OK, it’s not in London per se but given its proximity, we thought this plaque commemorating Jane Austen’s visits to an inn which once stood in the town of Dartford in Kent worth mentioning.
The plaque, which was erected by the Dartford Borough Council in High Street in 2006, commemorates the times Austen stayed at The Bull and George Inn while travelling from the family home in Hampshire to meet her brother Edward Knight in Kent.
Edward has been adopted as a boy by a relative, Thomas Knight, who owned Godmersham Park which stands between Canterbury and Ashford. Edward, who married Elizabeth Bridges, later inherited the house and Jane and her sister Cassandra were apparently frequent visitors (at different times) during which time they helped look after their nieces and nephews and visit nearby towns such as Canterbury.
Austen is known to have often rested at the inn overnight on her way to and from Kent and at other times simply stopped for a meal.
PICTURE: Ken/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0
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.