John Bull magazine at the Angel in Rotherhithe

Detail from John Bull magazine cover of marching policemen with the Angel pub at Rotherhithe in the background

Detail from John Bull magazine cover of marching policemen with the Angel pub at Rotherhithe in the background

It was the detail in the background that caught my eye for this 1952 John Bull cover by Royal Academy artist Alfred Thomson RA. The line of marching policemen points to the lit-up Angel, clearly a pub. And not just any pub I reckoned, but the Angel in Rotherhithe.

John Bull cover by Alfred Thomson from September 1952

John Bull cover from September 1952 showing the full painting by Alfred Thomson

The Angel is right on the Thames river wall, in fact at high tide the terrace is a foot under water and the waves splash up against the windows.

There’s no police station nearby now, but a look at a map and a web search fills in the details. The painting’s view is looking north up Cathay Street to the river. The police station, no longer in use, was on the corner with Paradise Street.

The bobbies are all eyes left towards the waiting woman with her dog, apart from the PC at the end of the line.

I like the caption, which fills in the story behind the scene, inside the weekly magazine:

One of the pleasures for AR Thomson, RA, is a pint and a friendly game of darts at a favourite pub. On his way recently to one of his haunts in London, he passed a local police station and saw the scene he has depicted on the cover painting. ‘The girl was obviously waiting for her PC 49 to come off beat,’ he writes. ‘My guess is he got a ribbing when his relief arrived.’

John Bull was a fiction-based, large format weekly published by Odhams, with offices in High Holborn. It was founded in 1906 by the notorious MP and swindler Horatio Bottomley who was only brought to book in 1922. It relaunched with colour covers in 1946 and became Today in 1960. Odhams was one of the companies that merged to form IPC, now Time UK.

Today, the Angel is run by Samuel Smith, with a restaurant upstairs, and, as with all the Yorkshire brewer’s premises, you’ll find just about the cheapest beer in London.

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4 Responses to “John Bull magazine at the Angel in Rotherhithe”

  1. Chris LORDAN Says:

    Alfred Thompson wrote on the back in pencil “You always see a pretty girl when you cannot do anything about it” Painted on cardboard and had a piece joined on – where the vertical line is at the toe of the girl. Dog = genuine as it always waited outside the nick at night duty and followed the PC’s. Three in the painting :- Frank BALL (20 years at the station), Bill STALEY (32 years at the station) both born n bred in Rotherhithe and Phil GROGAN (33 years at the station). Painting presented to the police station where it hung from 1952/3 until 2010.

  2. magforum Says:

    Chris, What a great post. I just love the detail about the dog – like in Greyfriar’s Bobby, but this must be the Bobby Doggy! Did you see the painting yourself or is this from a book? Thanks for post. Tony

  3. John Bull at the Advertising Archives | Magforum Says:

    […] there’s often a hidden story behind the images, as a recent post I did about a 1952 Robert Thomson cover for John Bull showed, with Chris Lourdan commenting on the history of the painting and naming three of the […]

  4. Chris Lordan Says:

    Was at the nick’s from 1961 to 1985 and had the painting removed from the frame so that it could be photographed.

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