George Inn in London, England

London has its fair share of historic pubs, but the George Inn in Southwark has potentially greater value than most. This building is a 17th-century coaching inn with particularly unique historical architectural features, and it is so historically important that it is owned by the National Trust, a national charity focused on the conservation of natural and historic places across the United Kingdom.

The first pub on this site was built in 1542. However, the original structure burned down in a fire in 1676, and the current building was erected soon afterward. Located just across the river from the historic city center, near London Bridge itself, the George Inn and other inns in the area had been places where travelers could get coaches to locations south of London or rest in between coach trips. (Notably, the characters in the Canterbury Tales are described as having set out from a now-demolished nearby inn named the Tabard.)

In 1874, the George Inn was sold to the Great Northern Railway. Unfortunately, the railway did not initially see the historical or architectural value of the site and tore down some of the buildings, using the remaining parts of the structure as offices. Fortunately, the company came to recognize that the inn was historically important, and it was sold to the National Trust in 1937 so that it could be preserved for future generations.

The George Inn, which is now Grade I listed, retains several architectural features from the time when it was a coaching inn, including its timber frame construction and the enclosed courtyard. However, the galleries on the first and second floors facing the courtyard are notably unique. These were once very commonplace among British inns, but the George Inn is the only remaining galleried coaching inn within London, as the other pubs with galleries were either destroyed or demolished over time.

Additionally, the inn has been associated with quite a few famous London residents. William Shakespeare’s Globe was in Southwark, so he may have visited the George Inn, and a few modern politicians have also been rumored to have drunk at the pub. However, the one historical person who definitely visited the pub was Charles Dickens, who mentioned the pub in his novel Little Dorrit.

Know Before You Go

The George Inn is accessed via an arched, gated entrance on Borough High Street.  The pub is currently operated by Greene King on a lease from the National Trust and is open seven days a week.  However, people do not need to buy food or drinks at the pub to be allowed to walk around the courtyard or inside the building.

The inn is located very close to London Bridge Station in Southwark and is therefore easily accessed by public transport from across Greater London as well as by trains from areas south of London.  While parking is available nearby, driving may be less convenient than other modes of transportation.

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