I had no idea this little curiosity existed and was so near a cab rank that I frequent when a colleague said that close by one could find an early cab rank.
A short walk from Shakespeare’s Globe is Bear Gardens (featured in the previous post), near its original location is a ferryman’s seat. It is quite narrow and very uncomfortable, presumably early cabbies were more stoic – and thinner than today.
Although the exact age of the seat is unknown, it’s most likely to have been established around the 12th or 13th century; a period when London was beginning to spread south, where Southwark was gaining a reputation as a seedy but popular entertainment district.
Unfortunately, the city had just one river crossing – London Bridge – the result of which caused jams, which it could take over an hour to cross the river. Combined to this was the additional hazards of mugging in the slow moving traffic and getting contents of chamber pots which were lobbed out of the ramshackle houses lining the bridge.
So for the gentleman who wished to go ‘South of the River,’ there was only one choice – the ferryman.
Above the seat is a short description:
The Ferryman’s Seat, located on previous buildings at this site, was constructed for the convenience of Bankside watermen, who operated ferry services across the river. The seat’s age is unknown, but it is thought to have ancient origins.
The Thames was originally wider here and so the ferryman’s seat would have been located about 100 yards further south down Bear Gardens.