Widow’s Son pub’s Hot Cross bun tradition threat from redevelopment
One of the oldest pub traditions in London’s East End could be in danger because of property development.
The annual hanging of a Hot Cross bun above the bar at the famous Widow’s Son in Bromley-by-Bow faces being consigned to history after the pub was sold to developers.
Landlady Erica Turner has launched a petition and is meeting lawyers this week in a bid to save the 150-year-old boozer in Devons Road from having to close down.
“The developers want us to sign a new tenancy contract,” she told the Advertiser. “But I have a ‘grandfather’ lease with four years left and am seeking legal advice to keep it.
“They want to convert upstairs into flats, build on the garden which is used by our regulars and take over the back office.
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“That would turn this place into a ‘lock-up.’ The pub won’t work as a lock-up—it will have to close and we’d be out of business.”
So she used this year’s ceremony to launch a petition and got 165 signatures in the first few hours alone. She has no future events lined up because of the uncertainty.
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But no planning application has been formally registered at Tower Hamlets council yet, the Advertiser has learned.
Punch Taverns sold the property on March 23 to Dalco Developments. Erika got the shock news in a letter on April 4.
The Widow’s son is famed for the legend of the sailor living in a cottage on the site who left home to go to sea in the early 19th century, promising his widowed mother to return one Easter—but never did.
The widow refused to accept he had been lost at sea and hung a Hot Cross bun out for him every year until she died.
The buns were found hanging from a beam in her cottage when the original tavern was built on the site in 1848.
The tradition of hanging a bun above the bar has been upheld by successive landlords ever since—including Erica and her son Nicky who took over in 2006 on a 10-year tenancy, their first pub.
Sailors from the HMS President naval base at Wapping performed this year’s ceremony on Friday.
But the cloud of redevelopment now hangs over the bar of the Widow’s Son where once it was only old buns.