Pirates, Press-Gangs and Execution Dock

(38 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
10 February 2024 Special 2.30 pm 4.30 pm Winter
20 April 2024 Special 2.30 pm 4.30 pm Winter Reserve Online
4 May 2024 Special 2.30 pm 4.30 pm Summer Reserve Online
22 June 2024 Special 2.30 pm 4.30 pm Summer Reserve Online

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…! 

38 reviews for Pirates, Press-Gangs and Execution Dock

  1. John Mead

    As always with London Walks this was excellent value, a two hour guided walk through parts of London you wouldn’t normally see. Dan is a great guide, informative, enthusiastic, entertaining and knowledgeable – he guides you through history as well as interesting sights. And, big bonus, the tour ends at a real classic of a pub, with Best Bitter on tap. Would highly recommend.

  2. Karen

    Fab walk with an enthusiastic, informative guide. Get to grips with the fascinating true stories of famous pirates. A great couple of hours spent.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Marcus

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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