Bun Day at the Widow’s Son in Bow

This Good Friday, take part in the local tradition of Bun Day that dates back nearly 200 years at the Widow’s Son pub in Bow. You will get to see sailors in full regalia clambering on each other’s shoulders to pop a bun in a hammock.

Bun Day is a tradition dating back to 1848 which started in the same building in which the Widow’s Son now stands. The pub came under new management in 2017, and the new owners wanted to continue this tradition that celebrates the history of the pub and the widow’s story.

The legend is that a mother and her son lived in the building which is now the Widow’s Son. Every year, he would go to war and come back on Good Friday, expecting a freshly baked bun. One year, he did not come back.

The Widow made the bun anyway, and waited for his return. Every year following, until her death, she baked a bun in memory of her son. When the house was demolished in order to build the pub, the buns were found hanging in a net from the ceiling, one bun for every year he had been gone.

For over 80 years the Widow’s Son pub has been re-enacting this commemoration in honour of the widow, baking and storing a bun in a hammock hung from the ceiling on Good Friday. The buns would be heavily glazed preventing them from rotting.

Tragically, when the pub closed in 2015 the collection of buns, some as old as 80 years, were lost.

Pub regulars who had been drinking in the Widow’s Son and celebrating bun day since they were young were devastated. When the pubs new management took over, the locals came together to campaign for the return of this important local tradition.

The new management have promised to rebuild the tradition and endeavour to keep the new buns safe.

Help make sure this tradition live on by attending this year’s bun day at the Widow’s Son on Good Friday.

What does the Widow’s Son bun day tradition include today?

Each year, sailors come to the pub to put a bun inside a hammock which hangs from the ceiling. The bun is stamped with the year and varnished so it lasts as long as possible, and the youngest sailor climbs on the others shoulders to place the bun into the hammock. Each year, the sailors come to the celebrations from HMS President which is based at nearby St Katherine’s Dock in Wapping.

On the day, members of the public are also invited to go to the pub for a free buffet and drinks between one and four in the afternoon, and to watch the sailors carry out the tradition.

DJ’s will be performing and there will be hot cross buns for all to enjoy – even Tesco has decided to get involved with the festivities, and has donated buns for the occasion.

Black and white photograph of sailors at the Bun Day celebrations 2017
Sailors at the Bun Day celebrations in 2017
Bun Day 1978
Bun Day at the Widow’s Son in 1978 © David Hoffman

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