April 15, 2016
Famed for its mention in Geoffrey Chaucer’s iconic 14th century work, The Canterbury Tales, The Tabard Inn once stood on Borough High Street in Southwark.
The inn was apparently first built for the Abbot of Hyde in 1307 as a place where he and his brethren could stay when they came to London and stood on what had been the main Roman thoroughfare between London and Canterbury.
It became a popular hostelry for pilgrims making their way from the Chapel of St Thomas á Becket on London Bridge to the saint’s shrine in Canterbury Cathedral and was one of a number of inns which eventually came to be built in Southwark at the London end of the pilgrim route.
It’s in this context that it earns a mention in Chaucer’s 14th century work as the pilgrims set off on their journey.
The inn passed into private hands following the Dissolution and in 1676, 1o years after the Great Fire of London, burned down in a fire which devastated much of Southwark (the back part of it had been damaged by fire a few years earlier). Earlier patrons may have, it’s been suggested, included the Bard himself, William Shakespeare.
It was subsequently rebuilt as a galleried coaching inn and came to be renamed The Talbot (it’s been suggested this was due to a spelling mistake by the signwriter). Its neighbour, the George Inn, still stands in Talbot Yard (it was also apparently burnt down and rebuilt after the 1676 fire).
Business for the coaching inns dropped away, however, with the coming of the railways and the building was converted into stores before eventually being demolished in 1874.
A plaque to the inn can be seen in Talbot Yard (named for the inn’s later incarnation) – it was unveiled by Terry Jones in 2003.
October 19, 2015
Famed for its market, the area around the southern end of London Bridge is generally simply known as Borough. But that’s just an abbreviation – Borough is actually a contracted version of Borough of Southwark.
The origins of the word borough come from the Old English burh, a word which originally simply referred to a ‘fortified place’ and, in this case, referred to the settlement which, since Roman times, had grown up outside the city walls around the southern approaches to London Bridge.
It later came to mean a town with its own locally-based government and, according to Cyril M Harris in What’s In A Name?, Southwark was, in the later Middle Ages, the only London borough outside the City Wall which had its own MP.
The fact that the borough was outside City jurisdiction meant it become a popular place for inns, theatres and other forms of entertainment including the infamous Southwark Fair.
Although ‘Borough’ can still be used as an alternative word for the entire Borough of Southwark, these days when people refer to ‘The Borough’, they’re often referring to just a small district of the much larger borough.
While it’s hard to get a fix on exactly where the boundaries of this district are, at the heart of this area is Borough High Street and landmarks particularly associated with it include the Borough Market (see our earlier post here) as well as Southwark Cathedral and the galleried George Inn as well as the Church of St George The Martyr (and, of course, its own Tube station, which opened in 1890).
August 26, 2015
We travel south of the Thames this week to Red Cross Garden in Southwark. Located not far from Borough Market, the garden has a rich history, having first been laid out in 1887 by the social reformer, philanthropist and National Trust co-founder Octavia Hill.
Described as Hill’s “flagship project”, it was here, after being granted use of the land by the Ecclesiastical Commission, that she demonstrated the role gardens and open spaces play in improving the lives of the poor living in 19th century Southwark (in the picture you can see in the background the hall and cottages which were also part of the project – Hill had these constructed between 1888-89, the hall being for community activities and the cottages homes for the “working poor”. Both were designed by Elijah Hoole).
The garden in Redcross Way was created on the site of a derelict paper factory and a hop warehouse and originally contained meandering paths, an ornamental pond with fountain, a bandstand and a covered play area for children as well as an elevated walkway for viewing the garden – described by Hill as an “open air sitting room for the tired inhabitants of Southwark”. There were a number of colourful mosaics – one called The Sower is still in situ but another known as The Good Shepherd was apparently lost.
The original layout of garden, which were used as the venue for the annual Southwark Flower Show as well as other events, had been lost by the late 1940s and it was only in much more recent years that it was restored by the Bankside Open Spaces Trust (with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Southwark Council). They were officially reopened in 2006 by Princess Anne.
The award-winning garden is now managed by BOST which leases the space from Southwark Council and relies on the work of volunteers (any donations are always welcome!). The latest addition has been the Victorian bandstand which, constructed in a style true to the original, was unveiled late last year.
WHERE: Red Cross Garden, Redcross Way, Southwark (nearest Tube stations are Borough and London Bridge); WHEN: 9am to dusk, daily; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.bost.org.uk/open-places/red-cross-garden/.
November 24, 2014
Such was the renown of Gladstone – who served as PM in stints between 1868 to 1894 (he resigned the final time at the ripe old age of 84, dying just over four years later) – that his name also adorns monuments, parks, streets and geographic features around the world as well as his fair share of pubs (including the William Gladstone in the heart of Liverpool).
Gladstone is recalled in the pub’s name but also in a large images of his face adorning the external walls.
The pub is located at 64 Lant Street (the street is famous for being where Charles Dickens lodged while his father was imprisoned in nearby Marshalsea Prison), less than a minutes walk from the Tube station.
Along with food and a pint, ‘The Glad’ these days offers live music several nights a week and boasts a long list of names – some you’ll know, some you won’t – have played there. For more on the pub, check out www.thegladpub.com.
Recently restored ahead of the World War I centenary, the St Saviour’s parish war memorial in Southwark was designed by Captain Philip Lindsey Clark, awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his service during the war.
Unveiled in November, 1922, it features a bronze figure depicting an advancing infantryman atop a plinth and has bronze panels on either side of the plinth featuring scenes of battleships and of bi-planes. The figure of St George and the dragon can be found on the front of the plinth and a mourning woman, depicting Grief, with a baby and a dove on the rear.
The Grade II-listed memorial, which is located on a traffic island, is dedicated to “the men of St Saviour’s Southwark who gave their lives for the Empire 1914-1918”.
The recent restoration project, which came after one of the relief panels fell off in 2011, was funded by Borough, Bankside & Walworth Community Council’s Cleaner Greener Safer programme. The picture (above) was taken before the restoration.
September 26, 2012
In the first of a new series looking at some of London’s most historic markets, we take a look at the history of Borough Market in Southwark, now the city’s most famous food market.
The origins of a food market in the area go back to at least to the reign of the Anglo-Saxon King Ethelred the Unready in early 11th century (some have suggested as far back as Roman times) with food vendors clustering around the southern end of London Bridge. The market was relocated to Borough High Street in the 1200s.
In 1755, traffic congestion saw Parliament close the market but Southwark residents raised £6,000 and bought a small area of land known as The Triangle – once part of the churchyard of the now long gone church of St Margaret’s – and reopened the market there.
The Triangle still remains at the heart of the market which sits partly under railway arches just to the south of the Southwark Cathedral churchyard. New market buildings were constructed in the mid 1800s but deemed “impractical”, they were replaced by new buildings in the late 1800s and 1930s (the latter was when the art deco entrance on Borough High Street was erected).
The market was refurbished in 2001 and the ornate Grade II-listed Floral Hall, which was originally the south portico on the Floral Hall at Covent Garden (taken down to make way for the Royal Opera House), was installed in 2003.
There are now more than 100 stalls in the wholesale and retail food market, making it one of the largest in London. It is owned by a charitable trust, The Borough Market (Southwark), with the volunteer trustees all local residents. Sections in the market include the Jubilee Market and the Green Market and a blue plaque, declaring the market London’s “oldest fruit and veg market”, was installed by Southwark Council earlier this year.
The amazing variety fine food on offer will tempt even the most jaded of palates but be warned that you have to queue as it can get a little packed with tourists at lunchtimes!
WHERE: 8 Southwark Street (nearest Tube Stations are London Bridge or Borough); WHEN: 10am to 3pm Monday to Wednesday, 11am to 5pm Thursday, 12pm to 6pm Friday, and, 8am to 5pm Saturday; COST: Free entry; WEBSITE: www.boroughmarket.org.uk
February 15, 2012
Born the second child of a naval clerk then stationed in Portsmouth, Charles Dickens had what one would imagine was a fairly typical childhood for the son of a naval clerk, his family following his father John Dickens from one place to another – Sheerness, Chatham and briefly, in 1815, in London – as he took up different posts.
But in 1822, amid increasing financial difficulties, John Dickens was recalled to London and he and the family moved into a house at 16 Bayham Street in Camden Town in the city’s north, Charles joining them after completing schooling in Chatham (the house at number 16 Bayham Street is now commemorated by a plaque – it was demolished in 1910).
The family subsequently moved to another, recently built, premises at 4 Gower Street North (later renumbered 147 Gower Street) but soon after this, on 20th February, 1824, John Dickens was arrested over debt and taken to Marshalsea Prison where he subsequently resided with his family with the exception of Charles (the prison, in use since the 14th century, was closed in 1842 and finally mostly demolished in the 1870s – a single wall of the second prison on the site is all that remains).
Twelve-year-old Charles, meanwhile, was put to work in the Warren’s Blacking Factory (pictured) near Hungerford Stairs, which stood just off the Strand (it’s said to have stood roughly where Charing Cross Railway Station now stands). While doing so, he roomed firstly at a house in Little College Street, Camden Town, and then in rooms at Lant Street in Borough (which was much closer to the prison).
John Dickens was out of prison in May but Charles continued working at the factory for almost another year until his father’s fortunes improved and Charles, now living with the family once again – at 29 Johnson Street and then, after being evicted, at The Polygon in Somers Town (an area in St Pancras) – returned to school, becoming enrolled at the Wellington House Classical and Commercial Academy in Hampstead Road.
In 1827, his father’s finances once more having taken a turn for the worse, he began work as a solicitor’s clerk (but more of that later)…
PICTURE: A nineteenth century etching of Dickens at Warren’s Blacking Factory – Source: Wikipedia.
October 4, 2010
There’s a number of contenders for this controversial title and a number of different ways of looking at the question. So, rather than take sides, we’ll just canvas a few of them.
Our initial contenders are:
• Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (145 Fleet Street, the City). Built in 1667 after the Great Fire of London, the current building replaced one previously on the site. The cellar is apparently 13th century and forms part of the remains of an old monastery on the site. Dr Samuel Johnson, who lived just around the corner while creating his famous dictionary, was a regular here and the pub is also said to have been frequented by writers Mark Twain, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.
• The Spaniards Inn (Spaniard’s Road, Hampstead). Located on the edge of Hampstead Heath, the Spaniard’s Inn dates from around 1585. The story goes that it was named after the Spanish ambassador to the court of James I who lived here for a time (another version says it was two Spanish brothers who first converted the building into a pub in the 1700s). Other historical figures associated with the inn include the highwayman Dick Turpin (some say he was born here while others say he used to wait here while watching for vulnerable coaches to pass by), the poets Byron and Keats and the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds – who apparently visited, and Charles Dickens who mentioned the inn in the Pickwick Papers (it also gets a mention in Bram Stoker’s Dracula).
• The Lamb and Flag (33 Rose Street, Covent Garden). The building has been occupied since Tudor times but it’s only been a licensed premises since 1623. The pub, certainly the oldest still standing in Covent Garden, was previously associated with prize fighting and was apparently once called the Bucket of Blood. The poet John Dryden is said to have been involved in a fight here.
• The George Inn (77 Borough High Street, Borough). Located on the south side of London Bridge, the George Inn is a rare surviving galleried coaching inn. Now owned and leased by the National Trust, the current building dates from 1676 after the previous inn was destroyed by fire. The inn is mentioned in Dickens’ Little Dorrit and the author himself was apparently a regular visitor.
UPDATE: It seems we left one of the list which is certainly worth mentioning – The Prospect of Whitby in Wapping (57 Wapping Wall). There’s been a tavern on this site on the bank of the Thames since 1520 and during its early days it became known the ‘Devil’s Tavern’ due to its rather dodgy clientele, alleged to have included smugglers, prostitutes and thieves as well as more famous people such as diarist Samuel Pepys, the notorious Judge Jeffreys, known as the ‘Hanging Judge’, and much later, Charles Dickens. Later destroyed by fire, it was rebuilt and given the new name, The Prospect of Whitby, after a ship that moored nearby. The building now incorporates a ship’s mast.
London has a plethora of markets selling everything from fresh flowers to antiques and clothes. For food, it’s hard to beat Borough Market. Located next to Southwark Cathedral on the south bank of the Thames, the market stalls are contained in a maze of passageways which, when it’s in full swing, buzz with excitement and color.
The market’s history goes back to the Middle Ages when traders gathered close to London Bridge to sell produce and livestock and was officially located around it’s current site in the 1700s
With about 130 individual stalls, there’s everything here you could want – fresh seafood and meats, fruit and vegetables, cheeses and dairy products and all the cakes and pastries you could want as well as a range of alcoholic drinks.
It’s a great place to do some shopping but equally good as a place to duck in for lunch – the Boston Sausage Company’s sausages make for a great bite on the run or to eat while sitting in the cathedral grounds watching the passersby.
WHERE: Between the Thames River and Borough High Street, Southwark. Nearest tube is London Bridge or Borough. WHEN: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; COST: Free to enter; WEBSITE: www.boroughmarket.org.uk