Above: Looking at the ancient site of the yard of the Spur Inn, with the hotel entrance at the back.
This in is one of 12 inns that once stood in Borough High Street for which some evidence remains today. It is number 8 of the 12.
The inn is shown and named on the ‘Map of Southwark’ (1542) making it among the earliest of the Southwark inns. According to Lillywhite [n13655 n511] in his ‘London Signs’ the inn was first described 1542-96 as ‘The Spore Inn’ and in the 1590s as the ‘Spurre Inn from the Marshalsey towards London Bridge’. During Elizabeth I’s reign, the Spur Inn was owned by William Emerson – a well-known Southwark worthy of his time – whose son Thomas is recalled by Emerson Street – whose name is still to be seen on modern maps of Bankside.
The Spur Inn is one of the ‘fayre Innes for receipt of travellers’ mentioned by Stow in his ‘Survey of London’ (1605). It is also listed in the ‘Carriers’ Cosmography’ (1637) by John Taylor with an entry saying – The Carriers of Tenterden and Penshurst in Kent , and the Carriers from Battle in Sussex, ‘do lodge at the sign of the Spur in Southwark’. They ‘come on Thursdays, and go away on Fridays’.
In 1720 it is described as ‘pretty well resorted unto by Waggons’. It lists the ‘Epsom Carrier, Spur Southwark, thurs’, ‘the Dartford Coach, Spur Southwark , every day’. There is also a mention of the ‘Spur Inn, Borough’ in a guide book called ‘Leigh’s New Picture of London’, published during the 1820s. It is in a ‘List of the principal Inns at which Mail and Stage Coaches put up in London’. Mention is made of a ‘Coffee Room and Hotel’.
The London County Council (LCC) ‘Survey of London’ (1950) states that the Spur Inn ceased to be an inn in 1848. That means that it is almost 175 years since a stagecoach clattered over the stone sets in the yard of the old inn. The old buildings may have been used for storing goods, as many other inns of Southwark did.
Above: View from the back of the yard before 2015, when it was redeveloped. Notice the high arch over the entrance (in the distance) which stood beside Borough High Street. It was the last high arch remaining from the 12 inns.
Remarkably, the old inn yard remained unaltered, along with its high entrance arch, until about 2015. The surface of the yard with its stone sets and well-laid cart tracks was complete, fortunately not disturbed to dig holes in it for a legitimate reason. The high arch over the entrance was in a very poor state but it could have been restored, given some goodwill. It was, in fact the very last high arch to be seen beside Borough High Street. However, those things were not to be. Developers moved onto the site about 2015 and tore down the high arch and took up the stone cart tracks.
A new development had been given the ‘free light’ and a Premier Inn was built on the site, along with a frontage onto Borough High Street of three new shops. The entrance to the new hotel is the site of the yard of the old Spur Inn. The old cart tracks were returned to their original position and carefully levelled in accordance with modern building regulations. The new surface looks authentic and adds a touch of antiquity to the setting but there is no substitute for having the original unadulterated yard which had stood the test of time for nearly 200 years.
The top picture shows the gap between the buildings where the old yard of the Spur Inn once was to be seen. During the development of the site, the shop on the left of the gap is a rebuild of old premises on the site. To the right of the gap are two new shops, both now in use by a Tesco store.
The one twist to the history of the site is that builder tore down the few existing remains of a coaching inn to erect a modern hotel which also happens to be called an ‘inn’ – a Premier Inn.