Shakespeare's Pub: A Barstool History of London As Seen Through the Windows of Its Oldest Pub - The George Inn

Overview

A history of Britain told through the story of one very special pub, from "The Beer Drinker's Bill Bryson" (Times Literary Supplement)

Welcome to the George Inn near London Bridge; a cosy, wood-paneled, galleried coaching house a few minutes' walk from the Thames. Grab yourself a pint, listen to the chatter of the locals and lean back, resting your head against the wall. And then consider this: who else has rested their head against that wall, ...

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Shakespeare's Pub: A Barstool History of London as Seen Through the Windows of Its Oldest Pub - The George Inn

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Overview

A history of Britain told through the story of one very special pub, from "The Beer Drinker's Bill Bryson" (Times Literary Supplement)

Welcome to the George Inn near London Bridge; a cosy, wood-paneled, galleried coaching house a few minutes' walk from the Thames. Grab yourself a pint, listen to the chatter of the locals and lean back, resting your head against the wall. And then consider this: who else has rested their head against that wall, over the last six hundred years?

Chaucer and his fellow pilgrims almost certainly drank in the George on their way out of London to Canterbury. It's fair to say that Shakespeare popped in from the nearby Globe for a pint, and we know that Dickens certainly did. Mail carriers changed their horses here, before heading to all four corners of Britain—while sailors drank here before visiting all four corners of the world.

The pub, as Pete Brown points out, is the 'primordial cell of British life' and in the George he has found the perfect example. All life is here, from murderers, highwaymen, and ladies of the night to gossiping peddlers and hard-working clerks. So sit back with Shakespeare's Pub and watch as buildings rise and fall over the centuries, and 'the beer drinker's Bill Bryson' (UK's Times Literary Supplement) takes us on an entertaining tour through six centuries of history, through the stories of everyone that ever drank in one pub.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This rich paean to the venerable George Inn—the last remaining pre-Reformation coaching inn—crackles with literary wit, history, and pop culture. Londoner Brown (Man Walks Into a Pub), who is clearly well versed in the top shelves of bars and libraries, combines his personal knowledge of the place with plenty of research in this light-hearted yet informative portrait of the public house and the centuries of history that have trammeled through and past its doors. While Shakespeare receives dubious top billing—it isn’t clear whether he actually ever visited the pub—Brown runs through a host of other famous patrons, like Charles Dickens and a partying Princess Margaret, as well as the pub’s proprietors, including the incorrigible Agnes Murray, who ran the inn in the 1920s and famously charged Winston Churchill a corking fee for bringing his own port. But this isn’t just a “barstool history” of the goings-on inside the George—Brown also offers a rousing take on the growth of the city outside. Despite the misleading title and occasional detours into the minutiae of historical records and beer trivia, this remains an entertaining tribute to the influence and staying power of a pub—“the primordial cell of British life.” B&w photos throughout. Agent: James Gill, United Agents (U.K.). (May 21)
From the Publisher
Praise for Man Walks Into a Pub:

"A pleasant antidote to more po-faced histories of beer." —Guardian

 

"Like a good drinking companion, Brown tells a remarkable story: a stream of fascinating facts, etymologies and pub-related urban phenomena." —Times Literary Supplement

 

"Packed with bar-room bet-winning facts and entertaining digressions, this is a book into which every pub-goer will want to dip." —Express

Kirkus Reviews
The centuries-long story of the George Inn, which may not have been Shakespeare's local, but proves fascinating nonetheless. Brown (Man Walks into a Pub, 2004) admits that there's no proof the Bard of Avon ever set foot in the George Inn, but it's the logical place on which to center this book, as it's the only inn that survived fires, the railroads, the Blitz and modernization. The surviving section of the 16th-century pub is a perfectly preserved example of the coaching inns of the past. The author's vast research shows the centrality of these inns to everyday life and commerce. This is actually a history of Southwark, for so many years--nay centuries--the dumping ground for people, businesses and severed heads that the city across the Thames didn't want to deal with. Just as often referred to as "the borough," Southwark sits at the bottom of London Bridge, which until the middle of the 18th century was the only bridge across the Thames. With goods, and especially hops, arriving from the southeast, Southwark became the logistical distribution center of London. As such, inns required large yards for the wagons, coaches and their propulsion units: horses. The inn yards then evolved into the theaters of the area, supporting the plays of Shakespeare, enjoyed from the galleries for those who could afford a penny. The Canterbury Tales, as well as Piers Ploughman, showed the beginnings of the inn as a community gathering place, but Dickens' Mr. Pickwick made the George's name as tourists trolled for links to that most popular author. Brown's wit and extensive research make this a solid book of history, sociology and literature, as well as a great travel guide.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250033888
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 5/21/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 802,138
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

PETE BROWN used to advertise lager for a living, until he realized that writing books about beer was even more fun, and entailed drinking even more beer. He appears regularly on television as a beer expert, writes on beer for a variety of publications and is the author of Man Walks into a Pub and the award-winning travel book Three Sheets to the Wind. He was named the British Guild of Beer Writers Beer Writer of the Year 2009. He lives in London.

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