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Start your literary discovery down near Borough Tube station where in the 19th century the young Charles Dickens lodged in Lant Street, Southwark while his family were in the Marshalsea Prison.
The old wall of the Marshalsea is still standing beside the Local Studies Library off Borough High Street. Many locations in Southwark figure in Dickens novels, particularly Little Dorrit and Oliver Twist.
A little further up Borough High Street, Bankside’s rich literary history can be traced back to the 14th century when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote of the Canterbury Pilgrims leaving from the Tabard Inn in Southwark for their journey through Kent along Stane Street, the ancient Roman road. The Tabard Inn was demolished in the late 19th century, despite a public outcry. There is a Blue Plaque where the Tabard used to stand, celebrating its cultural and historical significance.
The site of the Tabard is next door to The George Inn. The George Inn is famous as a coaching stop over during the 17th century and mentioned by Dickens in 'Little Dorrit', this pub is London's only surviving galleried coaching inn and is owned by the National Trust. Centuries later, the George still serves delicious meals and pints to weary travellers and local employees alike. The pub’s excellent historic architecture and design provide a unique opportunity to experience the area’s rich history in one of London’s oldest public houses.
Poet John Keats lodged in 8 St. Thomas Street near Guy’s Hospital while he was a medical student, where a Blue Plaque marks the location.
To bring us into the 20th century, George Orwell lived in a doss house on Tooley Street while writing Down and out in Paris and London.
A few minutes west, Chaucer’s friend and fellow poet, John Gower, lies buried in Southwark Cathedral, as are the 17th century playwrights John Fletcher and Phillip Massinger. It is here too, in Southwark cathedral that William Shakespeare buried his younger brother Edmund, also an actor at the Globe Theatre. Theatre owner Phillip Henslowe and his son-in-law actor Edward Alleyne were vestrymen at the church of St Mary Overie, now Southwark Cathedral.
Further down the river walk, Dr Samuel Johnson often stayed at the Anchor riverside inn when visiting his friends the Thrales, owners of the Anchor brewery. Oliver Goldsmith, also a guest at Mrs Thrale’ soirees, worked as a doctor in Southwark. The pubs original structure has been added-to over several centuries, creating a maze of odd little rooms featuring old brick fire places, waney oak beams and worn, creaking floorboards. The main dining room has wonderful views across the Thames to the City and a first floor balcony and a riverside terrace offer outdoor seating, which proves incredibly popular in the summer.