Why Is London So Obsessed With Pineapples?

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 17 months ago

Last Updated 15 December 2022

Why Is London So Obsessed With Pineapples?
Gold pineapple on St Paul's Cathedral. Photo: dun.can

Pineapples. They're everywhere in London. Once you start noticing them, you won't stop seeing them. Christopher Wren even picked pineapples to be the crowning feature of each of the towers of St Paul's Cathedral. In nearby Paternoster Square, the column is topped with a flaming copper urn — but is often mistaken for, and referred to as, a pineapple.

Photo: Piers Cañadas

Elsewhere in London, pineapples can be seen in railings, on weather vanes and spires of prestigious buildings, on gate posts, in tiles...

Lincoln's Inn Fields railings. Photo: Lee Jackson

As for Kentish Town's Pineapple pub, it was decorated with pineapples when it opened, back in 1868. Pineapples sat above every window and doorway, and, two interior mirrors were etched with pineapples, according to Kentishtowner. Whether the name was given from the off, or changed later to match the decor, is unknown, but pineapples can still be seen on the exterior today:

Photo: aridleyphotography.com

So why is London so obsessed with pineapples? Aside from their decorative qualities, pineapples used to be a symbol of wealth and status. They weren't grown in the UK or anywhere in Europe. Christopher Columbus brought them to these shores, and gave royalty a taste for them.

The obelisks in each corner of Lambeth Bridge are topped with pineapples. Image: Google Maps

In the 18th century, people could rent pineapples out for the night if they were having a dinner party, using them as a centrepiece to demonstrate their wealth. The alternative was to buy one, which would have cost the equivalent of about £5,000 today.

Pineapples outside a house on Drayton Gardens in Chelsea. Photo: Shakespearesmonkey

In the same way that the wealthy used lions as a symbol of strength, pineapples were incorporated into art, decor and architecture to display (or at least hint at) wealth. Hence, to this day pineapples can be seen on rooftops, railings, entrances and doors of private houses and public buildings. Sir John Soane even added a pineapple to his own family's tomb, which can be seen in St Pancras Gardens.

Sir John Soane's tomb. Photo: amanda farah