Home » Cultural Life » The Story of the Brunswick Hotel at Blackwall – 1833 to 1930

The Story of the Brunswick Hotel at Blackwall – 1833 to 1930


19th century view of Brunswick Wharf with Brunswick hotel on the left

Regular readers will know that I often recall the interesting and varied history of Blackwall, it is an area that has suffered greatly during 20th century redevelopment with only fragments left of its maritime past.

Up to 1930, the Brunswick  Hotel was a landmark on this stretch of the Thames, the hotel had a long and intriguing history until its demolition.

The Brunswick Hotel and Tavern was erected in 1833–4, the building contract was awarded to Messrs William and Lewis Cubitt. The first tenant was Samuel Lovegrove, who was already the proprietor of the West India Docks Tavern in Coldharbour.

Situated at the western end of Brunswick Wharf, the Brunswick Hotel and Tavern,  was considered one of Blackwall’s more elegant buildings, with an attractive river front with bay windows for good views over the river., At the back was a range of buildings including offices, stables (for 25 horses) and coach-houses, an ice-house and a bar or tap later known as the Brunswick Tap.

Lovegrove spared no expense in fitting up the hotel , hoping to attract a wealthy clientele . Within a few years the Brunswick had built up  a  good reputation  amongst ‘connoisseurs in gastronomy’ as a gourmet establishment, much patronized by the nobility and gentry. It became one of the venues for the famous Blackwall Whitebait Suppers which attracted politicians and the wealthy.

However by the 1870s, the craze for whitebait had died and the hotel closed in 1873, in 1874 the main part of the former hotel was let to representatives of the New Zealand Government for an emigrants’ depot, and this use continued until about 1900.

A newspaper article from 1900 included the reminiscences of someone who had stayed at the hotel in this period.

The Diary of a Queensland Emigrant.

The emigrants’ home, which I believe had been once known as the Brunswick Hotel, was presided over by a Norwegian captain and his wife, and was evidently an endowed or subsidised institution, run on Church of England principles. This captain had an authoritative touch about him that would do credit to a lion-tamer in a penny menagerie, but was not class enough for Barnum and Bailey’s. He had some slight sense of humour. I remember him telling the emigrants that it was not necessary to light a fire in order to make tea in Queensland. All they required to do was to throw a handful of tea into a saucepan of water, and leave it out in the sun. Many of us bad looked forward to seeing the sights of the city, but this privilege was denied us. In fact we were absolutely forbidden to go outside the dock gates.  The bedrooms or cubicles of the home were beautifully neat and clean, and contained a soldiers bed, a chair, table and a bible. These cubicles were ceiled with rabbit proof netting so that there was no danger of being struck on the face with a hob-nailed boot if your snoring disturbed the slumber of the occupant of an adjoining bedroom.
The food at the home was really good,! and there was plenty of it to be had. Besides the emigrants there were also at the home some of their friends who had come to see them away, and the colonial contingent,, and a friend or two of theirs. The emigrants did not have to pay for their board and lodging, but the other inmates had to, although the charges were so reasonable as to be merely nominal.

The emigrant depot closed in 1900 when the Managers of the Poplar and Stepney Sick Asylum leased the premises for a children’s convalescent home.  During the First World War the building was occupied as a barracks, and in the 1920s as offices by the adjoining firm of shipbuilders, R. & H. Green and Silley Weir Ltd of Blackwall Yard.

originalbrunswick hotel

The historic Brunswick Hotel at Blackwall, shortly before its demolition, in March 1929. A.G. Linney (Museum of London)

The well known River Thames photographer A G Linney managed to take a couple of photographs of the Hotel in 1929, just before it  was  demolished in 1930, by this time its glory days were well in the past, however there were a few newspapers that marked its passing and its past glories.


The Brunswick Hotel, on the north bank of London River Thames, in Blackwall Reach, with its historical associations, has disappeared, The hotel was built at the beginning of the nineteenth century by the East India Company whose famous old sailing vessels were anchored in the river opposite.
The hotel was situated on the meridian of Greenwich, and a mark to indicate this was cut on the parapet under the direction of the Astronomer Royal. The enormous bay windows afforded a magnificent view of the shipping, which from time immemorial had passed up and down the Thames.
A hundred years ago, Its spacious rooms were filled with gay society, which included Royalty and Cabinet Ministers, who went down river to enjoy the whitebait dinners; which were then the vogue.
It is believed that William IV, then Duke of Clarence frequently went there. The hotel was also much used by passengers and officers of the East India Company.
During the ‘sixties and later the building was used as an emigration centre for Australian colonists. The property passed into the possession of the Port of London Authority when that body was created to control the Port of London in 1909.


The historic Brunswick Hotel at Blackwall, shortly before its demolition, in March 1929. A.G. Linney (Museum of London)

Eventually the whole wharf was taken over by the building of the Power station and all the past swept away.  However , for a short time in the 19th century, the Brunswick Hotel was one of the most fashionable eating establishments in London.




  1. Diane says:

    Fascinating history. I wish we could travel back in time.

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