A historic pub interior of national importance
Listed Status: I77 Borough High Street
Tel: (020) 7407 2056
Real Ale: Yes
Lunchtime Meals: Yes
Evening Meals: Yes
Nearby Station: London Bridge
Station Distance: 300m
Public Transport: Near Railway Station (London Bridge) and Bus Stop
View on: Whatpub
One of Britain’s only two galleried coaching inns, the other being the (now much-altered) New Inn in Gloucester. The George was in existence by the mid-16th century and was one of several inns in Southwark that catered for travellers entering and leaving from London via nearby London Bridge (until 1750 the only one across the Thames). A terrible fire destroyed much of Southwark in 1676 and the George was rebuilt immediately afterwards. Today we have but a fragment left as the other parts that made up a courtyard were demolished in 1889 for railway development. Most of the interior is modern but the Parliament Bar, the first on the right, has remarkable old woodwork (might some of it even be late 17th-century?). It evidently comprised two rooms at one time. Nearest the street there is full-height horizontal boarding and simple fixed seating plus a venerable fireplace. Here coach passengers might have waited and could tell the time by the one-handed clock. Such large clocks appeared in inns and taverns from the mid-18th century but acquired the name ‘Parliament clocks’ after 1797 when a short-lived five shilling clock tax was introduced, which encouraged the provision of public ones at the expense of private ownership. At the other end of the room is a highly unusual glazed-in servery with a very rare set of (disused) Victorian ‘cash-register’ handpumps (this servery tends to be used Wed-Sat).
An amazing survivor from the days when Southwark was a major terminus for the coaching trade between London and southern England. The George was rebuilt in 1676 after a major fire in Southwark and is the last galleried coaching inn in London – but even this is but a fragment of its former self. It used to extend round the four sides of a courtyard – just as the New Inn in Gloucester does to this day. Part of it was demolished in 1889 to make way for the construction of railway warehousing. The galleries gave access to the first and second floor rooms have plain, white-painted balusters. The upstairs rooms are panelled and are particularly fine. Most of the pub’s spaces involve modern fittings but the first bar you come to has some of the oldest woodwork purpose-fitted for a pub anywhere (some of it might even date back to the rebuilding of the inn). The two fireplaces suggest it was two rooms at one time but they have been amalgamated.
The larger part of this room has a mighty fireplace and a glazed-in servery with vertical sashes. Inside you can see a now disused set of ‘cash-register’-style Victorian handpumps (the handles move in quadrant-shaped slots to draw the beer) - they are reported as still being in use in the 1970s. The maker’s name – South of Blackfriars Road – is prominent. A working set in daily use is at the Old Crown, Kelston, Somerset;
In the part nearest the road is full-height horizontal boarding; simple fixed seating against the walls and in the window; and an ancient fireplace with a wooden hood. The tap room houses a 'Parliament clock' - in 1797 a tax of five shillings was levied on people who possessed a watch or clock. Not surprisingly many disposed on their timepieces and relied on clocks in public places. The one at the George was one such. The pub is owned and leased out by the National Trust which acquired it in 1937.