A welcome stop: What Romford’s historic pubs and inns meant for the market town 

Famous names associated with the pub include former owner Francis Bacon and William Shakespeare

Romford's market and positioning just out of London meant it was a regular stop for traders and travellers - Credit: Ben Lynch

Romford’s history as a market town where travellers could find an inn to enjoy a drink and rest their head has seen it welcome a range of famous faces over the years. 

Whether it was William Shakespeare escaping to the Golden Lion, at the time owned by Francis Bacon, or one of the bard’s own troupe, William Kempe, making a pit-stop in Romford on his famous morris dance from London to Norwich, the town has welcomed many known figures through the centuries. 

Andrew Curtin, chairman of the Romford Civic Society, says the regularity with which Romford was used as a stop-off destination was primarily down to two things. 

Firstly, the market meant Romford was always going to be a location of interest for traders and travellers.  

“People needed somewhere to do their deals, have somewhere to eat and all that," Andrew said. 

Andrew Curtin from the Romford Civic Society

Andrew Curtin, chairman of the Romford Civic Society - Credit: Archant

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Romford was also the first big stop out of London when heading to the continent via the east coast, and the last stop when travelling in the opposite direction. 

Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, the 18th/19th-century foreign secretary famous for his negotiations at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, would often stop at Romford, Andrew says, although it is unknown which pub he frequented. 

The Golden Lion is the oldest remaining pub in Romford, but Andrew notes there are a host of other places which have since shut down, such as the White Hart, which became The Bitter End in Romford High Street, and the Blucher's Head, latterly the Duke of Wellington, as notable establishments. 

It was not all joviality and boozing, however, with the areas behind inns known as places of squalor. 

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“The reports on slums in Romford in 1851 are quite eye-watering really, about the living conditions behind these inns," Andrew said. 

The site of the former Romford pub The Bitter End is up for auction

The site of the former The Bitter End pub, previously the White Hart - Credit: Acuitus

One famous face who did not appreciate Romford’s array of drinking facilities was the founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth. 

After getting off the train, William Booth apparently remonstrated with locals upon seeing an old brewery. Andrew, however, is quite certain the punters were capable of standing their ground. 

“In typical Romfordian fashion, I think they gave as good as they got.”