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The Grenadier Historic London Pub

About George

 

Its roots can be traced back to at least 1543, when it appeared on a map of the surrounding Southwark district, though it is possible The George has been around for long before that. The original pub building was damaged during the 1666 Great Fire of London, which destroyed vast swaths of central London, and The George was subsequently rebuilt in the 1670s. History oozes from every crack and corner of this storied coaching inn. The outside, which features a partial timber frame façade overlooking a cobbled courtyard, is attractive, but it is the interior that really steals the show. Inside, the pub is something of a maze with several distinct but interconnected bar areas, where original features stand alongside more modern fittings. Look for old fireplaces, panelling and crooked and warped wood fittings that contrast sharply with the more uniform, machine-milled beams more commonly seen these days. On the ground level is the Parliament Bar, which was once a waiting room for passengers, while the upstairs galleried part of the building – now a restaurant – would once have comprised bedrooms. During fair-weather summer days, the benches and tables in the courtyard at the front of the pub quickly fill with guests soaking up the sunshine. During its 17th-century heyday, The George was a major terminus for coaches to and from London, and would have been much bigger – as much as four times its current size. At the time, it would have been a hive of activity with coaches and wagons full of passengers and merchandise constantly arriving and departing, and crowds of people mulling around. When railway came on to the scene, there was a big decline in the use of stagecoaches, and The George was downsized. Great Northern Railway demolished parts of the pub to make space for warehouses that could be used for storage. While many historians hint that it is likely Shakespeare would have visited The George – the legendary playwright did live in the area in the 1590s and at the time, plays were commonly performed in inn yards – there is, however, no official documentation to back up this claim. What is known for sure is that Charles Dickens was definitely familiar with The George, having mentioned the inn by name in his novel ‘Little Dorrit’. In 1937, National Trust, a conservation organisation devoted to preserving historic properties in the UK, acquired the pub and leased it out so it could still be operational. These days, The George attracts a varied array of guests, ranging from the Friday night after-work crowd to tourists who come to absorb the old-world atmosphere, which is reminiscent of London in ages past. The George is just a short stroll from several other major London tourist attractions. Borough Market, a fabulous and sprawling food market dating back to the 13th century, is just a few steps away, as is Southwark Cathedral, a mostly Victorian-era construction with some sections dating back as far as the 13th century. The Clink Prison Museum, a recreation of a notorious medieval jail; Shakespeare’s Globe theatre; and the hulking modern art-devoted Tate Modern museum, which occupies an old Thameside power station; as well as the rest of South Bank are all within easy reach of the pub on foot. Head in the opposite direction along the riverfront and you will reach the HMS Belfast museum ship and the iconic Tower Bridge in around 15 minutes. Directions to the George: The George is located in Southwark, just south of the River Thames, not far Borough Market. Take the Tube or train to London Bridge and make the short stroll from there. The George is tucked away from the people-packed Borough High Street, and is found down a passageway marked by a wrought iron arch bearing the pub’s name.