Borough High Street

Survey of London: Volume 22, Bankside (The Parishes of St. Saviour and Christchurch Southwark). Originally published by London County Council, London, 1950.

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, 'Borough High Street', in Survey of London: Volume 22, Bankside (The Parishes of St. Saviour and Christchurch Southwark), (London, 1950) pp. 9-30. British History Online [accessed 26 May 2024].

. "Borough High Street", in Survey of London: Volume 22, Bankside (The Parishes of St. Saviour and Christchurch Southwark), (London, 1950) 9-30. British History Online, accessed May 26, 2024,

. "Borough High Street", Survey of London: Volume 22, Bankside (The Parishes of St. Saviour and Christchurch Southwark), (London, 1950). 9-30. British History Online. Web. 26 May 2024,

In this section


Borough High Street is one of the oldest roads in the London area and from the earliest times of which we have any knowledge it has been well supplied with inns for the convenience of travellers. A number of these were used in the 18th and 19th centuries as depots for carrier wagons and for passenger coaches to and from Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire. (fn. 17) Some of the old inn yards still remain, but only one of the old inn buildings (the George) survives, and that in a mutilated state. In 1676 a fire swept the northern end of the street, obliterating the houses on both sides of the way so that a special court had to be set up to settle disputes as to the ownership of the various plots. (fn. n1) (fn. 18) A few of the houses erected after the fire still survive, though in a much altered state.

The street follows its original alignment except at the northern end, where in 1824–31 the new London Bridge was built about 180 feet to the west of the old, and the line of the road altered and widened to form the new approach. As at this point the borough boundary runs along the east side of Borough High Street, the site of the old street, north of St. Saviour's Church, now lies within the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey and is outside the scope of this volume. Pepper Alley, formerly on the west side of the street, and Whitehorse Court, Chequer Alley, Boars Head Court and Swan Alley, etc., on the east side, are also excluded.

The other big changes which have taken place in the neighbourhood of Borough High Street have been the result of the building of London Bridge Station in 1843–4 (partly rebuilt in 1847 and subsequently enlarged) and the formation of the Charing Cross Railway line between London Bridge, Waterloo and Charing Cross in 1862–3, crossing Borough High Street just south of St. Saviour's. The line cut right across the ground and buildings of St. Thomas's Hospital and the hospital was, therefore, forced to move from the site which it had occupied for over 600 years.

Borough High Street in 1542

The plan of circa 1542 now in the Public Record Office and reproduced on Plate 8 gives some idea of the lay-out and appearance of the street in the Tudor period, though the buildings are for the most part represented only by conventional symbols. The pillory is shown in the middle of the road a little north of the King's Head. It remained there until 1620 when, by order of the Court of Aldermen, it was taken down and stored in the Bridgehouse. (fn. n2) (fn. 20) Beside the pillory was a well which in 1540 the masters of the Bridge House were ordered to mend because it stood too low and was "dawngerous for chylders." (fn. 21) St. Margaret's Church is shown on the island site in the middle of the road now occupied by Old Town Hall Chambers. Two or three houses are shown to the east of it and an archway to the west is labelled "ye court house." The church itself was shortly afterwards converted into a court or sessions house.

From the manor records it appears that the sides of the triangle on which the church stood were formed by two kennels or sewers which met at a point beyond a well. (fn. 21) A third well is shown on the plan in the middle of the street opposite the Horse's (later the Nag's) Head.

St. Margaret's Church

We know that St. Margaret's Church was in existence at the beginning of the 12th century, but there is little information to be found concerning it until the 15th century. (fn. n3) In 1449 the Guild or Fraternity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was established in the church by Royal Letters Patent. (fn. 7) This guild was the forerunner of the Corporation of Wardens of St. Saviour's Parish.

In 1536 the church wardens obtained authority by Act of Parliament (fn. 23) to buy an acre of land for a new churchyard, the old one being "in the mydell off the kynges high way" and so full that recently they had been compelled to bury "flower deade boddyes... in one Sepulchre" to the "Right perillous daungyer and pestyferous infeccon off the ayre."

At the Reformation when St. Mary Overy became the church for the old St. Margaret's parish, St. Margaret's Church and its precincts were sold to John Pope, (fn. 24) who promptly disposed of them to William Emerson. (fn. 25) In 1555 William Emerson and others were said to have built nine tenements there, presumably on part of the old churchyard. (fn. 21) Early in Elizabeth's reign Humphrey Emerson granted part of the property, described as the Court House or Sessions Hall and the chamber above to William Danby, (fn. 25) who in 1583 sold it to Sir Rowland Hayward and other aldermen of the City of London. (fn. 25) It was described as being 40 foot long by 43 foot wide and having a chamber above on the south side. The sale reserved the rights of the Justices to use the building for Gaol Deliveries and Sessions of the Peace, and for the Marshalsea Court to be held there on Tuesdays.

The old church (or court house) was burnt down in the fire of 1676 and for several years nothing was done about rebuilding. (fn. n4) In 1682 the Court of Aldermen appointed a commission to consider the petition of the inhabitants that the Court House and Compter should be rebuilt. (fn. 20) The new Court or Sessions House was completed in 1685 and a statue of the King, made at a cost of £50 by the Bridgehouse mason, was set up on the front (Plate 13a). (fn. 20) A plan of the new sessions house and counter with the King's Arms Tavern and other messuages was made for the City by William Capell in 1686 and is reproduced on Plate 3. The Sessions House was replaced by a Town Hall (Plate 13b) in 1793 and the statue was removed to Three Crowns Court. By the middle of the 19th century the jurisdiction of the Court of Aldermen in Southwark had been reduced to a formality and the Town Hall had fallen into decay. (fn. 20) The building was therefore taken down and the materials sold. (fn. n5)

The Counter or Compter

Stow, writing in 1598, states that St. Margaret's Church was turned into a court house and that part of it became the Counter Prison or Compter. (fn. 26) In 1608, however, the Court of Aldermen ordered (fn. 20) that one of Emerson's houses should be turned into "a Compter for receipt and keeping of prisoners within the sayd borough." In 1649 Samuel Cartwright, citizen and stationer of London, bought (fn. 27) the Counter (then described as a messuage 36 feet wide on the N. side) and the adjoining houses for £575. All this property was destroyed in the fire of 1676 and a new prison was built in 1685.

The Borough Compter remained in existence until in December 1855 the Grand Committee of the Bridge House Estates ordered that it should be taken down "and the materials disposed of." (fn. 28) In the following year Mr. Alderman Humphrey was granted a lease of the site. Counter Court behind the Old Town Hall Chambers preserves in its name the memory of the old Borough prison.

The Borough Market

The market place is shown on the plan of 1542 to the south of St. Margaret's Church and Southwark Fair seems originally to have been held there, but within a few years and, probably as a result of the building of houses by William Emerson on St. Margaret's Hill, the market was moved into Borough High Street. In 1561 it was ordered in the manor court of Southwark "that no Collyer from hensforthe shall sett their cartes in the streate vppon the market daye... for the cause is that yf ther shoolde be affraye made ther it is not possyble for no man to come & helpe, the cartes ther doo stande so thicke, that is betwene the Pyllory & Sainte Margretes Hill." (fn. 21) The Court Leet of Southwark, in 1691, ordered that the "Market shall be kept on the West side of the Channel of the High Street within this Borough begining at the Bridge Foot & ending at Compter Lane within Three Foot of the said Channel upon Pain that every one Standing out of that Verge shall pay vjs. viijd." (fn. 29)

The engraving reproduced on Plate 11a depicts the market circa 1750. Though the picture is not topographically accurate it gives a vivid impression of the chaotic conditions created by the market in such a narrow thoroughfare. The market continued to be held in the street until 1755. In that year the Mayor and Commonalty of the City of London, in whom the market rights had been vested by Edward VI, petitioned for its abolition because of "the great increase of coaches, carts and other carriages passing" through the street. The market was abolished by the Act of 28 Geo. II cap. 9 and in the same session the churchwardens and parishioners of St. Saviour's obtained the right to open a new market on ground called the Triangle to the S.W. of the church where it still remains. (fn. 30)

Figure 4:

Tallis's Elevations of the East side of Borough High Street, circa 1840

Of recent years much of Borough High Street has been rebuilt, and much was destroyed by enemy action during the war, but many houses still retain features dating from the late 17th or 18th centuries. Taking first the east and then the west side and working from north to south an attempt has been made in the following pages to describe what remains and to give a brief history of individual buildings where anything of interest is known. Changes in the street frontage during the past 100 years can be seen by comparing the modern elevations with the elevations drawn by Tallis circa 1840, reproduced on pp. 12 and 26. All the houses were renumbered in 1870, so that the odd numbers are on the east side and the even on the west instead of running consecutively.

Figure 5:

Elevations of the East side of Borough High Street, 1948

East Side. No. 31 (formerly 47)

This is a fourstorey house in red brick with a string course at the thirdfloor level. The shop front is modern and the interior is of no architectural interest.

No. 31 is now in the occupation of Messrs. Kleyser & Co., watchmakers, but for nearly a hundred years previously it was occupied by John Wells and his descendants, butchers. (fn. 31) At the close of the 18th century the shop was a linen draper's. (fn. 32)

Nos. 33 and 35 (formerly 48 and 49)

The building at the rear of these premises has a fine staircase of a bold character with heavily moulded solid strings, pendants, three-inch spiral-turned balusters and moulded handrail. The staircase, a sketch of which is reproduced here, extends through all floors, the walls up to the second floor being panelled to dado height. The rooms are panelled and have a moulded wood cornice. On the first floor is a wood mantelpiece of Adam character.

Figure 6:

33 Borough High Street

No. 33 has been tenanted by Messrs. Wild, Neame & Co., hop factors, and their predecessors, Messrs. Collard & Neame, since 1877. The previous occupiers were John Clutton and his descendants, solicitors. John Clutton was the godfather of John Clutton founder of the well-known firm of surveyors of that name. (fn. 33) The elder John Clutton was for many years treasurer of St. Saviour's Grammar School.

No. 35 is now occupied by Miss E. Skinner, nurses' outfitter, and Mathew Arnold, hosier, and for the last century and a half it seems to have been tenanted alternately by hosiers and hop merchants.

No. 45. The King's Head (formerly 54)

Practically the whole of the buildings in King's Head Yard and the houses on either side of it were destroyed by enemy action in 1940.

The King's Head was known as the Pope's Head prior to the Reformation and it is marked on the 1542 map. At the beginning of Elizabeth's reign it was the property of Thomas Cure, the founder of Cure's College (see p. 83), and in 1588 passed to the family of Humbles. It was in the possession of Humble Ward, Baron Ward, in 1647. (fn. 17)

The King's Head was burnt down in the Borough fire of 1676. Part of the building erected after the fire survived until 1885. A view of it is given on Plate 15 together with a photograph of the bust of Henry VIII, its sign. The court of the Surrey and Kent Sewer Commission met there in 1699. Roman remains were found on the site of the inn in 1879–81 which indicated that an inhabited building had stood there during the Roman occupation. (fn. 1) The inn was the property of St. Thomas's Hospital in the 18th century and was leased to Henry Thrale and afterwards to Barclay Perkins and Co. Ltd. (fn. 34)

No. 53 (formerly 58)

This house has a staircase of the open newel type with heavy balusters.

The premises are now occupied by Louis F. Petyt, hop factor, and William B. Gibson Ltd., ophthalmic opticians. From 1778 until 1840 various firms of indigo blue manufacturers were the occupants.

No. 61 (formerly 62). The White Hart

The White Hart was the badge of Richard II and the sign of this inn probably dated from his time. In 1450 the inn was the headquarters of Jack Cade, a fact which is recalled by Shakespeare in Henry VI, part II. The inn was owned by Humphrey Collet in 1555 (fn. 21) and it was still in the possession of his family when it was burnt down in 1676. In 1720 Strype described the new building as "one of the best Inns in Southwark." (fn. 35) The White Hart has been immortalised by Dickens in Pickwick Papers as the place in which Sam Weller is first introduced to the reader. A view of the inn just prior to its demolition in 1889 is reproduced on Plate 20a.

No. 65 (formerly 64)

No. 65 has a staircase similar to that in No. 53.

Messrs. Winkley & Son, printers, now occupy this house, but for over 80 years, from 1850–1933, it was a tailor's. The earliest known occupant, John Slade (1773), was a grocer.

No. 71 (formerly 67)

The house built after the fire in 1676 by Nicholas Hare, grocer, was demolished in 1928, but the carved stone panel from the west front, a sketch of which is reproduced on the next page, still survives. The house is described by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments in the volume on East London. There is a monument to William Hare, grocer, who died in 1698, and his family, in the cathedral.

No. 77 (formerly 70), the George Inn

Of the 17th century inn, built round a courtyard, only the south side now remains. This is of three storeys and attic with wood dormers in a tiled roof, the walls being partly of brick and partly timber-framed.

The western half has two ranges of galleries at the first and second floors, the lower one being supported on cantilever beams, and the upper one and roof with weather-boarded parapet, on wooden Doric columns which divide each gallery into six bays. Both galleries have a wood balustrade of turned balusters with moulded handrail. The wall behind the galleries is partly of brick and partly timber with pegged posts and flush face. It has windows overlooking the galleries, and openings at the eastern end giving access to the staircase. On the ground floor there is a range of windows on either side of the entrance.

Figure 7:

The sign of the Hare. Sketch by M. H. Leefe

The eastern half is mainly of limewashed brickwork with brick stringcourses below and above the first floor windows, and a wide eaves soffit. The ground floor has two entrance doors and a range of windows over which is a continuous entablature with horizontally grooved architrave and a slightly projecting plain frieze. The cornice has a cyma bead and fillet with mutules, and sunk roundels beneath. Of the first floor windows, two have double-hung sashes, flush frames and glazing bars and the remaining four are casement type with mullions and transomes, two having shallow segmental arched heads. The six windows on the second floor have casements mostly with flush frames and with glazing bars; their heads are almost level with the eaves.

The rear of the building facing south is of brick and has a large projecting chimney stack with tiled weatherings to its diminishing stages. Some of the windows on this side are suggestive of an earlier period than the front part.

Figure 8:

The George, 77 Borough High Street

The staircase is centrally placed within the building. It has solid strings and the balusters are similar in pattern to those in the balustrade of the galleries.

The westernmost room on the ground floor has a fireplace with segmental wood-faced lintel, stone-faced jambs and projecting iron fire basket.

Figure 9:

The George

On the first floor the room to the east of the staircase is panelled in pine with moulded framing, cornice and dado rail. The mantelpiece of grey figured marble has moulded jambs and a shaped and moulded lintel with fluted keystone. In the south-west corner is an angle cupboard with shaped shelves, the door of which is formed to match the panelling in the room.

The George is marked on the 1542 plan, and there is little doubt that the sign, originally Saint George, dates back to the mediaeval period. In the reign of Edward VI it was held by Humfrey Collet, M.P. for Southwark in 1511–12 and 1536. By his will, dated 4th October, 1558, (fn. 36) he left his mansion and inn called the George in the tenure of Nicholas Marten, to his son Thomas, together with his other property on the east side of the High Street. William Grubb is shown as the tenant in the Token Books for 1596–1621, and his widow, Elizabeth, in 1622–24. (fn. n6) In 1626 Henry Blundell or Blunden appears. He was still the tenant in 1634/5 when the inn was included in a return of new buildings made to St. Saviour's Wardens. It is there described as "2 seu'all buildinges part Timber and parte brick worth 6 li per Annum" built on "old foundacons aboute 12 yeares past." The landlords were then stated to be Mr. Sawyer and Mr. Thomas Stone.

Figure 10:

The George Inn. Panelling. Measured drawings by F. A. Evans

In 1668 Nicholas Andrewes, who had acquired a long lease of the George from John Sawyer, granted a sub-lease of it to Thomas Underwood at a rent of £150 a year. Underwood's widow, Mary, married Mark Weyland, and he was the tenant when in 1670 part of the inn and all the barns and stables were burnt down by a "sad and violent fire" said to have begun in some tow and hops in a shed in the inn yard. (fn. 38) As some compensation for his expense in rebuilding, Weyland was granted a 40 years' extension of his lease. Six years later the George was destroyed by the fire which consumed most of Borough High Street. Weyland rebuilt the inn probably on the old plan. (fn. 17) It is the southern part of this building which still survives.

In 1692, John Sayer, son of John Sayer or Sawyer, the previous owner, sold (fn. 39) the George and "three little roomes with appurtenances leased to William Peck, Grocer, lying at or neare the gateway" of the inn, to John Sweetapple of Lombard Street, who in the same year sold (fn. 40) it to Daniel Wight, distiller, for £1,600. Daniel's grand daughter, Valentina, married Philip Aynscombe, and the George (then in the tenure of William Golding) and some houses on the west side of the street near Counter Alley, were granted to Thomas Aynscombe, father of Philip, in trust for her. (fn. 41) By an Act of 30 George II, this property was vested in trustees and it ultimately passed to Lillie Smith Aynscombe, son-in-law of Philip, and his daughters, Valentina, Mary and Charlotte Anne.

In 1849 it was sold by their heirs to the Governors of Guy's Hospital. (fn. 42) The inn was then in the tenure of Frances Scholefield, widow of Westerman Scholefield.

Figure 11:

Plan of the George Inn, 1874. From a deed in the possession of British Railways

An old advertising card dating from circa 1830 states that coaches set out from the George Inn to—

"Maidstone, Malling and Wrotham, four times a day. Folkestone, Hythe and Ashford, 6 every morning; Mon., Wed., and Sat. evening.

Tenterden, Cranbrook and Staplehurst, Sun., Tues., and Thurs. mor.

Wateringbury, Teston and Mereworth, daily. Brenchley, Matfield Green, and Peckham, Tue., Wed., and Sat. afternoon.

Deal, Dover, Margate, Ramsgate, and Canterbury, twice a day.

Rochester, Chatham, and Gravesend, four times a day. Orpington, St. Mary Cray, Chiselhurst, and Eltham, Mon., Wed., Sat. afternoon.

Hastings, Boxhill, Battle, Robertsbridge, Lamberhurst, Tunbridge, Sevenoaks, Worthing, Horsham, Dorking, Brighton, Cuckfield and Reigate, daily." (fn. 17)

The George was also the depot for a number of goods wagons to the south-east of England. In the middle of the 19th century, the Great Eastern Railway Company opened an office in rooms on the north side of the inn yard. In 1855 a report on the condition of the premises (fn. 42) shows that Messrs. Beeman and Hotchkins, hop merchants, and the Great Northern Railway Company occupied most of the buildings on the north side of the yard, Messrs. Evans and Company, hop merchants, had rooms at the east end of the south side, and the George Inn proper was at the west end of the south side. Most of the east end of the yard was occupied by stabling.

In 1874 the President and Governors of Guy's Hospital, having walled off the eastern portion of the yard for incorporation in the hospital premises, sold the remainder to the Great Northern Railway Company. The plan attached to this sale is reproduced here. It shows the original extent of the inn. The buildings on the north side were pulled down by the railway company, but fortunately those on the south side were preserved and are the sole surviving example of a galleried inn in London.

In 1937 the London and North Eastern Railway Company made a deed of gift of the old inn building to the National Trust. The ground remains the property of the railway (now incorporated in British Railways).

No. 81 (formerly 72)

The staircase above the first floor level is of mid–18th century date and has solid moulded strings, turned balusters, ball-capped square newels and plain handrail. On the first floor is a pinepanelled room with wood cornice.

Figure 12:

83 Borough High Street

The earliest known tenant (1748) was Malachi Blake, druggist, who subsequently moved to No. 119.

No. 83 (formerly 73)

A sketch of the staircase in this house is reproduced on Plate 21b. It is similar to that in No. 81, but has spiral-turned balusters. On the second floor is a fireplace with a wood bolection moulded architrave and cast-iron grate with fluted surround.

No. 83 is now in the occupation of Rawlings, a firm of machine rulers. It had previously been in the tenure of various types of traders including Edward Coronel, cigar manufacturer, who was in occupation for 39 years (1870–1909).

No. 85. The Tabard

The old Tabard Inn was pulled down in 1875, though a modern building bears the name.

The Tabard was probably one of the earliest inns in this street of inns, for there is mention of it in 1306 when the Abbot of Hyde had lodgings adjoining. It is certainly the most famous of the Borough inns as the meeting place of Chaucer's Canterbury pilgrims. Henry Bailley, M.P. for Southwark in 1376 and 1379, was then host of the Tabard—
"A semely man oure hooste was withalle
For to han been a marschal in an halle;
Boeld of his speche, and wys, and wel y taught,
And of manhod hym lakkede right naught." (fn. 43)

Chaucer's inn was probably pulled down in 1629, for in 1635 the "Talbut" is said to be "a newe building of brick" erected on an old foundation about six years previously by William Garford, the landlord. After two rebuildings in the 17th century it is extremely unlikely that any of the mediaeval building survived. The view of Chaucer's pilgrims setting out from the Tabard in Urry's Chaucer of 1721 (Plate 14a) may have been based on an earlier drawing, though it is difficult to reconcile with what we know of the Borough of the 14th century.


The history of the inn has been very fully related in Rendle and Norman's The inns of old Southwark, to which the reader is referred for further particulars. A drawing of the inn by T. H. Shepherd made a few years before its demolition is reproduced on Plate 14b.

Figure 13:

No. 91 Borough High Street. Plans and elevations. Measured drawings by R. G. Absolon

No. 91 (formerly 77)

These premises comprise four storeys with a single room and staircase on each floor, the ground floor being a shop. There is a small addition at the rear. The building is of brick with rubbed brick dressings and moulded brick string course at second floor level, a moulded brick cornice at third floor level and a tiled roof behind a parapet. The first floor room has painted pine panelling to the full height with ovolo moulded framing, fielded panels, moulded chair rail and wood dentilled cornice. In the window recesses are panelled box seats and panelled folding shutters. The door has three panels and is surrounded by an enriched architrave.

A section of the panelling on the east wall is hinged and conceals a wood semicircular half-domed cupboard with three shaped shelves, carved spandrils, and a carved and gilded cornice at the springing of the half dome, with ornamental keyblock. The dome has painted male and female figures in a pastoral setting (Plate 23).

The second floor room has painted pine panelling similar to that on the first floor but with plain panels and moulded cornice. The door is of two panels with plain moulded architrave. Next the fireplace a portion of the panelling is hinged and forms the door to a square cupboard. There are panelled folding shutters to the windows and panelled box seats in the recesses beneath the windows. The fireplace has a marble surround with shaped lintel and fluted keystone and a hob grate of simple pattern.

The third floor panelling is also of painted pine with bolection mouldings suggestive of an earlier date than that on the floors below. It does not fully extend round all sides of the room, part being plain square-framing. The windows have seats in the recesses and panelled shutters. There is a cupboard behind the panelling next the fireplace.

The staircase, of the open well type, occupies the rear of the building. The upper flights are contemporary with the main fabric. They have a moulded handrail and between the first and second floors there are three types of balusters to a step. The newels are in the form of fluted Doric columns and there are cut strings and carved step ends to the first and second floors and solid strings to the remaining flight (Plate 22).

No. 91 was from 1907 to 1934 in the occupation of Robert John Herbert, hosier, but it has had very varied uses in the past. In the middle of the 18th century it was known as the Bell and Bear Inn and it was subsequently occupied by a toyman, a tallow chandler, an oilman and as "oyster rooms."

Nos. 93 and 95 (formerly 78 and 79)

These premises now form one building. The 18th century character of the façade of the upper storeys has been retained and is of red brick with plain brick string courses above and below the second floor windows and a slate mansard roof with dormer windows behind the parapet. The ground floor front is of later date.

Both houses have for over fifty years been in the occupation of Messrs. A. C. Horsley, hop merchants. No. 93 was a cheesemonger's during the second half of the 18th century. No. 95 is shown on Tallis's view (p. 12) as in the occupation of Anderton & Lee, confectioners, but in 1768–73? the tenant was Joseph Coates, hop factor.

Nos. 97 and 99 (formerly 80 and 81)

These buildings, both of mid–18th century date, have recently been demolished to first floor level. No. 97 had a stucco front with a balustraded parapet above the cornice. No. 99 was of red brick with string courses between floors. The first floor front room was panelled with simple ovolo moulded framing and wood dentilled cornice. In the corner next the fireplace was a semicircular headed cupboard with moulded jambs and fluted keystone, shaped shelves and panelled doors. Part of the well staircase remains. It has spiral-turned balusters and moulded handrail and string.

Both these houses have been occupied by hop merchants from the 18th century to the 20th with the exception of short periods when they have been used by other tradesmen.

No. 105, The Queen's Head

Not even the name remains to recall the memory of the Queen's Head Inn which occupied the site of No. 105 until 1886. A drawing of it made in 1888 is reproduced on Plate 20b.

The Queen's Head was, in the 15th century, the property of the Poynings family, one of whom, Robert Poynings, was sword bearer to Jack Cade. It was originally known as the Cross Keys or Crowned Keys and was probably renamed in compliment to Queen Elizabeth. (fn. 17)

John Harvard inherited a lease of the Queen's Head Inn from his mother Katherine who died in 1635 (fn. 44) just before her son sailed for America. She was a much married lady. Her first husband, Robert Harvard, butcher, had a house on the east side of Borough High Street near London Bridge (the site is now in Bermondsey). Robert died in the autumn of 1625 (fn. 45) and she married John Elletson, lessee of the Queen's Head, in the following January. (fn. 46) Elletson died a year later, (fn. 47) and, soon after, Katherine married her third husband, Richard Yearwood, a neighbour. (fn. 48) The freehold of the inn belonged to Hugh Browker (fn. 49) and afterwards to Gregory Franklin from whom it passed to his cousin Margaret, wife of Gilbert Kinder. It was sold to John Applebee, owner of a brewery in Deadman's Place (see p. 79), in 1669. (fn. 50) Franklyn bequeathed (fn. 51) his tenements behind the inn for charitable uses, half to the Sadlers' Company and half as an endowment for St. Saviour's Grammar School (p. 91).

Nos. 113 and 115 (formerly 88 and 89)

These buildings have been badly damaged by enemy action, but have the remains of a mid-18th century staircase above first floor level. A fireplace on the second floor has a bolection moulded surround.

These two houses, which are tenanted by S. Garth Wicking & Co. as a music warehouse, have been occupied together for the last two centuries.

No. 121, The Grapes and Kentish Buildings

Kentish Buildings is a narrow court opening into Borough High Street between Nos. 121 and 123. On its northern side it still retains the red brick fronts of several 18th century houses. They are of three storeys, with steep tiled roofs, eaves, plain brick strings, and flush framed sash windows to the two upper floors. The ground floor has been reconstructed to form part of the Grapes public-house in Borough High Street.

The narrow entry to the yard is spanned by a four-storey 18th century building with wide sash windows at the back. The front has been cemented and altered out of character.

Until the beginning of the 19th century Kentish Buildings (fn. n7) was known as Christopher Alley. It occupies the site of the inn yard of the Christopher, an inn marked on the plan of 1542, and probably so named after the patron saint of travellers, Saint Christopher. The first mention of the Grapes occurs in 1842.

Figure 14:

The Grapes

Nos. 127 and 129 (formerly 96 and 97). Remains of the Spur Inn

In the flank walls of the covered way between Nos. 127 and 129 are some remains of the half-timbered work of the Spur Inn.

The Spur is shown next to the Horse's Head on the plan of 1542. In 1560 it was in the possession of William Emerson, (fn. 21) a well-known Southwark worthy of his time (see p. 32). It was sold in 1604 by Emme Emerson, (fn. 52) widow of his son, Humphrey, to Hugh Browker (fn. n8) "one of the Prothonotaryes of his Majestyes Courte of Common Plees" who devised it in 1608 to his son, Hugh. (fn. 49) The Spur is one of the "fayre Innes for receipt of travellers" mentioned by Stow. (fn. 26) It was partly burnt in 1667, (fn. 17) but in 1720 (fn. 35) is described as "pretty well resorted unto by Waggons." It ceased to be an inn in 1848. (fn. 17) No. 127 is shown on Tallis as occupied by Pole & Maylard, "linnen drapers." This firm, founded by George Pole, carried on business there from 1814 until 1865.

Nos. 137 and 139 (formerly 102)

Although the front of these premises has been much altered, the original tile roof and dormers remain. On the first floor there are portions of an old elliptical staircase and a small wood mantelpiece.

These premises are now used as the Nag's Head Inn and booking offices. In 1542 the inn south of the Spur is marked as the "Horse hede." This name was in use till the end of the century but in the return of new buildings made in 1634–5 it has been corrupted to Nag's Head, the version which has been in use ever since. At that time there were a number of tenements in the inn yard. Strype (fn. 35) describes the buildings as "old and sorry" and they have all been rebuilt since that date, though some earlier work may have been used in the rebuilding. (fn. 17)

West Side

No. 22 (formerly 14) and No. 4 Green Dragon Court

The part of these premises fronting Borough High Street dates from the re-alignment of the frontage in the early 19th century. It is of brick with stucco dressings. The western portion probably dates from the late 17th century though the actual front to Green Dragon Court is of later date. The chief feature of interest was the elaborately carved shopfront and doorway. It consisted of two bow windows, one large and one small on each side of the doorway, which was flanked by carved Corinthian pilasters and had a pediment above containing a cartouche with the date "1663."

Figure 15:

Tallis. Elevation of West side of Borough High Street

The door and its surround were brought from Holland by the tenant of the premises, and were set up in Green Dragon Court in 1919 by Messrs. Cooksey and Partners, architects and surveyors, who made the rest of the ground floor frontage to correspond, and fitted part of the interior with panelling from other premises. The upper part of the house was reconditioned in 1922. The shopfront and doorway were removed in 1948, and have been placed in store by the City of London Corporation, who own the premises.

Nos. 38–52 (formerly 248–241)

These houses form a terrace which dates from the early part of the 18th century. Except for three which have been refaced with stucco the houses are of red brick with a plain brick string course at second floor level. The windows have double-hung sashes with flush or semi-flush frames. All have ground floor shops of later date (Plate 24).

The interiors of the houses have been much altered but some interesting features remain. The first floor front room of No. 40 has fielded panelling in pine with panelled shutters to the windows, but on the north wall part of the panelling has been replaced by a modern fireplace and plywood. Next the fireplace is a semicircular niche cupboard with shaped shelves and a half-dome with painted shell and head ornament. The cupboard has an eight-panelled door with moulded surround. The staircase of this house above first floor level has spiral-turned balusters and a moulded handrail and strings.

Figure 16:

West of Borough High Street

No. 48 has a panelled room on the first floor, and it too retains part of its original open newel staircase with turned balusters and square handrail.

The first floor front room of No. 52 has mid-18th century panelling and wood cornice and a wood and composition mantelpiece with half-round reeded Corinthian pilasters and enriched frieze and cornice, white marble slips and an elaborate cast-iron grate probably later in date than the surround. The two front rooms on the second floor have bolection moulded panelling and wood cornices. Above the ground floor the original staircase with spiral turned balusters remains.

Figure 17:

Backs of houses in Borough High Street

At the rear of Nos. 50 and 52 is a 17th century timber-framed and plastered two-storey building known as Calvert's Buildings (Plate 24b). It has a twin-gabled roof and the upper storey overhangs on the south side. Inside the building are some of the original oak beams.

The tenants of these houses can be traced in the directories and the rate books back to 1748, but the houses are probably older. A large proportion of the occupiers have been connected with the hop trade. Calvert's Buildings takes its name from Felix Calvert, brewer, who occupied No. 52 (formerly 241) from 1786 to 1794. It may be noted that premises known as Calvert's Buildings on the south side of Southwark Street also take their name from this firm of brewers.

St. Margaret's Court (formerly Fishmongers' Alley)

This small court turns out of Borough High Street between Nos. 62 and 64. In the time of Henry VIII this alley and the surrounding property belonged to the Fishmongers' Company who sold it to various tenants in 1554–5. The name Fishmongers' Alley survived until circa 1835, when it was changed to St. Margaret's Court.

Figure 18:

52 Borough High St. Southwark Detail of Panelled Room 2nd Floor

No. 66 (formerly 234)

This house is now united with Nos. 68 and 70. It dates from the early part of the 18th century. The windows have red brick dressings and retain their flush frames. The staircase is of heavy construction with turned balusters, square newels and moulded string, and moulded and chamfered handrail.

The first floor front room has panelling of a simple design, with wood cornice, and it contains an alcove cupboard.

Nos. 66 and 68 have been in the tenure of the firm of Edward Strauss & Co., hop merchants since 1893 and the previous occupants, W. H. & H. Le May, were in the same trade.


  • n1. The fire is said to have begun "att one Mr. Welsh, an oilman, neer St. Margaret Hill, betwixt the George and Talbot Innes".
  • n2. A pillory was afterwards set up at St. Margaret's Hill, and remained there until late in the 18th century. The Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser for 1st June, 1780, reports the case of an "unfortunate wretch who lost his life in the pillory at St. Margaret's Hill, Southwark" in April of that year.
  • n3. In 1450 the church was used by Bishop Waynflete for his meeting with Jack Cade. Cade was promised consideration of his grievances and a general pardon for his rebellion, a promise which was not kept.
  • n4. A dispute arose at this time between the wardens of St. Saviour's and the Court of Aldermen as to the ownership of the site of the Court House and St. Margaret's Hill, but the wardens lost their case.
  • n5. The present town hall of the Metropolitan Borough of Southwark in Walworth Road was the vestry hall of the parish of St. Mary, Newington.
  • n6. Elizabeth Grubb occupied one of the small tenements adjoining the inn from 1627 until her death in 1641/2.
  • n7. The new name does not seem to have come into official use until about 1806, but it may have derived from a Thomas Kentish, carpenter, who according to a deed in the Minet Library obtained a grant of a messuage north of the Spur Inn in 1684.
  • n8. He was a relation by marriage. Humphrey Emerson had married Joan Browker as his first wife.
  • 1. Royal Commission on Historical Monuments. Roman London, 1928.
  • 7. Cal. of Patent Rolls.
  • 17. Inns of old Southwark, by W. Rendle and P.Norman, 1888.
  • 18. An act for erecting a judicature to determine differences touching houses burnt and demolished by the late dreadful fire in Southwark, 29 Chas. II, cap. 4.
  • 19. Commonplace book of Rev. John Ward, quoted in Gent. Mag., 1840, pt. I, p. 359.
  • 20. City of London Records: Minutes of the Court of Aldermen of the City of London.
  • 21. City of London Records: Court Leet minutes, 1539–64.
  • 22. Wycestre's Chronicle.
  • 23. House of Lords Records: Private Act, 28 Hen. VIII, No. 44.
  • 24. P.R.O., C 66/770, m 33.
  • 25. P.R.O., C 54/1148.
  • 26. Stow's Survey of London, 1st ed., 1598.
  • 27. P.R.O., C 54/3467.
  • 28. City of London Records: Minutes of the Grand Committee of Bridge House Estates.
  • 29. Southwark Reference Library MS. 20133.
  • 30. Public Act, 28 Geo. II, c. 9.
  • 31. Post Office and other London Directories.
  • 32. Poor Rate Books for St. Saviour's parish.
  • 33. Cluttons, some historical notes. Privately printed, 1948.
  • 34. History of St. Thomas's Hospital, by F. G. Parsons, 1932–6.
  • 35. Stow's Survey of London, Strype's ed., 1720.
  • 36. P.C.C., 1 Stonard.
  • 37. Archdeaconry Court of Surr. Harding 172.
  • 38. B.M. Add. MS. 5078 ii, p. 301.
  • 39. P.R.O., C 54/4745.
  • 40. P.R.O., C 54/4746.
  • 41. P.R.O., C 54/5476.
  • 42. Deeds of the George in the possession of British Railways.
  • 43. Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer, ed. F. N. Robinson.
  • 44. P.C.C., 77 Pile.
  • 45. P.C.C., III Clarke.
  • 46. St. Saviour's Marriage Registers.
  • 47. P.C.C., 91 Hele.
  • 48. P.C.C., 98 Awdeley.
  • 49. P.C.C., 15 Windebanck.
  • 50. P.R.O., C 54/4265.
  • 51. P.C.C., 73 Byrde.
  • 52. P.R.O., C 54/1787.
  • 53. The English Emersons, by P. H. Emerson.