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Five historical things to look out for in… Southwark

Written by
Katie Wignall

In this new series, blogger Katie Wignall rounds up the easy-to-miss historical spots around town, kicking off with Southwark. 

With its strong connections to the brewing industry, Shakespeare and Chaucer, Southwark has a somewhat raucous history. It was outside the City of London jurisdiction (under the control of the Bishop of Winchester until 1889) which generally meant it was the go-to-place to have a good time, whether that meant visiting taverns, the theatre, ‘stews’ (brothels) or watching a bit of bear-baiting.

The next time you’re in the area, look out for: 

1. The 'Take Courage' building (Redcross Way, SE1)

This building (an 1807 house for employees) survived the demolition of the Anchor Brewery in 1981 and now acts as a simple motivation for passers-by. This slogan would've appeared in 1955 when Barclay Perkins & Co. merged with London rival brewery, Courage. 

George Inn, Southwark

Photo: Look Up london

2. The George Inn (77 Borough High Street, SE1)

Just off Borough High Street, The George Inn dates from 1677 and is London's only surviving original galleried coaching inn. In Shakespeare’s time, plays would have been performed beneath the crowded galleries.

Park Street Plaque

Photo: Look Up London


The plaque tells the story of Julius Jacob Von Haynau, a notoriously aggressive Austrian General, known – and hated – throughout Europe in the mid nineteenth century. But when he was spotted on Park Street c.1850, it turned out he was no match for local Southwark brewery workers. They threw mud and dung at him and chased him down Borough High Street, shouting 'Down with the Austrian butcher!'

Kirkaldy Testing Museum

Photo: Look Up London

4. Kirkaldy Testing Museum (Southwark Street, SE1)

Opened in 1874, Kirklady Testing Museum is where manufacturers sent substances (like potential bridge materials) from all over the world to be tested by David Kirkaldy’s machine. It's now a museum you can visit that has preserved the machine in all its glory.

Ferryman's Seat

Photo: Look Up london

 5. Ferryman's Seat (Rose Alley, SE1)

Easy to miss, this ancient seat is inserted into the wall of The Real Greek near Southwark Bridge. Until 1750, London Bridge was the only major crossing, so ferrymen had a busy job shuttling passengers across the Thames and used seats like this one for a well-earned rest.

Find more facts about London in our online area guides.

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