If you are into historical buildings, planning a night out and want to try something a little bit different, why not head out to Southwark and visit The George Inn.
Last week I went walkabout through the Southwark area of London, near London Bridge and spent a very happy few hours meandering the cobbled streets and narrow lanes, visiting ancient landmarks and historical places.
One of which was Southwark Cathedral and the other the George Inn; London's only surviving galleried coaching inn.
The George Inn is an antiquated inn; a delightful, albeit dark rabbit warren of rooms, narrow passages, mysterious landings and steep stairways with links to Shakespeare, Dickens and Chaucer. In Charles Dickens' novel, 'Little Dorrit', young 'Tip goes into the George to write begging letters'.
I had a most enjoyable time exploringing the inn, stepping back in time through ancient doorways into rooms with low wooden-beamed ceilings and marble fireplaces and the ghosts of Shakespeare and Dickens.
The seating arrangements in the downstairs pub area are rough and ready, with old wooden tables and benches, lending to what was once the bawdy atmosphere of this ancient and wonderful 17th Century Inn. I tarried a while and enjoyed a delicious meal of battered fish, chips and mushy peas washed down with Bailey's Cream on ice!
The Inn was chock-a-block with groups of people either chatting at the bar, outside on the patio or in one of the restaurants. The pub restaurant is quite noisy as you can imagine, but the upstairs restaurant on the gallery was lovely and quiet, with an old fireplace, ancient wooden beams and aged patterned tapestries adorning the walls.
The George Inn; the present building dates from 1677
For centuries, London Bridge was the only way of crossing between Southwark and the City of London. Due to this strategic positioning, Southwark became not only a suburb of the city, but a market town in it's own right and for much of it's history there was conflict between the City and the local authorities; a frequent bone of contention was the question of who had right to licence the town's inns and alehouses.
Travellers found it easier to conduct their business in Southwark and frequently stayed overnight.
The George Inn is the last survivor of the ancient inns which once lined Southwark High Street, refreshing merrymakers at Southwark Fair, playgoers from the Bankside theatres and coach passengers on their way to London.
The earliest known reference of the George Inn is shown on a map dated 1542. It is known that the George Inn was already well established during the reign of Henry VIII. The first known innkeeper was a man named Nicholas Marten in 1558.
In John Stowe's 'Survey of London' dated 1598, he listed the George as 'one of the eight fair inns'.
1676 saw the year of the Southwark fire. A fire that began in the premises of an oilman, Mr Welsh, who resided 'betwixt The George and Tabard Inns'. For two whole days the fire raged throughout Southwark, and after it had been brought under control, more than 500 houses had been destroyed, along with the George Inn and all of it's outbuildings.
Less than a year later Mark Weyland had rebuilt the George Inn. It is actually unknown precisely what he built, however the oldest part of the present inn dates back to this rebuilding. Contrary to the look of the building, the oldest section is the ungalleried section with the brick exterior.
By 1844, Frances Scholefield had taken over the inn (widow of the late Westerman Scholefield). The coming of the railways that had begun threatening the coaching trade had reached Southwark, creating London Bridge Station. Despite the coming of the railways, the inn continued to be busy, and on the night of the 1851 census 15 people were staying there. The clientele included a sailor, an architect, a commercial traveller, two waggoners and a customs house clerk, as well as the resident inn staff.
Nearest Tube station is London Bridge and other places to visit in the area would be:
London Bridge (of course), Borough Market, Southwark Cathedral, The Clink Prison Museum, The Golden Hinde, and across the river not too far away you can see The Monument commemorating the Great Fire of 1666.
A more modern day structure of great interest is The Shard - currently under construction. You can also see Tower Bridge from London Bridge and the HMS Belfast moored alongside the riverbank
There are of course many other attractions and things to see in the area, so go walkabout, it's the best way to see the area. The Arches beneath London Bridge Station are also well worth a visit.
So if you find yourself in the area, be sure to stop off at the George Inn for some refreshments...... you just never know who you might bump into while you are there! :)
Written and contributed by Cindy