This is the interior of a pub called the Ship & Whale, in a section of London named Rotherhithe (I’m American, I can’t pronounce that). Its address is 2 Gulliver Street, London SE16. I have a thing for pubs in the British Isles, so when I came across this photo I couldn’t resist running it in my Interiors series. The present building in which the Ship & Whale Pub sits was built around 1880, but the pub has been operating in this location since at least 1767 where it first appears in British tax records. Thus, for nearly 250 years people have been quaffing brews in this spot.

One of the things I love about British pubs is how seamlessly past and present merge. The thing I notice instantly about this picture is how beat-up the chairs and tables are. How long would you expect furniture like this to last? If reasonably maintained and the chairs recovered now and again, could they be 50 years old? Maybe 75? It might not matter, because even if they were newer the replacement furniture would probably look exactly like the furniture it replaced. The carpet here is also very old, a style that’s persisted in interior furnishing since at least the mid-19th century. In fact, although this photo was taken in 2008, I can’t see a single thing in this room that looks like it couldn’t have been there in 1915, or even when the building was constructed in 1880. Imagine people sitting around drinking beer in this room, looking much the same, on the day the Lusitania sank (100 years ago tomorrow), or the day before World War II began, or the day of the moon landing. The term “frozen in time” definitely fits.

Rotherhithe is a dock area and in fact the Ship & Whale, as you might guess from its name, is located just a few blocks from the water. A pub like this would have been heavily frequented by dock workers, stevedores and those sort of working-class people, mostly men until fairly recent decades. This pub probably got a lot more upscale, my guess, in perhaps the 1980s. It even has a wine list which you can see here.

Below is what it looks like on the outside, from Google Street View. Anyone care to drop in for a drink?

ship and whale pub exterior

The interior photo of the Ship & Whale Pub is by Flickr user Ewan Munro and is used under Creative Commons 2.0 (Attribution) license.