Above: The entrance yard off the east side of Borough High Street that was once the site of the old Spur Inn.
The east side Borough High Street is an area where the layout of the buildings is under strict rules regarding development. This is mainly because it is the site of over a dozen inns that once lined the street. The George Inn is still a well-known tourist destination. Further south of the George Inn was a collection of shops which had been left to fall into a terrible condition. Only the alleyways between them still retained the names of a few of the original inns. Of particular interest was Spur Inn whose entrance from Borough Street Street had walls still lined in part with the remains of 16th century timbers.
In 2015 new plans were agreed for a new development on the site. It probably involved the removal of all the old buildings which were in a very poor state. By December 2016 hoardings surrounded the new buildings, faced with brick. One part of the new development will be a new Premier Inn. The opening of the new 100-room hotel so close to the nearly completed London Bridge Station is obviously a good choice of location. With the station about to provide more trains than ever to many more destinations, via Thameslink, business people will make good use of the new hotel for a short term stay while doing business in the capital. Because of the many attractions nearby – not least Tower Bridge, the Shard of Glass viewing gallery, Southwark Cathedral, the Globe Theatre and the Borough Market – there will be many who take advantage of the hotel for short leisure breaks as well.
While the new buildings will bring change to this part of Borough High Street, it will also ‘tidy up’ what has been a very ugly sight of dereliction for probably two or three decades. There seems to be a certain poetic justice that the site of an ancient inn in Southwark has been finally removed to make way for a 21st century modern inn – a Premier Inn !
Above: Low angle of view of the present yard – showing the stone cart tracks (newly laid) and the timbers (now in a modern wooden frame) on the north wall (on the left).
The remains of the high entrance arch to the old Spur Inn have been removed. The high arch was an interesting feature because it was much higher than most arches leading into the yards of other inns. On the side wall on the south side, just a few feet from the ground, were the remains of an ancient wall from the 17th century. It is possible that it was listed but, sadly, it has completely vanished. On the north side wall were several large pieces of timber, probably originally erected to prevent carts and coaches from damaging the archway as they passed through. That large timber has been re-erected at its original position, now within a new wooden frame.
One other feature that has been retained is the pair of stone cart tracks, which remain from the days of the horse and cart or the ‘coach and four’. They are to be seen amid stone sets which have been newly laid but at least give the impression of an ancient yard of an old coaching inn.
Although the new entrance yard to the Premier Inn is perfectly serviceable, the new layout and modern buildings are one more example of how developers completely sanitise the location so that any feel of history and of the place once having been an ancient site have been ‘airbrushed’ out of existence. The one reason why visitors come to Southwark is to enjoy the history of the place. At the rate that developers are ‘marching onwards’, they will have ‘killed the goose that laid the golden egg’ if they pay only scant regard to the area’s past.
The original Spur Inn has little history to be recounted, with very few prints remaining that show the yard in centuries past. Along with the other nearby inns that once stood beside Borough High Street, the origins of the Spur Inn probably date from the 15th or 16th centuries. During Elizabeth I’s reign, Spur Inn was owned by William Emerson whose son Thomas is recalled by Emerson Street – whose name is still to be seen on modern maps of Bankside.
Note: This is the third blog about the Spur Inn. There is a blog titled Spur Inn, Borough High Street dated 4 March 2015 which contains pictures of how the entrance to the old Spur Inn used to look. There is also a blog titled Borough High Street, Nos 127-143 dated 16 January 2017 describing an unusual find on the site.