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Market Porter








Olde Thameside Inn



England get thrashed at the Ashes. England fail to qualify for the World Cup. Man. Utd. knocked out of Europe. Is it all going horribly, terribly wrong? Don't despair, do something - make a statement to the world, after all, it's a time for laughter, fun, jocularity, jovial banter and getting smashed out of your head (and it must be better than a Hugh Cornwell gig, said he, knowingly). Let us show what makes Britain grate! It's the first christmas pub crawl!

We are gathered here today to honour the role Southwark has played in the development of this fine city of ours. In the process of this discovery, is it not fitting and proper that a few flagons of finest foaming are sunk in honour of good ol' Southwark?

Southwark has played a major role in the history of London since Claudius & some Roman drinking buddies built a settlement here in 43 A.D. The name, Southwark comes from South Warke or work. In those days, there was no virtual reality to amuse the people so they got pissed, held orgies, threw people to the lions and, oh yes... built London Bridge. The site of the bridge was redeveloped several times and it was the only one over the river until 1750 (presumably to prevent too many South East Londoners getting across to the cultured Northern regions of London). Southwark became the main Southern entrance to London and the terminus for coaches when London bridge was too narrow to carry them into the city. This meant that it soon 'livened up' as taverns, inns and other 'hostelries' sprang up to cater for the needs of thirsty travellers, merchants, soldiers, pilgrims and various London football fans (and West Ham supporters). One pub, 'the Tabard' became famous in Chaucer's 'A Canterbury Tale'.


I know people, today, who speak like that after a few jars but don't realize it.

Southwark fair, which began in 1402, was, for a while, one of the great annual English fairs. Held in Borough High St., it lasted for two weeks and is recorded in both Pepy's and Evelyn's diaries. Evelyn records seeing monkeys dancing on ropes, a weight lifter and an Italian female rope-dancer who 'all the court went to see'.

As the middle ages wore on, the entertainment became more dubious (and this was before Arsenal football club was formed). The street beside the Thames (still called Bankside) became a main centre of alehouses, brothels and bear-baiting. As is natural for these sort of places, they soon came under the control of the Bishops of Winchester who lived in their nearby palace. God bless 'em, those pious souls. Alas, the church-sponsored whore-houses were closed in 1546 by Henry VIII after the dissolution of the monasteries but the Virgin Queen had them reopened at a later time.

The area 'got culcha' in Elizabethan times with pleasure gardens, pubs and theatres springing up. Famous theatres in and around Bankside included the Rose (1587 - the year Elizabeth had Mary, Queen of Scots, executed), the Swan (1596), the Globe (1599 - where Shakespeare was playwright, player and shareholder) and the Hope (1614).

Most of medieval Southwark was destroyed in the fire in 1676 (10 years after the Great fire of London) - including most of the hostelries... it is. perhaps, fitting that we give an extra sup in memory of those long departed hostelries.

Although a lot of the inns were rebuilt and flourished during the coaching era, (Thomas Dekker described it, in the 17th Century, as 'a continued ale house with not a shop to be seen in between') the fair was closed by the Corporation of London in 1763 and the inns further declined with the coming of the railway (in the 19th century). They have now all but vanished - the Tabard was a storehouse for the railway by the mid-1900s...what would Chaucer have said? 'Oh Balles to it'?

Luckily for us, however, some watering holes still exist. Surely it is time for us to try and recreate some of the area's (in)famous history by getting well pissed together. The best way known to mankind of achieving this is through the medium known as a pub crawl (to Southerners that is, Northerners call it 'another midweek night before going home to stick ferrets down the trousers').

Let us begin at:

  1. The Horniman (Freehouse) at Hay's Galleria, Tooley Street
    A fine place to begin. Here is a modern public house, standing by the Thames, overlooking the HMS Belfast (built in 1939, she was, at 11000 tons, the largest cruiser ever built for the Royal Navy - she was opened to the public in 1971). It is named after Fred Horniman who joined his father's tea-packing firm in the 1830s and travelled extensively over the next 40 years. A museum, also named after him, can be found in Forest Hill and contains some of the objects collected by him on his travels. The pub is in the middle of what was (and is still called) Hay's Wharf. This was built in 1651 by Alexander Hay and extended from London to Tower bridge thus making it the largest and oldest wharf in the Port of London. The docks closed in 1970 and in the last 5-10 years the area has been redeveloped with varying degrees of architectural sympathy. The bar contains an excellent selection of real ales including Adnams Extra (Champion beer 1993)... I don't know about cider or lager although, no doubt, Diamond White and some expensive lagers are available.

    As we head for the next watering hole (at about 10min, the longest walk we have to make), we walk through the Hay's Galleria and past the brilliant sculpture, 'The Navigators' by David Kemp. Out we go into Tooley St (the name is a corruption of 'St. Olaves St. after the nearby church), the childhood home of the founder of Harvard University, and into Borough High St. where Guy's Hospital can be glimpsed through the forest (a 'Half-pint screamer' badge for anyone looking for trees). The hospital was founded in 1725 by Thomas Guy who bought the tract of land opposite what was then St. Thomas's hospital in St. Thomas St. Tommies left in 1871 but Guy's flourished. The poet John Keats qualified, though never practiced, as a doctor there - often walking in from his Hampstead home. The hospital suffered from 2nd World War bombing but was rebuilt - the tower block that now houses the School of dentistry being completed in 1963. There were 894 beds (this is pre-Trust status).


  2. The George Inn (Freehouse) off 77 Borough High Street
    This is London's only remaining galleried coaching inn. It stands on the site of an inn which existed in 1542 and probably in medieval times but was destroyed in the 1676 fire (a bad year for boozers). The present building dates from then and originally surrounded three sides of the courtyard before the central and northern wings were demolished to make way for the railway in 1899. Dickens mentions the pub in 'Little Dorrit'. In summer, Shakespeare plays are performed in the courtyard for the benefit of hordes of beautiful Americans (and maybe just a few Japanese). The courtyard has been robbed of a lot of it's impact by the awful facing building (obviously designed by the 'Arsenal' of the architect world). Despite this, the pub has a good selection of real ales, sells mulled wine at times and usually has a pleasant atmosphere. The inn now belongs to the National Trust.

    After such a cultural experience, just down the road is...


  4. The Globe (Freehouse?) just off Stoney Street
    named, I presume, after the theatre that once stood nearby. Apparently it opens from 6.30-8.30 am on Saturdays to cater for the nearby market trade (which probably means it will be closed when we get there). The beer is Bass, London Pride and a guest beer(which was a very good William Butler's Black Country on my investigative crawl). This is an attractive, circular, noisy pub with bare, wooden floors and a lively, varied clientele who chat about such interesting topics as Lady Di & the Royal family, TV sitcoms and game shows hosted by Noel Edmonds.

    After circumnavigating the Globe, we proceed to the next tavern via Borough Market (the oldest Fruit & Veg. market in London) which is a successor to the one that caused a nuisance in 1276 by spreading onto the southern end of London bridge.

    Here we find two pubs almost alongside each other and close by the railway bridge to Waterloo & Charing Cross:


  5. The Wheatsheaf (Youngs) 6, Stoney Street
    features Courage Best and two home-brewed ales: Barn ale and the stronger Harvestoun Old Manor. Another attractive old building with original features (estate agent speak). The saloon bar leads to the smoky public bar where a game of arrers may be played while balancing a pint on your gut. On my visit, a couple were engaged in teaching each other judo...the woman was urged on with cries of 'Go on Taffy' - nuff said.

    Turning left (after falling through the doors) we find ...


  6. The Market Porter (Freehouse) 9, Stoney Street
    which is a taxidermists delight with its very own limited budget Natural History museum (still, you have to pay into that nowadays...and there's no beer to help your mind). The tavern boasts a range of 8 (count 'em) real ales including at least one home-brew. Beers featured are Harveys Old, Harveys Sussex, Old Hookey, Mauldons Best, Youngs ordinary, Market Porter, Boddingtons and Abbot Ale. These beers must be drunk (and so must we). It was also featuring a special offer on 2 strong bottled beers: Elephant (7.5%) and Courage Extreme (6%) at the bargain price of 1.25 a remember, these beers can kill. Another item of interest to some will be the pinball competition: 5 free drinks to the highest weekly score on the bang up to date 'Star Wars' pinball machine. There is an upstairs saloon bar which serves food, at what seemed to be reasonable prices, until late.

    Just down the road now is Clink Street which can be eerie at the best of times with it's deserted Victorian warehouses. We must not falter from our quest, however, because right is on our side and the evil forces of darkness cannot overcome our god-given desire to have bottoms like the rodents that are numerous in this area. The street was the site of the notorious Clink prison which was, in the 16th Century, the bishops of Winchesters' prison where both Catholic & Protestant prisoners of faith were held. It is the origin of the expression 'in the clink' and is first mentioned in 1509. It was burned down in the Gordon riots (2nd June 1780 - a petition against the repeal of anti-Roman Catholic legislation). At one time, no less than seven prisons existed in Southwark, many of them known to Dickens but largely demolished in the 19th century.

    The penultimate (4 syllable word...and so late in the crawl) pub,


  7. The Anchor (Freehouse)  1, Bankside
    is an 18th century riverside inn complete with minstrels' gallery, old oak beams and cubby holes to hide fugitives from the prison. Its predecessor dated back to the 15th century and was probably known to one Billy Shakespeare. It could have been the little ale house on Bankside where Pepys watched the Great Fire, 'staid till it was dark and saw the fire grow' on 2nd Sept. 1666. The original was destroyed in 1676 and reopened in 1770 (typical British doubt the locals were 'dying for a pint'). The inn contains a collection of Elizabethan objects found nearby and a model of the Globe theatre for you to ponder over as your head slowly falls into your tankard. The pub has at least one 'own brew beer' - wittily named 'Anchor beer'.

    As we now wander down Clink St. and into Pickfords wharf we notice, if our eyes are still open, a rose window which is all that remains of the Winchester palace, home of the bishops for 500 years.


  8. The Old Thameside Inn (Nicholsons Freehouse) Pickford's Wharf, Clink Street
    This modern pub was built in 1986 in the shell of Pickfords wharf and it lies in the shadow of the Cathedral church of St. Saviour and St. Mary Overie (AKA Southwark cathedral). Nearby Mary Overie dock, where now lies a tall ship, is probably 'the tideway where ships are moored' mentioned in Domesday book. Local parishoners were entitled to land goods here free of charge. Available beers include Adnams Extra and Tetley. Although it is a modern pub, it is relatively attractive inside and it's large windows afford fine views of the dirty water, St.Pauls and London bridge. The view offers a good chance to reflect on what we have learned tonight.


    Just thought I'd put that in.

    Le crawl est fini. Past the aforementioned cathedral and up the steps to the bridge and then to the station where we weary travellers will wend our way back to the fleshpots of London. Hopefully, we are all poorer, wiser & more pissed than we were a few hours before.

Aidan Laverty. December 1993
From an idea by Russell Hamilton