Where it all began
The Trafalgar Tavern was built in 1837, the year Queen Victoria ascended to the throne. Prior to the Trafalgar there was a small inn, The Old George, which served local fisherman. It was a popular public house due to its prominent position on the River Thames as well as being close to Greenwich Hospital, the Woolwich Dockyard and Westminster. In 1830 the owner of The Old George planned to expand the building but, unfortunately for him, the architect he engaged saw the potential in his plan and intentionally derailed the application to the commissioner. The architect then hatched a plan to take over ownership of the site.
A Brief History
A historic landmark, where the past lives on in the present
Built on the site of The Old George Inn in 1837, the year of Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne, this Grade II-listed building has taken many forms. Through Victoria’s reign it was frequented by Charles Dickens who chose the Trafalgar Tavern as the setting for the wedding breakfast in Our Mutual Friend, his final novel. It was around the same time that politicians decided to host the ministerial ‘whitebait dinners’ here; where they would dine on whitebait caught fresh from the Thames. This became an annual tradition for ministers who would travel across from Westminster by barge. Following WWI the Tavern became home to aged seaman and during WWII it was used as flats for naval officers. Finally, in 1968, this inspiring venue was restored to its Victorian grandeur; a pub and a tribute to old London.
A bold and ambitious plan
With plans to dramatically increase the size of the premises and completely rearrange the interior layout, the new owners had immense ambition. This, coupled with the complex nature of building on the riverbed, meant that for many years the inn remained untouched whilst plan after plan was refused. Finally in 1837, the principle building you see today was constructed. The inn was named the Trafalgar Tavern in celebration of Nelson’s great victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, after which Nelson’s body was returned to Greenwich and laid in State at the Royal Naval College; a stone’s throw from the Trafalgar Tavern.
The centre of high society
Mid-Victorian Britain was a time of great prosperity and Greenwich, in particular, was thriving especially due to the introduction of a new railway from London Bridge. The Trafalgar Tavern, with its grandiose interior and fantastic setting became hugely popular. Its clientele included many well-known artists, politicians and writers such as Charles Dickens, who chose the Trafalgar Tavern as the setting for the wedding breakfast in Our Mutual Friend. It was also during this time that Westminster politicians famously began holding whitebait dinners at the Trafalgar Tavern, where the whitebait was cooked fresh from the River Thames. This became an annual tradition for government ministers who would travel across from Westminster by barge for the 'Ministerial Whitebait Dinner'.
A restored tribute to its former glory
With the death of the landlord, the Trafalgar changed hands, and its glory days faded into the past. After WWI it became a home for retired sailors and later accommodation for serving naval officers. Then, in 1968, the inspiring venue was restored to its Victorian grandeur and original purpose. Today, we are passionate about celebrating the Trafalgar Tavern's glorious past, with tributes to old London in the collection of charming period artefacts and original artworks. Of course, whitebait is a firm favourite on the menu alongside other British pub classics.