Pirates, Press-Gangs and Execution Dock

(36 customer reviews)

Tower Hill underground station, London (meet by the Tower Hill Tram coffee stand)

Guided by Dan Parry

Walk Times

Day Walk Type Start Time End Time
16 September 2023 Tour du Jour 2.30 pm 4.30 pm Summer
21 October 2023 Tour du Jour 2.30 pm 4.30 pm Summer

Discover the dark side of the empire

Better still, discover it with a world-class guide…

Running on the third Saturday of the month, this walk has stairs and cobbles. 

Find your sea-legs and sail into the past! Beneath the eerie cry of the gulls, we walk along the river from Dead Man’s Hole to Execution Dock, via ancient smugglers’ taverns where press-gangs dragged men off to sea. 

Exploring a salt-encrusted, maritime world that was the making of Britain’s empire, we step off the beaten track to discover a long-forgotten way of life – a time when rum-soaked buccaneers chased Spanish treasure ships, and Royal Navy crews fought criminal captains in the Golden Age of Piracy. 

Venturing through streets they knew and perhaps glimpsing the ghosts that still linger to this day, we walk from Tower Hill to St Katherine’s Dock. Then following the Thames, we eventually finish at London’s oldest riverside pub, where you’ll be able to enjoy a drink in wonderfully atmospheric surroundings.   

A family-friendly stroll – guided by Dan Parry, former BBC documentaries producer and author of the National Maritime Museum’s biography of Blackbeard – this is the most authentic pirates walk in London! 

In the beginning, there were stories of gold. Daring men, who lived, drank and fought beside London’s crowded wharves, sailed to the Caribbean in search of treasure. For some of them, we know their names, where they lived and what they seized along the way. 

Sailing as buccaneers, they had royal approval for their attacks on ships and towns. They included men like John Limbrey, who inspired the likes of Captain Morgan and later Blackbeard, and who commanded the Merchant Royal, laden with gold and silver that today would be worth $1.5 billion…if it were ever rediscovered. 

Later, such men were outlawed by the state and regarded as pirates. Captain Kidd, seized in Boston, was dragged back to London to be hanged at low tide on the banks of the river. We’ll take a look at Execution Dock, where Kidd met his end, as did many others, and where his body was swamped by three high tides before it was cut down. 

Other thieves stole riches closer to home. Before secure docks were built, ships lined up on the Thames waiting to unload. By 1800, thousands of river pirates, night plunderers, light horsemen, scuffle-hunters and mud larks were routinely raiding whatever they could find. 

We’ll take a spy-glass glance at all these renegades. We’ll discover how they became pirates, we’ll look at the risks they took, and encounter the people who pursued them. Along the way, we’ll meet the only man who stole the crown jewels, and maybe witness the ghost of the sinister Hanging Judge Jeffreys. Join us, and discover the dark side of the empire…! 

36 reviews for Pirates, Press-Gangs and Execution Dock

  1. Jean

    Thoroughly enjoyable and interesting walk along the the river from Tower Hill to Wapping. So much history about olden times and pirates and what life was like in those times. An added bonus was Tower Bridge opening for a tall ship.

  2. Margaret

    Thank you for an interesting, amusing and informative walk.
    We thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend the Pirates, Press Gangs and execution Dock tour to anyone who enjoys a glimpse into the past.

  3. Sam Biggerstaff

    A great way to spend an afternoon.
    Dan is a great guide, fun and informative and really brought the period and subject to life with interesting stories and characters.
    Would highly recommend.

  4. Marcus

    Always an enjoyable afternoon with Dan. He’s a natural storyteller and the subject matter is always well researched and on point.

  5. Julie Durling

    August 2023
    A very interesting walk around Wapping. Dan certainly knew his stuff and bought the area to life. A great way to spend an afternoon in London, off the beaten track.

  6. Jenny B

    A very enjoyable walk with Dan based on an interesting subject. There was a good balance of background history, stories and humour bringing the characters and the area to life, delivered with energy and enthusiasm. I would definitely recommend this walk and will be joining the London Spymasters walk in the near future.

  7. Julie Barratt

    Dan was so eloquent , enthusiastic and knowledgeable he is a joy to listen to he made our walk so very interesting.
    We were amazed at the amount of sites and history in such a close distance to the Tower Of London. Dan also had a great cache of sayings and short stories that were both fascinating and funny.
    Thank you Dan what a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

  8. Karen

    Despite a challenging weather day (pouring rain on and off) Dan made a soggy walk loads of fun. We’d never been east of the Tower of London before and it was a revelation! His knowledge is extensive and he never hesitated when answering questions. He’s a great storyteller as we’ve found all the London Walks guides to be. We’ve been on over 20 walks over the years and never been disappointed.

  9. William

    Best paced walk yet. Not everything talked about is in London so the guide has broken up the walk into walk sections and talk stops with a better distribution than any other walk yet. Add to a very interesting speild and a lovely area to walk through and the result is an excellent and enjoyable experience.

  10. Marc Hodes

    As with all 3 of Dan’s Walks, this one was utterly exceptional. He is knowledgeable, passionate and friendly. Before this walk names like Blackbeard and Captain Kidd were just names — now I have a keen understanding of who they were and why they were so historically important. A huge bonus was seeing Wapping too — had never been there before and it’s quite an interesting neighborhood (past and present) in London! No better way to spend an afternoon!

  11. Paige (age 11)

    Yesterday my mum and I went on the fabulous and intriguing walk. We both enjoyed it and learned a lot about mischievous pirates 🏴‍☠️ and gory executioners. Our guide (Dan) was kind and engaging. The stories were great. To sum it all up, I thought it was a great experience and it was fun and interesting.

  12. Polly

    My daughter and I joined Dan for this walk and thoroughly enjoyed it – Dan had so much historical knowledge of an area that we pass through frequently, tales of pirates, treachery, death and corruption – tales Dan told with enthusiasm, bursting with fascinating facts. We will definitely be joining Dan for another of his walks in the coming months, but in the meantime, we highly recommend this one!

  13. Fleur Launspach

    This was a great walk, along a beautiful part of london and packed with interesting stories and historical fun facts. The guide Dan is a true pleasure to listen to, clearly an expert & has a very lively and enthusiastic way of telling stories. We ended the walk at a lovely historical pub by the water. I definitely recommend this walk!

  14. Paul Horton

    Great informative walk just a stones throw away from the hustle and bustle of Tower Bridge!

  15. Diane & Sarah Irwin

    Joined Dan for this walk, last Monday 1st May. Dan was a fantastic guide, full of very interesting stories and facts about the pirates and the people who lived and worked around London’s docks in times gone by. He certainly brought the history alive. Would definitely join him again on another walk!

  16. Sheila Batchelor

    An excellent visit to 15th-18th century life on and near water. The children in the group were given lots of attention in just the right way to keep them interested, lots of hidden gems and insight into the importance of trade, exploration and opportunism thrown in. Thorough balanced view of the life piratical, whether with letter of permit or not,

  17. Carol

    Dan is a fantastic storyteller and makes your walk come to life. If you enjoy learning about the history of pirates, this walks for you. Highly recommended.

  18. Phillip

    Avast there me hearties, a fantastic walk with Dan today, the incredible storms and rain/hail that we had led to the atmosphere of this pirate, press gang and execution walk. Dan’s enthusiasm was great and he brought to life the drama of history as we walked the streets of Wapping and the surrounding area. If you wanted to know about the days of piracy and buccaneers and privateers this is THE walk. A story teller indeed is Dan. (His spy walks are superb too).

  19. Grace

    Really informative! Dan really brought the history to life and was willing to answer any additional questions we had in great depth. He was also great with the kids on the tour, perfect for all ages

  20. Lucy Llewellyn

    Dan was an excellent tour guide on the pirates, press gangs and execution dock tour. Very knowledgeable with excellent antidotes. A rich history was brought alive by Dan’s expert historic knowledge. A really enjoyable tour.

  21. tony Mr Carpenter

    A Fabulous walk , we all really enjoyed it, Dan is completely knowledgeable in this area, This is definitely a part of London that has a lot of hidden treasure , good fun, informative and engaging

  22. Lynda

    A great afternoon, very informative and good fun too. Dan was clear and concise in his delivery, just enough to keep our interest going throughout. Will definitely do another walk of his.

  23. jacqueline hollidge

    A really interesting, and eye opening walk. Dan is a brilliant guide, and thoroughly entertained us with his many pirate stories. I thought I knew this area but I was proved wrong!
    I’d recommend this walk.

  24. Kathleen Jeffreys

    Fascinating walk my sister and I kept saying I never knew that. So interesting Dan is a brilliant storyteller would highly recommend

  25. Siobhan

    Wow…didn’t know any of this part of London and all its history

  26. Angela

    Winding down from the tower to cobbled streets via the riverside, this was a fascinating walk that I would highly recommend.

    Dan is a brilliant guide, very clearly spoken and with so much research. He is so full of knowledge and he shares this through exciting tales. He even threw in some origins of words you would never have guessed.

    If you want to learn loads about the pirates, docks and gangs and how and where many were executed, then Dan is your man!

  27. Kai

    Dan is a great storyteller, providing so many interesting details and bringing the pirate age back to life. If you like historic settings and how it all connects, this walk is a must – and Dan rounding it all up.

  28. Charles P

    This is walk you will not have been on before, close to the city yet so far away. Dan took us on a pirate adventure half way across the world with his tales of treasure and executions, dumping us happily in one of the oldest pubs in London. Enjoy!

  29. Charles P

    This is a walk you will not have been on before. Close to the City yet a world apart. Dan took us on a pirate adventure that crossed the then known world and dumped us happily in one of the oldest pubs in London. Enjoy!

  30. Mark Bush

    A really excellent London Walk, the perfect mixture of interesting locations, surprising facts and juicy scandal. You’ll be glad you live in the 21st century when you hear how violent and unpleasant life was in centuries past. Dan is a great story-teller, delivering with passion for his subject, lightened with humour. Absolutely recommended.

  31. Lily Stringer

    We joined Dan on the pirates tour yesterday, we found it so interesting that we are continuing to discuss the history today.
    Dan was a fantastic storyteller and we thoroughly enjoyed our morning on the tour.
    Thank you!

  32. E Semple

    I highly recommend Dan Parry’s Pirate walk. Dan is incredibly knowledgeable of the topic and had many great and entertaining stories to tell. Will definably do one of Dan’s other walks in the future!

  33. Miranda Robinson

    A really great way to gain some insight into the fascinating history of London as well as a fair few familiar historical names that we all recognise but aren’t 100% sure why! Dan is a passionate and talented storyteller and he weaves these captivating stories together through providing us with a combination of raw historical knowledge and other, lesser-known anecdotes to provide an even richer perspective. I particularly enjoyed learning where some of the common idioms that we use in everyday language really come from!

  34. Paul Scott

    A superb, enjoyable walk packed with history, fascinating stories and intriguing characters.

    To remember as much of it as possible, I retraced the whole thing back to Tower Hill tube afterwards and enjoyed it for a second time.

    Dan’s subject knowledge is deep, his storytelling superb and his passion clearly evident from beginning to end. At times, he makes you feel like he must’ve been there at the time these events happened to be able to describe them so articulately.

    If you’re interested in London and/or history, this walk is for you. A thoroughly enriching way to spend a couple of hours.

  35. Sean Murphy

    Cracking stories of how desperate men left London to seek their fortunes, protect their country and hopefully preserve their lives in a world mixing immense wealth and poverty and the imminent danger of sudden death. Dan takes us on a trip from the safety of the Tower to the brutality of vampire deaths and execution docks.

  36. Maria M

    This is an amazing walk, completely unique in an area close to the Tower and yet so atmospheric that it feels like you’re on a film set. Dan is a fantastic story teller who brings the fascinating history of piracy and so many of its characters back alive and all delivered with great wit. Highly recommended!

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