The Kings Head public house stood at Middlesex Wharf from at least 1851.
In 1847 John Green purchased a boat yard, workshop and gardens at Middlesex Wharf, to the north of the Jolly Anglers Public House. The lessor was John Hammond, owner of Hammonds Cottages, The Kings Head Beer House and Hammonds Tea Gardens.
Ordnance Survey Plans of 1870 and 1896 show the Kings Head at the corner of Lea Dock and the river Lea with boatyards and boatsheds to the rear, lining the adjacent Dock. Ornamental gardens are set within a sweeping bend in the river next to the boat sheds, possibly a pleasure garden and possibly ‘Hammonds Tea Gardens’. The gardens may have become an orchard by 1896.
Green’s son Vincent married Hammond’s daughter and in 1872 they construct nos. 1 and 2 Pleasant Cottages, also known as Green Cottages. The 1896 Map shows an increased number of terraced cottages in two rows known as Pleasant Place. A diagonal path or ‘haulier’s route’ passed between the cottages towards the Kings Head and a footbridge across the Dock.
Quoits could be played here in the 1880s. In 1886 the pub was tied to the Mann, Crossman & Paulin Brewery of Whitechapel. The building was said to be stuffed animals & interesting pictures.
The river bend was straightened as a flood prevention and navigation improvement measure at the end of the 19c. A small island was created which is still in existence today. This is a small surviving fragment of the ornamental garden, now severed from the west bank of the river.
Frequent flooding led to the demolition of unsanitary homes at Middlesex Wharf, starting in 1912.. Flooding at Middlesex Wharf is recorded in news footage from between 1910 and 1919 and again in 1920 (British Pathe). It appears that the Kings Head continued to trade through this period, perhaps because the clearance scheme did not apply to privately-owned commercial buildings. Mr A J Livermore appealed against the rating of the Kings Head by the Hackney Union in 1917 and the effect of the Central Control Board’s regulations.
The Victorian public house building was eventually demolished in the 1920’s and rebuilt on the same site. The 1936 Ordnance Survey Plan shows the area completely cleared, with the exception of the Kings Head Public House and two foot paths, one called Dock Way.
Extensive timber yards and saw mills grew up around the pub.
It is not clear if a war-time fire in 1940, which incinerated Latham’s Yard wood stores, affected the pub, but if it was damaged, it was quickly repaired or rebuilt.
A fire at the boat yard on the north side of the dock at Radley’s boat house is reported in 1910.
The Lea Dock was partly back-filled in XX and was gone by XX.
The Kings Head closed in about 2000 and was demolished in 2007 to make way for the Latham’s Yard residential development.
When the demolition crew arrived, the Hackney Gazette reported “just as the demolition company was about to start tearing it down, two bedraggled squatters scampered out of the building just in the nick of time”.
The northern boundary wall survives, marking the outline of Lea Dock, long since infilled.
The Kings Head name survives in the name of the adjacent Kings Head Bridge.
The photo was taken just after closure in 1999.
The address is often listed as 44 Middlesex Wharf, Lea Bridge Road, Upper Clapton.
The Lost Pubs project
Photographs: Colin Price; Ken Jacobs and; Stephen Harris
Estates Gazette 1917 (Google Books)
AOC Archaeology, 2002. Latham’s Yard Environmental Statement: Standing Building Assessment.
MoLAS, 2002. Latham’s Yard, Clapton: An Archaeological Environmental Statement.
John Green family history web site.
King’s Head - about 1974 (Pub History.com. Credit: Stephen Harris)
1999 (Closed pubs.co.uk)