Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Prince of Orange public house, Lower Road, Rotherhithe

The Prince of Orange in 2016
Located at the corner of 118 Lower Road and Orange Place (SE16 2UH), immediately opposite Hoath Place, is an attractive building of yellow stock and red brick that was once a pub, and has since been converted into apartments.

The pub was named for the heir to the Dutch throne, William, the Prince of Orange (6 December 1792 – 17 March 1849) who became King William II of the Netherlands in 1840.  Prior to inheriting the throne he had been a key player in the Napoleonic Wars, serving with the British Army from 1811 and becoming Aide de Camp to the Pince Regent in 1812, before being promoted to Major General in 1813, then to Lieutenant Colonel and then General.  He fought at the Battle of Waterloo on 18th June 1815, where he was wounded   He was affectionately known by the Duke of Wellington's staff as "Slender Billy."   Although it doesn't have much to do with this story, a nice little factoid is that the Prince of Orange once travelled by train from London Bridge to Greenwich through Bermondsey, on the viaduct designed by Colonel George Landmann, shortly before the London and Greenwich Railway opened in 1836. 

The Prince of Orange pub was opened in 1859 as a beer house, and the building is clearly Victorian.  Stuart Rankin (Walk C) says that Orange Place appears in Parish Registers in 1810, so it looks as though the pub might have been named for the street rather than the more usual practice of naming a road after a pub.  The same thing happened with Trinity Church in Rotherhithe's Downtown, where the church was named after Trinity Street, on which it was built in the mid 1800s.  The prince, however, was only 17 in 1810, so the matter remains unclear.  The pub gained its full licensed status in 1874.  Orange Place was marked on the 1868 Ordnance Survey map, and terminated where it met Southwark Park. Immediately to the east of the pub was a short, narrow road which is not provided with a name on the 1868 map, but was probably built at the same time as the pub for deliveries.  The road opposite, now Hoath Place, was Portland Place at that time, and both were flanked by terraced housing, as was Lower Road.  By 1894 the service road for the pub had been replaced by a narrow building on the other side of which a church was established (I haven't figured out which one but it is now no longer there), Portland Place was now Hothfield Place, and tram rails had been laid along Lower Road, with a tram service passing in front of the pub. 

Its landlord for some of the 1920s was Albert Matthew Mimms who remained until he died in 1933.  A photograph of the funeral taken by the funeral director shows the cort├Ęge outside the pub (see photograph to the left). 

The Prince of Orange in the 70s or early 80s
The photograph at the end of the post shows it as it was, probably in the 1970s (there's a Leyland Princess on the forecourt, which were produced from 1975-1981, and were not the most durable of vehicles!).  It was well known in the mid 1970s and 80s for being a popular live jazz venue, and amongst those who played there were (the links go to external sites) a teenage Jools Holland, the band Loose Tubes, who had their first gig at the Prince of Orange in 1984 (and whose 30th anniversary at Ronnie Scott's), Andy Graham, Chris Barber's Jazz and Blues Band, The Big Beer Band, and the short-lived but endearingly named Whip the Minister.  For reasons unknown, perhaps a change in musical preferences amongst the surrounding population, it ceased to be popular and although it revived briefly as a gay venue in the 90s, it eventually closed.

Fortunately, it was converted into apartments, in the late 1990s, its name changed to Prince of Orange Court, and the conversion was very sympathetic to the exterior architecture, which was restored, retains the Prince of Orange title that was built into it, and looks terrific.  The second floor was extended at the rear of the building to provide additional residential space, and this too was done very sympathetically, completely in keeping with the architecture of the reset of the building.

The Big Beer Band, playing at the pub before its
closure in the 90s.  Photograph from The Big Beer Band website

One of the apartment conversions


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