Hot cross bun for East End widow’s son who never returned from the sea

The hot cross buns hanging up above the bar at one of the East End’s favourite watering holes are getting exceedingly stale—they’ve been dangling there for years.

Yet every year on Good Friday a bunch of naval ratings keep hanging up more. Last Friday was no exception.

It’s a tradition going back to the 19th century at the Widow’s Son pub in Bromley-by-Bow.

A widow expecting her sailor son home at Easter saved a hot cross bun for him at her cottage close to where the pub stands today in Devans Road. That was in 1885.

He never returned and she wouldn’t believe he had been lost at sea, so she and hung a bun out for him every year for the rest of her life.


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The Royal Navy has been carrying on the annual tradition ever since—never shy of an excuse to drop into a boozer.

Only nowadays they make a family fun-day of it with music, karaoke and a free buffet. The widow would have approved.

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