Publication day for Cicerone’s Walking The Pilgrims’ Way has been rainy. But that is appropriate since Chaucer wrote about April showers.
It has been great fun marking the book’s launch by visiting the London starting point.
First to Talbot Yard where a blue plaque on the site of The Tabard from where one early spring morning Chaucer’s characters set out in The Canterbury Tales.
Then a short walk through Borough Market to Southwark Cathedral for a celebratory lunch.
The good news is that today the cathedral shop has sold all its stock of The Pilgrims’ Way and more have been ordered.
A good sign I hope for interest in the Canterbury pilgrimage.
The Thomas A Becket pub at the first ‘stop’ out of London on the Pilgrims’ Way has reopened.
The present Thomas A Becket pub building opened in 1898 on the site of an ancient inn on London’s Old Kent Road.
It is located at a spot known as St Thomas a Watering.
Here a bridge crossed a stream which flowed along the line of Albany Street at the side of the pub.
The bridge and ford was the first stop for pilgrims leaving London.
Geoffrey Chaucer knew the bridge and in The Canterbury Tales he has his pilgrims who have set out from Borough High Street pause here.
“And forth we rode a little more than pace
Unto the watering of St Thomas.”
This is where they stop and draw straws to decide the order of story tellers.
The knight draws the short straw and so tells his tale in the Old Kent Road.
The present pub sign is a reproduction of 13th-century glass in Canterbury Cathedral.
The Victorian pub has long been well-known for its associations with boxing. A blue plaque recalls Henry Cooper who trained in the gym upstairs.
This morning boxing legend Frank Bruno, in the presence of the Mayor of Southwark Kath Whittam, cut the ribbon and declared the building open again as Rock Island at The Thomas A Becket.
[Until the pub has its special stamp ready ask the bar staff to sign and date your pilgrim passport.]
The Premier Inn in London’s Borough High Street opens today.
It is on the Pilgrims’ Way and just a few minutes from its start at Southwark Cathedral.
The hotel entrance is in Spur Inn Yard and on the site of both the lost Spur Inn and part of the next door Nag’s Head.
A little further north along the street, and on the same eastern side, is Talbot Yard where Chaucer had his pilgrims gather in the 14th century for their journey to Canterbury in The Canterbury Tales.
Archaeological finds on the Spur Inn site include a papal bull dating from the end of the 12th century, just thirty years after Thomas Becket’s murder.
The Spur, 135 Borough High Street, was the stage coach terminus for Kent routes so it is a good place for today’s walkers to start.
The Premier Inn opening prices start at £60 a room.