Nov 09

The FT Top 25 Pubs of the 00s No 23: The Shipwrights Arms

FT + Pumpkin Publog11 comments • 1,300 views

shipwrights pic Unpacking my crate on the first day in a new office I glanced out of the window. The first thing I noticed was a pie with Hitler’s face.* The second thing I noticed was this unassuming, but tempting, little boozer.

“Excellent,” I said to my colleague, “There’s a pub opposite.”

“It looks a bit rough.”

This was nonsense. It didn’t – and doesn’t – look at all rough, it just looked like a pub. Alright, there was something unvarnished about it in comparison to Tooley Street’s other drinkeries – it was clearly not after the same clientele as Skinkers Wine Bar, or the anonymous booze barn that serves Hays Galleria.

It turned out that the roughness assessment was second-hand information: a group of youngsters from my work had scouted the area around our new office and had decided that the Shipwrights was full of “locals” (oh no!) who didn’t take kindly to office folk invading their space. I protested, but the damage was done – when I went for a pint with colleagues, Skinkers would be the place.

I quickly realised, though, how ideal the Shipwrights was as a place to meet friends. Its London Bridge location makes it very handy as a meet-up (and of course for me it’s terribly convenient) and it’s proved a superior pub for plotting and planning. Unlike a lot of pubs on the list, it’s a hard one to sprawl in, with a lot of smallish tables spread out around a central bar in the round. Not suited to the gradual accretion of friends over the course of an evening, but rather good for getting things done. Lollards shows, Freaky Trigger revamps, Trig Brothers – the Shipwrights has played host to them all. (It’s also – a black mark this – the place that put Carling’s unspeakable C2 lager on tap for us to test.)

And while the beer is unspectacular** and the amenities unshowy there’s something more-ish about it: a hard pub to leave, which is the vaguest but possibly greatest complement of them all.

*the Hitler Pie advertises the war museum a door or so up from the Shipwrights. This has nothing to do with the pub, which does not even serve pies.

**though not bad – it has Deuchars and a couple of other ales, and – C2 aside – its lagers are fine too.


  1. 1
    Pete on 23 Nov 2009 #

    I remember an odd night in there where a discussion of knots* roped in an American couple who were sure all the knots had different names in the States. The man claimed that he knew all the knots because he went to “Knot Camp” when he was a kid, and then failed to be able to tie a reef knot. I think we shared a few pints before they went off looking for food, and they did not get my Reef / Reef Knot joke regarding Place Your Hands. Obv.

    I like it, but it feels fantastically inconvenient in a way that some of the other London Bridge pubs don’t seem to be.

    *The pub has an unshowy selection of naval paraphernalia on the walls, including a display case of knots.

  2. 2
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 23 Nov 2009 #

    It’s actually closer to the station than any of the other London Bridge pubs, though, isn’t it?

  3. 3
    Ewan on 23 Nov 2009 #

    No, Skinkers and The Cooperage are under the station, the Oast House is in the station, and the Barrowboy & Banker, the Bunch of Grapes,the Old King’s Head and the Southwark Tavern are all very close to various entrances to the tube station, probably more than the Shipwright’s.

  4. 4
    Pete on 23 Nov 2009 #

    Mark is correct if you factor in “pubs we ever go to!” Oh prejudiced we.

  5. 5
    CarsmileSteve on 23 Nov 2009 #

    The other thing to factor in is that, although tom’s cow-orkers may not have fancied it, it gets amazingly busy on a friday after work. As we’ve almost always gone during the week when a table is almost always available with a few minute’s pubcraft, I was quite surprised when it was quite so busy at the end of the week.

  6. 6
    Ewan on 23 Nov 2009 #

    That is alas the only time I visited and I rather took against the place, though it’s not fair to judge any pub for how it is on a Friday evening. It’s unfortunate though that the phrase “locals’ pub” has taken on pejorative connotations, as that’s usually the best kind of place to go (depending on the locality, to a certain extent).

  7. 7
    Matt DC on 23 Nov 2009 #

    I’m a big fan of this one, it’s a good unpretentious pub in an area otherwise almost completely lacking in them.

    It also looks like I imagined all pubs to be when I was a child.

  8. 8
    Richard J on 23 Nov 2009 #

    I worked round the area too for a couple of years. I went there once and had a Deuchars. It wasn’t very nice. That’s pretty much the end of my pub-based anecdotes, bar mentioning that there’s a Balls Brothers in Hays Galleria as well as the big mega-pub.

  9. 9
    Alex on 24 Nov 2009 #

    Will we be hearing anything about the Globe just across Borough High St?

  10. 10

    Alex you should come out and meet us all some time! Drag D^D along and make it UnfoggedCon East…

  11. 11
    Pete on 25 Nov 2009 #

    The Globe did not make the cut.

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