Doctor Samuel Johnson - SE1
Biographer, Essayist and Lexicographer
Born 18th September 1709
Died 13th December 1784
The brewery site, upon which this present building stands, has a rich and varied past. Throughout history, ‘The Anchor’ has been used as a tavern, a brothel, a brewery, a ship’s chandlers, and has entertained a wealth of notable patrons.
The first official record of ‘The Anchor’ was not made until 1822, however other records state that as well as being the site of a Roman grave, the locality was used for plague pits during 1603 and old maps show bear and bull baiting pits within the site. It was most likely that one early owner of the brewery, Josiah Childs (1665), gave ‘The Anchor’ its current name. Childs was closely involved with the navy to whom he supplied “Masts, Spars and Bowsprits as well as stores and small beer”. At one time the locals referred to this pub as “Thrales of Deadman’s place”. ‘Thrales’ being the name of the brewery who owned the pub at the time.
Perhaps the most famous local landmark was the original Globe Theatre, which stood from 1598 to 1613. Performed here were Shakespearean classics such as “Romeo and Juliet” and “As you like it”.
Many other London pubs claim Shakespeare as a patron, however we can be fairly sure he enjoyed an ale or two within these walls. The modern ‘Shakespeare’s Globe’ opened in 1997, is a reconstruction of the original theatre, built within metres of the previous building.
Dr Samuel Johnson, another of England’s best known literary figures, was a close friend of the Thrale Brewery owners and a regular patron at the Anchor. As the single most quoted English writer after Shakespeare, Dr Johnson wrote many essays, poems and books, including his dictionary of the English Language. A copy of his dictionary is on display in the pub. Johnson was a member of the Literary Club, founded by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1764, which included many influential, cultural figures of the time. In May 1773 a superb meal was enjoyed at the Anchor with these friends and associates including Reynolds (Artist), Oliver Goldsmith (Irish Poet), David Garrick (Actor and author of “Heart of Oak are our Ships”) and Edmund Burke (Irish Statesman).
It was from this pub that in 1666 famous diarist Samuel Pepys witnessed the awesome destruction of the Great Fire of London. He wrote in his personal diary that he took refuge in “a little alehouse on bankside... and there watched the fire grow”. The Great Fire swept through the central parts of London, gutting the medieval city and destroying the
majority of London’s homes. The original survived the great fire of 1666, however ironically burned down sometime later when fire devastated the area, and was rebuilt between 1770-75 by Win Allen, to become the pub we see today.
The pub contains a room dedicated to the ‘Clink’ prison, which can be found nearby in the aptly named Clink Street. The Clink, owned by the Bishop of Winchester, was built for the detention of religious non-conformists, and was in use from the 12th century until 1780, when it was burned down during the Gordon Riots and never rebuilt. The Clink Prison was the first prison in which women were regularly confined.