The George Inn: London’s Only Surviving Galleried Inn

Kane Khanh | Archeaology
January 21, 2024

The George Inn, built in 1676, is London’s only surviving galleried inn.

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Dating back to the 17th century, The George is a pub that has stood the test of time and continues to welcome all who visit the changing face of London.

It’s the last surviving galleried inn in London and just a two-minute walk from popular Borough Market.

The galleries which front the building were once common on inns, but many other surviving examples of coaching inns were lost during the Second World War.

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Coaching inn’s were a vital part of England’s transport infrastructure until the development of railway, providing a resting point for people and horses.

The inn’s served the needs of travellers, for food, drink, and rest.

The attached stables, staffed by hostlers, cared for the horses, including changing a tired team for a fresh one.

Coaching inns were used by private travellers in their coaches, the public riding stagecoaches between one town and another, and (in England at least) the mail coach.

Just as with roadhouses in other countries, although many survive, and some still offer overnight accommodation, in general coaching inns have lost their original function and now operate as ordinary pubs.

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The location of the George Inn was key to the success of the inn as a coaching inn, as one of many inns located in courtyards along the main road that led south from London Bridge.

However, the coming of the railways destroyed the coach and wagon business and Inns such as the George lost much of their business over a relatively short period of time.

Buildings and land that were originally part of the George were sold, and part was demolished or converted by the Great Northern Railway to be used as storage space.

The Great Northern Railway became the London and North Eastern Railway, and in 1937, the LNER sold the George to the National Trust, who still own the building.

The George is now much smaller than the original establishment, when horses needed to be stabled and coaches and wagons set out for the southern counties.

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But it still shows what an inn would have looked like when horse drawn vehicles were the main mode of transport.

Today, there remain a significant number of historic features.

Within the galleried part of the building, the rear (south) wall has three chimney stacks, which despite having been rebuilt to varying degrees, are original to the building.

Each of the chimneys originally had a fireplace on each of the three principal floors.

The first and second floors largely preserve their original layout which would have comprised three bedrooms at each level, accessed independently from one another via the galleries.

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The ground floor is divided into a number of connected bars – The Parliament Bar used to be a waiting room for passengers on coaches.

The Middle Bar was the Coffee Room, which was frequented by Charles Dickens.

In fact, the pub’s claim to fame is being mentioned in the Charles Dickens novel Little Dorrit, with the author himself having visited the site of the pub when it was still a coffee house.

It’s also been reported that William Shakespeare visited the pub too.

William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.

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Charles Dickens was an English novelist and social critic who created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters, and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian Era.

His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime and, by the 20th century, critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius.

His novels and short stories are widely read today.

The bedrooms in The George Inn is now a restaurant, were upstairs in the galleried part of the building.

The George Inn is a stone’s throw from the Shard and London Bridge, making the perfect spot to unwind in between busy tourist attractions.

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The family friendly and dog friendly pub also has free Wi-Fi and a generous beer garden for those who want to soak in the sights of London.

Serving real ales and classic Sunday roast, The George has a wide variety of drinks and dishes to enjoy.

The historic structure is also Grade 1 listed – this means that it’s of ‘exceptional interest’.

Only around 2.5% of listed buildings are Grade 1 listed.

The pub has excellent reviews on TripAdvisor – one recent visitor said: “Always a must go to place if in borough as the drinks are great and so is the food.

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”The pub is an amazing building where history really comes alive but most of all the staff are amazing here really recommend and looking forward to going back.”

Another person added: “Our visit to the George Inn was by recommendation and it certainly lived up to our high expectations.

”We were served by Dean in the Parliament Gallery who was brilliant. It was incredibly busy but Dean managed to find us a table and was attentive during the meal.

”The food was super and made all the better served to us by Dean.

”Thank you so much Dean for making our first evening in London welcoming and friendly.”

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If you’d like to visit this pub during your next trip to London, the address is: 75 Borough High St, London SE1 1NH.

As the George Inn is now owned by the National Trust, the long term future looks assured.

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