This is the second part of a Guest Post about the inns on Borough High Street, specially written for CabbieBlog by Adrian Prockter
Adrian has been lecturing on the subject of Inner London for many years, his specialist knowledge covers the City of London, the City of Westminster and the River Thames His website Know Your London contains a wealth of information about the capital.
As we saw in the first part of the Ancient Inns of the Borough High Street, the days of coaching inns lasted into the 1800s when they died ‘a sudden death’ with the coming of railway trains, by the 1880s they had all been pulled down. However, if you know what to look for, there are clues still to be found on the east side of Borough High Street for no less than twelve of those inns. Here is a brief outline of what to look out for.
Kentish Buildings was once the entrance yard to the old Christopher Inn and the present pub contains some Georgian walls from that original building. A stroll along the alleyway will reveal that the exterior side of the pub is also Georgian. This part of the building is partly in use as cheap accommodation for student backpackers. Notice also the large granite ‘stones’ on the ground, beside the alleyway, which prevented the coach wheels hitting the walls and damaging them.
This long narrow yard was in its original condition until about 2010. The old archway of the Spur Inn also remained from earlier times beside Borough High Street but it was in a very poor state. A new development was planned – with a Premier Inn and additional buildings related to the Guy’s Hospital campus – and they were opened in March 2017. Several structures on the site were removed during redevelopment. Timbers from the old side of the gateway have been mounted on a modern approach wall. The original large stone cart tracks have been re-set into the new pedestrian walkway.
Nag’s Head Inn
The evidence for this inn remains in the form of large stone cart tracks. The wheels of the coaches would have clattered over the entrance stones at one time. The entrance has been redeveloped and only opened in March 2017. At one time the inn would have extended back from Borough High Street much further than the modern pathway would suggest.
Axe & Bottle Inn
This ancient inn was swept away when Newcomen Street was laid out across most of its site. At the south side of that street is a large yard which was once part of the inn. On the side of Newcomen Street is a modern sign of ‘an axe and a bottle’.
Mermaid Court is actually a narrow street, leading off Borough High Street. The rather uninteresting street was once the entrance yard of the old Mermaid Inn. It’s not much to look at but at least it is a reminder of another ancient inn.
Chapel Court is so-called because, at a later time, a chapel stood beside the alleyway The present pub was once the site of the pub for the ‘Blue Maid Inn’. A large timber-framed building is to be seen in Chapel Court – on the left as you walk into the alleyway. The timbers came from a structure that was demolished in Essex and they were re-erected on the present site during the 1980s. The building had been proposed as a restaurant but that was short-lived and it is now offices. However, the building adds a little realism to keep alive the days of the Southwark inns.
If you walk any further down Borough High Street you will pass John Harvard Library and then arrive at the church of St George the Martyr – almost opposite Borough Underground Station. So much could be written about the 12 inns but this article will give you an introduction to a fascinating aspect of this ancient thoroughfare and, hopefully, start you on a search for further evidence for these famous inns of Southwark.
Stagecoach image by Firkin (CC0 1.0), all other images © Adrian Prockter
This is not a sponsored post. The author has written this Guest Post for CabbieBlog.
Other articles can be found on Adrian Prockter’s Know Your London.
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