Before I dive into this one, I have to give a shout out to a fellow blogger who started this little adventure, Mari over at Mari’s Travels with her Camera. Mari kindly shared a link with me for an old pub and from that this whole thing unfolded. Mari, I appreciate it! As did Mr THL who quite enjoyed being dragged to a pub for once rather than a graveyard, old house or random monument.
Where is this pub that has inspired link sharing, last minute adventures and a happy husband?
The George Inn in Southwark, London. It’s a historical beauty. You might be thinking, historic pubs are thick on the ground in London, why so keen on this one? It has a feature that makes it quite unique, that’s why. The George is the only remaining galleried coaching inn in London.
As well as being a rare example of a traditional Southwark inn, the George is also the keeper of an interesting history. Rumour has it this was Shakespeare’s local, although no one seems able to evidence this. But with the Globe theatre just along the way, it makes a good and almost credible story. There’s also the Dickensian connection. Charles Dickens was a regular and referenced the old place in some of his writing.
Galleried inns used to be a common sight in this art of the city. The timber framed, galleried buildings were home to hospitality and theatre. Tiered galleries facing out over a courtyard created the perfect setting for plays, known as ‘Inn-yard theatre’. The Southwark area was disreputable, notorious for its theatre scene, prostitution and bear baiting. Sounds a good night out, doesn’t it? I can imagine things got a bit raucous.
In the late 1600’s, a decade after the Great Fire of London, a blaze broke out in Southwark and destroyed much of the medieval landscape, including many of the galleried inns that gave the area its distinct character. Some were rebuilt, only to be later lost to WW2 bombs, regeneration and progress.
But The George remains, a little gem of old London tucked away in a sunny courtyard off a busy street. How did it survive when others were lost? A mix of luck and circumstance, I suppose. The building fell into the hands of a railway company who demolished part of it to create warehouse space but saved the South face that can be seen today. Since then the building has been Grade 1 listed and acquired by the National Trust affording it a secure future. FYI, the National Trust owns a quite a few pubs. I had no idea.
As for the modern day George Inn? It’s lovely. You enter the courtyard through a set of gates and as you go, the place sort of unfolds in front of you. The galleried exterior draws the eye up. The interior is warren like, one beamed room leading to another and another. The chambers make up old waiting rooms, coffee rooms and bedrooms.
The George Inn is currently run by pub chain Greene King. I can tell you they serve a fine, cold pint and a warm welcome. It’s a London pub that feels like a local. Mr THL and I enjoyed a little nose around and a liquid lunch. Dressed in summer flowers, the courtyard is very pretty. On a colder or wetter day, I can imagine the cosy nooks of the interior being very welcoming.
They also run a nice little programme of events including outdoor cinema in the courtyard, live music and charity events. Given the pubs historical connection with Inn-yard theatre, it’s like a modern day return to it’s roots. I like it. Details on the Facebook page here.
There’s another reason I was so happy to get to visit the George. It might not be an option for too much longer. According to the National Trust site, the George Inn will close on the 5 November. I really hope not, and haven’t been able to confirm this with the George itself. But that is what the NT page tells me. If I can confirm or deny, I’ll update this post accordingly. In the meantime I’d say; get there if you can. It’s worth the effort.
And not just for the pub. Nearby you’ve got Borough Market, stick your head in the door at the Hop Exchange, The Globe is a short walk away.
I’ll end this post as I started it. With a shout out to someone else who made my trip to this unique London pub happen; Mr THL. We were actually headed to a completely different part of the city. When I told him the clock could be ticking on seeing this one and I’d love to go, he had the trains sussed out and the walking route plotted in about half an hour. Military precision. I get on his case
absolutely all the time over all the things a bit, but he’s a keeper.
Where is the most unusual or historic place you’ve stopped off for a drink?
Edit to update: April 2022 and the George Inn is still open and still going strong. Statements regarding closure have been removed from the National Trust website.