The Albert pub nestles modestly on the entrance of Roman Road Market offering pints to the thirsty but who knew this establishment has been cemented at this spot for over 150 years?
Perched on the corner of St. Stephen’s Road and Roman Road lies The Albert, cherished by Bow residents for decades. With its distinct red brick and dormer window resting atop the dark-slated roof, the pub feels more in-keeping with a quaint English village than the hustle and bustle of east London. However, despite its central location, The Albert has remained an enigma due to its elusive history.
Earliest known records of the pub date back to the nineteenth century. This was during a time when St. Stephen’s Road was still known as Three Colt Street (not to be confused with Three Colt Street in Limehouse).
While the pub managed to slip through the cracks of many historical records, the Post Office Directory from the Tower Hamlets Library and Archives pinned the property to a man named Charles Durden in 1865.
Hidden in the deep shelves of the archives was a deed to a piece of land where the pub currently stands. On 30 December 1865, John Goody, the landowner, leased the property on Three Colt Street to Durden. At this point in time, the deed made no mention of a pub. Instead, the contract called for the construction of shops on ‘the eastside of Three Colt Street in the parish of Saint Mary’.
Durden, a beer retailer, was to pay £8 and ten shillings for his yearly rent which in today’s currency is around £1,000. That is also what some would call a ‘steal’ for a property in London in today’s economy. As part of the contract, Durden needed to finish the build by July that year.
As for when the pub itself was created, five years later, in 1870, the Post Office Directory listed a brewery called ‘Prince Albert’ (currently known as The Albert) under Durden’s name. This is the oldest known listing of the pub and is most likely the first given the property was only constructed as shops few years before.
Not much is recorded on Charles Durden. However, the national census from 1871 shows that he was residing on St. Stephen’s Road with his wife, Helen. Durden, who was originally from Lune, Dorset, was born around 1821. Durden wrote on the census that his occupation was a ‘beer house keeper’.
The next known owner in the Post Office Directory was George Barnes whose name was listed under the property in 1872. At this time, the street names were changed and no longer was The Albert on Three Colt Street but on 57 St. Stephen’s Road instead.
After this, The Albert, true to its mysterious nature, evaded historical documentation. PubWiki lists more subsequent owners including James Hooper, Henry William Kitson, Samuel Leigh, a Mile End resident in 1901, and Waltar R. Tarbard who owned the pub from 1934 to 1944.
Owner of Ace Cars on Roman Road, Phil Price, ran the pub back in the Seventies. The following managers renamed the ‘Prince Albert’, as it was still titled that back then, to ‘Christy’s’. The short reign of ‘Christy’s’ ended after John Schofield took its tenancy in 1982 and gave birth to the pub as we know it today—The Albert.
John Chapman, who ran two fashion stalls along Roman Road Market for 45 years, said: ‘Behind The Albert were Victorian flats that were eventually demolished and a new development was built. But in the old flats lived my young worker Allen.’
‘In those days The Albert was run by a couple that lived down my road in Loughton. Allen held his [wedding] reception in The Albert all those years ago,’ he added.
Little Albert from down the road does not look so little now at around 152 years-old. The main significant change from 1870 is the drop of the word ‘Prince’ from the title — a first name basis relationship evolving since the Victorian period.
Louis Arthur Smorthit, staff member at The Albert, has served regulars who have been visiting the pub for years ‘some for as many as 40 years’. Smorthit said: ‘The Albert is the last standing pub on Roman Road Market, even though at one point there used to be at least three, which is why The Albert is so important to the community and our regulars.’
He added that local pub-goers believe The Albert is ‘the last proper East End pub round here.’
Today, The Albert stands proudly, following its refurbishment in 2020, on 74 St. Stephen’s Road bringing in residents to its cottage-esque building to enjoy some pints. Though there is still more to the intriguing history of this pub, records show that The Albert has been around for a long time and is not leaving anytime soon.
If you like this piece, then take a look at our article on the history of Grove Hall Park.
Please support local journalism.
As a not-for-profit media organisation using constructive journalism to strengthen communities, we have not put our digital content behind a paywall or subscription fee as we think the benefits of an independent, local publication should be available to everyone living in our area.
We are powered by members. Hundreds of members have already joined. Become a member to donate as little as £3 per month to support constructive journalism and the local community.