Crane Street


One of the few streets left in Greenwich which really has a feel of what all of it used to be like In The Olden Days. It crosses the meridian, which of course the pubs that back/front onto it use to great advantage. “The first/last pub in the West,” proclaims a sandwich board outside The Yacht.

It’s a funny little passageway – for a street so short, it manages to pack an awful lot into it. It’s part of the Thames Path, though the view of the river’s a bit blocked there. It is possible to see it if you’re inventive though…

Narrow and often on the dark side, its ancient flagstoned pathway, still with its old open drain down the middle, just invites nosey parkers to peer into the windows of the tiny cottages on the south side of it – most of the owners have cottoned onto that and have installed thick net curtains; I can hardly blame them. They have no front gardens to speak of but often have sweet little window boxes or fill up the tiny troughs in front of the houses which bring a breath of colour into the grey brick. I’d put them at mid 19th century but I don’t really know.

On the other side of that part of the street two pubs slog it out. There used to be several more along that stretch, but were swept away in the mid 20th Century. The two that remain are the Trafalgar Tavern and the Yacht, a deceptively modern looking hostelry which has deeper roots than it might look – at least 300 years, though of course the current building isn’t nearly so old. It was once called The Barley Mow – a pub name which seems to be dying out faster than others – am I completely wrong to think that The Hill was once the Barley Mow too? There’s one listed as being in “Green Lane” in mid-Victorian times. And of course Gordon Ramsay’s Narrow was the Barley Mow until about a year ago.

But I digress again. Also down that part of the street is a contender for the Phantom’s Favourite Front Garden – a house backing onto the Thames, whose owners clearly adore living there. It’s not a garden at all – but the collection of tubs, planters and window boxes is a joy to see. If you’ve got a rubber neck, and you can get into the Curlew Rowing Club next door (they opened it up for the Thames Race last year) you can see what they’ve done to the back of the house – a delightful area, wooden-decked, for all the right reasons and adorned with the kind of love that only true river-lubbers have.

The rowing club is supposed to be the oldest on the tidal Thames. I’ve always wondered whether there’s rivalry between the North and South banks of the river – the Isle of Dogs has a club next to the foot tunnel. I find it amazing that there are enough people who want to freeze and sweat at the same time in such a small area but hey – it takes all sorts. The large double gates that open onto the riverbank for them to drag their boats to the water are a good place to be nosey.

Further up the street, a couple of lovely old pubs (from their photographs) were demolished to create modern buildings. I am sure they give their owners great pleasure and a fantastic view…

So what’s with the name, Crane Street? It’s pretty obvious, actually. There was a crane there for hundreds of years – from at least 1730, there to load and unload ships.

2 Comments to “Crane Street”

  1. Peter the Pipe says:

    Nice description.

    May I also add that the houses in question are approximately 1891.

    Additionally, within my voluntary role at Greenwich Heritage Centre, I am exclusively involved in collating clay tobacco pipes found in the borough. Crane Street is dear to my heart because two of our most prolific clay pipe producers operated from there in the 18th Century. Henry Prick (always raises a titter!), was making pipes there in 1703, and Sarah Bean was later that century, possibly having taken over the same kiln.
    If anyone wants to know more, or has clay pipes discovered within the borough, please feel free to contact me on

  2. mike says:

    impresive story on crane street. but do you have anything on highbridge wharf, greenwich.