Mary East: White Horse Pub

The White Horse of Poplar High Street

Mary East was 16 when she and her female friend, whose name has been lost in history, became a couple. At the beginning of this relationship, Mary began to present herself as male and adopted the name James How. Mr. and Mrs. How moved to Poplar in 1745, purchasing The White Horse Pub on Poplar High Street. While running the pub and many other businesses, the couple was said to be very hard-working yet very quiet about their personal lives, which was respected among neighbors. James was a working man, who participated in all civic duties one would presume a man in the 1740s would do, such as serving on a jury and having a spot in the local parish. Some made remarks about James’ effeminacy but their identity was widely accepted in Poplar. Up until 1750, there were no problems concerning James’ identity. However, someone from James’ past told many about James’ previous female identity and threatened James and Mrs. How with blackmail, making them pay 5-10 pounds whenever the blackmailer wished. This continued for 16 years until Mrs. How’s death in 1766. While grieving James was asked again for 100 pounds, but he couldn't pay the sum and was violently attacked outside of the pub, the attackers threatened him with hanging if he did not pay. James escaped and was able to have the attackers arrested, and able to take the attackers to court. While attending court, James showed up in a dress, adorning their feminine features, and asked to be called Mary. By doing this, Mary was able to prove the extortion for great sums of money as well as the assault, and the extortionists were sentenced to 4 years of imprisonment. While Mary won the case, she also outed herself, by doing so she was told she could no longer hold the titles she did as James. Such as owning the Pub, but she could keep the money she had earned from running public housing. We will never know their identity as they would have wished but we can see this as a small victory for those in the LGBTQ+ community before the laws in the upcoming years would lead to oppression and violence. 



Flanagan, Ruby. “Mary East, Poplar, and LGBTQ+ Equality.” Poplar LDN, 28 Mar. 2023,

Accessed, April 17, 2023

“The White Horse, Poplar High Street.” City of London, 17 May 2022,

Accessed, April 17, 2023

Associated Place(s)

Event date:

circa. 1745