London Walking Tours    with Joanna Moncrieff

The 1884 Walthamstow Temperance Poem

Researching for my Walthamstow walk for the local Appetite Festival I came across a poem written about the evils of drinking alcohol.  It was recited at a temperance meeting in a chapel in Wood Street, Walthamstow in 1884. 

Ironically it’s a good list of all the pubs in Walthamstow at the time starting at one end of the town and finishing at the other. Some of these pubs have been demolished, some converted for residential use but a number of them remain and the histories of some of them feature on my walk. The question is do I recite the poem or not? I haven’t yet decided …

Worthy Sir, ladies and gentlemen,
I’ve come from Higham Hill;
To give you a recitation,
My promise is to fulfil:
‘Tis about the public drinkshops
That are in Walthamstow,
Which you may have no knowledge of,
And perhaps would like to know.

At right, at left, and all around,
Sign-boards are hanging out;
With ‘Sparkling Ales’, ‘Old Pale’, and ‘Mild’,
And ‘Splendid Double Stout!’
These inns and taverns, and the like,
Are not a very few;
And some of them are very old,
While others are but new.

And it might be said of one and all,
That each is but a tap,
From the ‘Hole in the Wall’ – hard by,
To the Essex ‘Brewery Tap’
A trap, we mean, so far as this.
That ere the tipplers pass,
They think that whether cold or hot,
They’d rather have a glass.

At Higham Hill we’ve four such shops:
The ‘Tavern’, ‘Prince of Wales’,
The ‘Woodman’ and a little one,
Where may be had such ‘Ales’!
Ahead! The ‘Royal Standard’ shows;
‘Essex Arms’; ‘The Cock’; ‘The Chequers’;
The ‘Coach and Horses’; ‘Common Gate’;
All of which are total wreckers.

The ‘Duke of Cambridge’; ‘Volunteer’;
‘Grove Tavern’; ‘Chestnut Tree’;
‘Lord Raglan’s’; ‘Castle’; ‘Windmill’; – then
‘Queens Arms’ comes next! You see.
‘Nag’s Head’ is at Church end so called,
‘Plasterers Arms’ not far away;
‘The Plough’ and ‘Flower Pot’ comes next,

And ‘Duke’s Head’, all in array!

‘The Swan’ and ‘Woodman’ Hagger-lane
Has its ‘Foresters’ Arms’ intact!
Yonder to the east are the ‘Rising Sun’,
And Royal Oak compact.

North-west there are the ‘Rose and Crown’,
‘The Victory’; ‘Bell’; and ‘Billet’;
‘This number, sure, must be reduced-
We think the people will it?

What means this strange device of men?
I’m sure we ought to know
Why so many drink shops do abound,
In the parish of Walthamstow!
The drinks at all these houses sold,
Of course are very strong;
They do the people out of right,
And render to them wrong.

If men were just what men should be,
Of judgement, tact and sense,
They’d ne’er support such shops as these,
At such a vast expense!
For if seven thousand pounds by three
Were rightly multiplied,
‘T’would not exceed the amount by which
These houses are supplied.

Such money spent on Baccus – would
For every year right through,
Four hundred families well support,
And educate them too.
Think not, you folks who’re in the trade,
We hate you in the least;
No! tis the horrid drink we hate,
Which makes a man A Beast.

By Mr Bradley

This poem can be found in “Behind the Bar” which is an amazing 440 page (update 2018 – now 612 pages) document about the licensed trade in Waltham Forest which was put together (and is an ongoing project) by Waltham Forest Oral History Workshop. The 2018 version of the document can be found on Dropbox here.

Update July 2018: I now lead a new Walthamstow walk entitled “From Monoux and Morris to Beer and Bacon Jam” and do mention the poem but only quote one or two verses.

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified City of Westminster Tour Guide who leads mostly food and drink themed walks in the West End 
(and in Chingford & Walthamstow too!)
Details of all her walks are listed here.
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4 Responses to The 1884 Walthamstow Temperance Poem

  • The saddest thing about this is that most of these pubs were still open up until the last 2-3 years. Still, blocks of flats, Tescos and chicken shops better represent London culture these days.

  • By my reckoning over a third of the pubs in the poem are still open and operating as pubs which I think is a pretty good number almost 130 years on. Yes there have been some recent closures but there has also been investment into other Walthamstow's pubs hopefully giving them a new lease of life.

  • Fantastic find, thanks for passing on.

  • You're welcome!