The Angel stands alone on the south bank of the Thames, its nearest neighbours, a tenement block and the ruins of a manor house built for Edward III in 1350. A 15th century inn stood on this site, built by the monks of Bermondsey Priory. Christopher Jones, captain of the Mayflower, is said to have hired crew here, and Captain Cook prepared for his voyage to Australia at the old inn. When Samuel Pepys visited in the 17th century, he would have had a pleasant country walk from the City. But during the 18th and 19th centuries London sprawled, its east-end river banks were developed as docks and wharves. Bermondsey’s crowded waterfront became one of the worst slums in London, a haunt for thieves, press gangs and smugglers. In the 20th century, wartime bombing and economic changes, left this area a wasteland. Now, regeneration of the waterside has meant the old wharves have become desirable apartments and modern blocks have replaced the tenements.
The Angel has changed too. The present building dates from the early 19th century, but fell it into disrepair over the past twenty years. Extensive and costly structural work was necessary to prevent the building slipping into the river. That you can\’t see. What you can, is a total transformation of the interior. Bucking the trend for large open spaces, the ground floor is divided into five bar areas; three of them adjoin the bar counter and are separated by half height partitions with low access doors. One even has a dart board. Two further rooms offer more comfort and have river views. This layout, according to one lifetime customer, is close to the original before some uniquely tacky 60’s refurbishment. The mid-oak panelling is high quality, as is the new stone flooring. One thing that hasn’t changed at the Angel is the spectacular view toward the City. This has been enhanced by the refurbishment of the upstairs dining room, which is more like a comfortable lounge, and the rebuilding of the verandah, which is a great place to sit out on a sunny day and watch the river traffic. Brewer Samuel Smith has to be congratulated on saving this great old pub. Cheers to them!