Archive for February 20th, 2011

….following in the footsteps of Geoffrey Chaucer (c1340-1400), I embarked on the first leg of my pilgrim’s route. As mentioned in my previous blog, after discovering that Chaucer followed the Pilgrim’s route from Southwark to Canterbury, I have decided to as much as possible follow the route that he took.  It is my plan to follow the English route (or one of them anyway) from London to Santiago.  Once I reach Canterbury it will be a case of, do I go via Portugal (which I am inclined to do) or via Spain? A lot will hinge on whether or not I have my British Passport by that stage (means I don’t have to apply for a visa).

So to begin at the beginning, I set off  from London Bridge Station, Saturday 12th February at about 4.30pm to explore Southwark more fully and to visit the places that were around in Chaucers day.  In the Middle Ages the area hereabouts was known as the Liberty of the Clink and owned by the Bishops of Winchester.   After some research (google) I discovered that not only was

1) London Bridge around, but so was

london bridge

London Bridge - 1st bridge across the Thames as it is today

2) Southwark Cathedral (circa 606AD)

southwark cathedral and geoffrey chaucer

southwark Cathedral - a place of worship since 606AD

inside there is a beautiful stained glass window with the words ‘To the Glory of God and in honour of Geoffrey Chaucer’,

3) Winchester Palace (only a small section of which remains) – Great Hall of Winchester Palace, originally built in 1109, the residence of the powerful Bishops of Winchester.

winchester palace and the rose window

remains of Winchester Palace showing the famous Rose window

4) The Clink Prison (now a museum)

the clink prison museum london

The Clink Prison Museum - a debtor perhaps!!!

Although a prison was probably established within the palace in the 12th century, the first mention of the clink was in 1509. John Stow (1525 -1605) in his Survey of London (publ 1598), states that the prison was kept for those that broke the peace in the Bankside brothels.   In 1761 the prison was described as ‘a very dismal hole where debtors are sometimes confined’. It later burned down in the Gordon Riots of 1780.

and of course

5)  The George Inn (albeit restored after a fire)

the george inn london national trust

The George Inn - the last surviving galleried inn in London

 and I also discovered

6) St George the Martyr – a church that was in existence during the 14th Century and before.

st george the martyr london

St George the Martyr Church - Southwark

These buildings have all gone through different experiences and many are restored after fires that have raged through the area, so although they were about in Chaucer’s day, they were most likely in a slightly different form.  Although I have to say that the UK is very good at endeavouring to restore their ancient, heritage to what it was before any disaster that may have devestated the original.  There were also some remains of the Bermondsey palace, but I could not quite figure out where it was, so will leave that for another time.

I have listed these buildings or the remains of or the current form of those that were definitely around in Chaucer’s day.

I enjoyed a very happy 5 hours meandering the alleys, lanes and streets (*) of Southwark, starting off of course from London Bridge, I walked through the grounds of Southwark Cathedral past Winchester Palace along narrow, darkened lanes to The Clink Prison Museum (where I met the goaler man),

the clink prison museum

the goaler man at The Clink Prison (museum)

 back through Borough Market which looked bereft and kinda spooky, nothing like it does on market days when the market stalls are set up and there is the hustle and bustle of shoppers and marketers, thence along Borough High Street which being a route from Southwark, London to Dover was of course also a main thoroughfare in Chaucers day.  I visited St George the Martyr church and had a quick peek inside, then made my way back up to The George Inn for my evening meal.  The George Inn is the last remaining galleried inn in London and has gone through many changes, almost lost to fire at one stage and frequented by the likes of Dickens, Shakespeare and of course Chaucer and me! 🙂

the george inn london national trust

a new proprietor at The George Inn

So although he did not set out from this particular Inn I decided to have my ‘pilgrim’s’ meal and pretend that he did 🙂  I enjoyed a good old-fashioned plate of battered-fish and chips with mushy peas (that were a psychedelic green),

the george inn london national trust

my pilgrim's meal - battered fish, chips and psychedelic mushy peas

 washed down with a beverage that I am positive was not around in his day: Bailey’s Cream…..on ice 🙂  The Tabard Inn,  that Chaucer set off from has long since disappeared.

By now it was getting kinda late but since I was in no hurry I made my way back to London Bridge and set off along the Queen’s Walk which makes up part of the Thames Path that follows the whole of the 215miles of the Thames from source to sea, with a few diversions.  What a delight.  It was interesting to see London Bridge all lit up in red (fire!!!)

london bridge

London Bridge lit up at night

 and a bit further along I discovered Cotton’s Centre which is a monstrous glass edifice and just marvellous, I also re-discovered Hays’ Galleria and on venturing inside the huge cavern found a most amazing and fantastical water-fountain!  A metal boat like something out of the movie ‘A League of Extraordinary Men’.  All I can say is that if you have not seen it yet…..treat yourself, it is fantastic.

the navigators a water fountain in hays galleria

'The Navigators' by sculptor David Kemp, 1987

From there I meandered along the bankside passing HMS Belfast on the way, admiring all the new and beautiful modern buildings that have grown up along that side of the river till I reached Potters Field, City Hall and The Scoop and thence to Tower Bridge.  The night was perfect, and the river sparkeled and shone with the lights from the buildings lining her banks, their reflections dancing on the swirls and eddies of the tide.

I tarried a while and gazed, entranced at the beauty of the evening. The Tower of London, sitting squat and ominous, her turrets and towers underlit with spotlights, seemed to glow in the night with an eerie, and ghostly life of their own.

the tower of london

The Tower of London

Tower Bridge; an amazing spectacle of colour at night, with light shining out so bright I am sure it could be seen from space.

tower bridge london

Tower Bridge lit up at night

Around me citizens strolled arm in arm, pushed buggys or walked in groups along the path, bursts of laughter echoed across the water and the shrieks of children rushing through the fountains that decorate the square filled the night with sound.

water glass and light

water glass and light at More London Riverside

Eventually, mindful of my intended early start the next day for my walk from Southwark to Greenwich, I strolled back via More London Riverside through this vast concrete jungle, towering giants of glass, steel and concrete; alien space-ships on ancient land.

I once heard someone say that they always thought of London as being grey!!!! Well, never could you be so wrong.  London is a vibrant collage of colours….just take a walk along the banks of the Thames at night and you will see what I mean.

More London Riverside by night

I also wondered what it must have been like in Chaucer’s day when the lanes and alleys were frequented by the likes of tars, thieves, prostitutes and pirates…..a dark and dangerous place indeed.

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