The Grove Tavern on the corner of Pembroke Road and Grove Road in Walthamstow was a traditional local pub for 140 years. Originally called the Britannia when it opened in 1868, it was renamed The Grove Tavern just two years later, a name it retained until its closure in 2008. Over the years the pub was home to a host of landladies and landlords who oversaw pub life, serving drinks, managing staff, and hosting entertainments for generations of locals, from day trips out to evening singalongs. But who were these people who made the Grove Tavern the place that it was?

Around the time of the renaming, the landlords were Hertfordshire-born Sarah and her second husband, Bristol-born Lewis Morgan, a couple in their fifties who had met and married in Shoreditch but had been living in East Molesey in Surrey. They had little experience in running a pub when they were appointed; Lewis had worked for many years as a house painter, a grainer (a painter specialising in producing wood grain effects), a tailor and a plumber. Their tenure at the pub was cut short when Sarah died in 1878. Lewis retired, moved a few doors away, and remarried a year later, to Emma Martin, some 17 years his junior. They later moved to a house in Clarendon Road where Lewis died in 1902. Emma outlived him by some years, and moved to Verulam Road with her sister.

For a time in the early 1890s the landlady was widow Rhoda Osborn, originally from Maidstone, Kent, who had been working as a schoolmistress in Stratford until her coachbuilder husband George passed away. Running the Grove Tavern was very much a family affair, with licensee Rhoda at the helm, son George as publican, and his wife Julia as a barmaid. Rhoda’s younger sister Ada also lived there and worked as a barmaid. In 1894 at the age of 51, Rhoda married 24-year-old building contractor Charles Wallis, who was nine years younger than her son George. They set up home in Howard Road, where they were later joined by Julia and George, who had retired by the age of 50.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

The Grove Tavern shortly after it closed in 2008

At the beginning of the 20th century newly widowed licensee of the Grove Tavern, Amelia Dipple, had a lucky escape from the wiles of bigamist Charles Smyth, a charming 50 something who had set his sights on her and any money she might have acquired or inherited. She was living at the Grove Tavern with her three teenage children and teenage niece when he persuaded her to agree to marry him, give up the pub and to take on a newsagent and tobacconist business in Paddington. Fortunately, Amelia became acquainted with his first wife Rosa whom he had married under the name Charles Griffiths, but abandoned after she gave him her 70 inheritance. When Amelia confronted Charles, he disappeared, and bigamously married a widow who ran a hotel in Brewer Street, London. He was later tried and found guilty of bigamy, and Amelia moved to Leyton and married her next door neighbour, confectioner Samuel Wright.

Married couple Elizabeth and George Smith ran the pub for much of the first two decades of the 20th century. Unlike their predecessors, they had some experience in the pub trade, although in his younger days George had trained as a baker, and later plied his trade at The Parade, St James Street. Both he and Elizabeth had grown up in small rural Essex villages, and moved to the rapidly growing urbanised Walthamstow area as newlyweds, living in the St James area before a move to Orford Road and then the Grove Tavern.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

The Grove Tavern is marked by a red spot on this 1897 Ordnance Survey map

The Smiths were succeeded by Londoners David and Frances Jessop, who ran the pub into the 1920s. They were both living in Stepney when they met and married. This was Frances’ second marriage; she was originally married to David’s older brother Reuben with whom she had a daughter, Lily. They were living in Mile End when he died in 1885, aged 28, after just seven years of marriage. Frances and David married five years later, had two children, David and May, and went on to run the Sussex Arms in Poplar for a time, before settling in Leytonstone for an early retirement in their late forties. The draw of running a pub was evidently too great, though, as they were behind the bar at the Grove Tavern by 1919.

In the late 1930s the publicans were Joseph and Henrietta Manze, who had lived in Camberwell, Islington and St Pancras before their tenure at the Grove Tavern. The couple had strong Walthamstow connections, as Philip’s father was none other than Luigi Manze who opened the renowned pie and mash shop in Walthamstow High Street in 1929.

Publicans after the Manzes included Annie and Horace Darlington in the 1960s, whose son Donald and his wife Doreen ran the Castle pub in Eden Road, and the Marks family in the 1980s.

The pub is much missed by local residents who drank, sang, and danced there, but it lives on through their memories, the legacy of the landladies and landlords who once called it home.

Karen Averby is a seaside-loving historian and research consultant specialising in researching histories and stories of buildings, people and places. She researches house histories for private clients and collaborates in community heritage projects ( She is also director of Archangel Heritage Ltd, an historical research consultancy providing research services for the commercial heritage sector ( Also found on Twitter @karenaverby and @archaheritage