Tales From The Two Puddings by Eddie Johnson – Book Review

It’s probably fair to say that along with the London 2012 Olympic Games came an attempt to rewrite Stratford’s history, with one Minister stating that the Olympic Park had replaced ‘an urban wasteland’. I hate to call a member of the Government a liar, but the displaced businesses and uprooted communities that used to occupy the area would probably disagree with him.

Fortunately there were other initiatives popping up at the same time which sought to rediscover the complex history of this particular part of London – the temporary People’s Museum and Gallery of Newham (shamefully the only readily accessible local history resource in the entire borough) made an effort to educate local people throughout the summer and autumn, and then there was Neil Fraser’s ‘Over The Border: The Other East End’, published in July, which was chock full of tales and anecdotes about Newham’s past.

There’s now another fascinating historical volume to add to the list, ‘Tales From The Two Puddings’. This is a contemporary account of one of Stratford’s most popular and notorious drinking dens – The Two Puddings was commonly known as the ‘Butcher’s Shop’, both for its tiled interior and the amount of blood that often decorated the walls…

The book is written by Eddie Johnson, who took over as licensee of the pub in 1962 and went on to become one of  the longest serving pub landlords in London’s history. Told in the conversational style of those ‘across the bar’ encounters, the book invites you to settle onto your bar stool with a pint in hand and listen to Eddie regale you with nostalgic stories about the area.

tales from the two puddings eddie johnson book review

Eddie Johnson as a youth, during his time working on the docks.

Amongst a menagery of weird and wonderful characters that you’ll learn about in ‘Tales From The Two Puddings’ is Brendan Behan, the celebrated playwright drawn to the area by the Theatre Royal Stratford East’s director Joan Littlewood, who could often be seen staggering around Stratford’s backstreets having had a skin-full of Guinness. Another patron of The Two Puddings was Harry Woods, known as ‘the Colonel’, who had served in both World Wars and was the scourge of the insurance companies, constantly making spurious injury claims which, when they paid out, would see him spend his ill-gotten gains watching Pat Boone and Cliff Richard movies at the local cinema back to back until the money ran out.

The Two Puddings was also the heart of the local live music scene in the 1960s and was a real draw for young people – many musicals greats visited the pub from time to time and it was a regular haunt for Rod Stewart. David Essex made some of his early appearances on it’s tiny stage too.

Unusually, although the pub is long gone the building has not met the ignominious fate that befalls many drinking establishments in London i.e. being partitioned off and turned into accommodation. These days it’s actually a popular nightclub…

‘Tales From The Two Puddings’ can be found in all of the regular places – the online price at Amazon for this interesting slice of London’s local history is £9.99.