 and 1927". I presume the larger stone was created when the pub was rebuilt and in 1927 it was decided to carry on the tradition.

Between 1803 and 1956 the Wapping Basin waters lapped up against Tench Street, however it is now filled in and the former basin is now home to the John Orwell Sports Centre.

My painting will be on display as part of a Summer Exhibition being held at Town House, Fournier Street, London, E1 from early July until the beginning of September.

The Turks Head is now a French/English Bistro serving French and English food.

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