The golden nest at Southwark Cathedral

Nest seen from the high pavement of London Bridge Approach

Before you set out from Southwark Cathedral on your pilgrimage you may wish sit next to William Shakespeare in the churchyard or say hello to Hodge the cat.

This summer you can also look for a large golden nest made from reflective wire in a plane tree.

You will find the nest by Angela Wright in the Cathedral’s herb garden.

‘Nesting is something we have ‘in common’,’ says Angela. ‘We animals nest to protect us and our ‘eggs’… an enclosure for nurturing families.

‘Nests are architectural in construction and use. Birds may use twigs, weaving them one by one into a sustainable nest; distinctive in design according to species and habitat.

‘There are high rise nests, or those on water’s edge, in a colony inside a hedgerow, or on a cliff face and there are squatters who build no nest at all.

‘Mine is a mental nest.’


The Dean of Southwark, The Very Revd Andrew Nunn, has written a prayer:

Hospitable God,

in whose kingdom trees

the birds nest,

in whose Temple

the sparrow finds a home:

May we dwell in your house,

nestle in your love,

and know you as the God

of open door

and open heart.


Nest seen from the Herb Garden

The Herb Garden is outside the east end of Southwark Cathedral. The nest came also be seen from the high pavement of London Bridge approach.

The installation is part of the London Festival of Architecture.

Kentish Drovers: Application to restore Old Kent Road mural

A view of the Old Kent Road mural before long term damage

There are plans for the former Kentish Drovers pub building in Old Kent Road, part of the Pilgrims’ Way, to be restored.

The pub, on the corner of Commercial Way, has been a landmark since at least 1838 due to having England’s longest pub sign.

This takes the form of a curving mural of extremely rare ceramic block Doulton tiles. The signed picture, depicting a rural Old Kent Road, is by a female artist although the name ‘ALICE D…’ has become indecipherable.

Work will include the conservation and restoration of the mural which is damaged

The pub’s original name was The Kentish Drovers and Halfway House being halfway between Deptford and London Bridge. Drovers and their flocks of sheep and cattle once came over Shooters Hill and up the Old Kent Road from Kent on their way to Smithfield. Nearby Drovers Place may indicate the site of a field used for resting and grazing.

The corner building is now occupied by the New Saigon restaurant. The interior retains late 19th-century carved mahogany fittings and engraved glass.

The frame of the Truman’s pub sign remains on the pavement.

The restoration of the building exterior, along with its deteriorating mural, is being made possible with the help of a £15,000 grant from the Heritage of London Trust as well as Community Infrastructure Levy payments.

Southwark Council will consider the planning application shortly with work expected to start next year. The former pub remains on Historic England’s At Risk Register.

Part of the mural today with the artist’s name only partly visible

Ascension Day in Southwark

The Shard and tower of Southwark Cathedral

Those planning to start their pilgrimage to Canterbury this Thursday or Friday morning from Southwark may wish to know the arrangements at Southwark Cathedral for Ascension Day, Thursday 18 May.

At 8am on Thursday the Dean will be leading a group of people up to the top of the tower to sing Ascension Day hymns and hear the reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

Those wishing to join in should be aware that there are a great many steps to climb. The group will descend in time for Morning Prayer at 9am.

The Ascension Day Choral Eucharist is at 5.30pm.

An organ meditation of music and poetry celebrating the feast of the Ascension follows at 7pm. Music will include L’Ascension by Olivier Messiaen.

Brewers remember their patron St Thomas

The new window in Brewers’ Hall

A window has been unveiled at the City of London’s Brewers’ Hall to remember the Brewers’ patron St Thomas Becket.

It was commissioned from the Stained Glass Studios at Canterbury Cathedral and designed by its director Léonie Seliger whose work is seen in the Pilgrim’s Way churches at Boughton Aluph and Godmersham.

The design features the Brewers’ Company’s current coat of arms, granted in 1544 following the Reformation when Henry VIII expunged the Becket name from the calendar and banned pilgrimage. But the ‘new’ arms managed a subtle reference to their now secret patron by including a female moorish figure with golden hair to represent Becket’s step mother from North Africa.

Thomas Becket’s father was a malt merchant known as Gilbert the Brewer.

The original Brewers’ shield incorporating Becket’s archbishop arms, with its three choughs proper and pallium, is depicted below.

The Company’s Master Jonathan Neame, the Clerk and the Beadle, together with a number of volunteers from Shepherd Neame Brewery, walked the Pilgrims’ Way to collect the glass. This was handed over to the Master by the Archdeacon of Canterbury on the martyrdom site in Canterbury Cathedral.

The unveiling in London was performed by the Master who is also Shepherd Neame chief executive. His brewery produces the Bishops Finger ale which takes its name from the finger-shaped signposts pointing pilgrims the way to Canterbury and the tomb of Thomas Becket. It is one of the UK’s oldest bottled beers.

Bishops Finger

Coronation ale label inspired by pub sign on Pilgrims’ Way

The label for Carolean Crown, a limited edition ale brewed to mark the Coronation of King Charles III, is based on a pub sign found on the Pilgrims’ Way in Southwark.

The pub’s name is a reference to the future Charles II hiding in an oak tree during the Cromwellian period.

The pub sign, above The Royal Oak in Southwark’s Tabard Street, is by Sussex artist Julian Bell.

The same artist has reworked the sign for the label chosen by Harvey’s brewery in Lewes for the celebration ale.

Southwark’s Royal Oak is a Harvey’s pub.

Carolean Crown pale ale is the lightest beer ever produced by Harvey’s and is described as ‘fresh with fragrant citrus notes’.

The bottled version (4% ABV) is blended with a portion of Elizabethan Ale, aged in oak casks, to mark the transition to a second Carolean era.

Pilgrim passports can be stamped at the Royal Oak.

May Day: Dawn on the Pilgrims’ Way

St Martha’s Church on St Martha’s Hill

Morris dancers will be up early on the two high points of the Pilgrims’ Way on May Day, Monday 1 May.

On St Martha’s Hill near Guildford the Pilgrim Morris are being joined by the Guildford Vox Community Choir at 5am to await, with song in the darkness, sunrise at 5.35am.

Further east the Kingston Spring Grove Morris, Ewell St Mary Morris Men and the Rampant Rooster Morris are meeting at the Box Hill viewpoint at 5am. Note that this top viewpoint is higher than the Pilgrims’ Way which runs round the south side of the hill.

In Rochester the rising sun is welcomed a little later at 8am with Jack in the Green making an appearance for the Awakening. There will be music and dancing around the cathedral for the rest of the day.

At Otford, where pilgrims from Southwark and Winchester meet, there is a fair on Palace Field with maypole dancing at 11.30am and 1pm.

Pilgrim village name for Old Kent Road

Wouldham Court from Mina Road with Old Kent Road (right).

Southwark Council has named a new building on the Old Kent Road after a Pilgrims’ Way village.

The residential development, on the corner of Mina Road opposite The Dun Cow, is to be called Wouldham Court.

Canterbury-bound pilgrims, when walking along Tabard Street, already encounter buildings bearing the names of pilgrim villages they will later visit. The Old Kent Road is also part of the ancient trail.

Wouldham village in Kent faces Halling across the River Medway and was reached by ferry. Although pilgrims now use the nearby Peters Bridge they can still pass through Wouldham when visiting Rochester Cathedral.

Southwark Council’s Wouldham Court is providing 17 flats and four three-bedroom houses for local people as well as a new community hall and a commercial space.

St Bartholomew’s & Lock Hospital on PW

The Lock cup found in a cupboard at St Bartholomew-the-Great priory church

The Annunciation 2023, on Saturday 25 March, is the 900th anniversary of the founding in 1123 of Smithfield’s St Bartholomew priory dedicated to looking after the sick.

The church survived to feature in Four Weddings and a Funeral and its infirmary is now the famous Bart’s Hospital.

A silver chalice being used during this afternoon’s anniversary Eucharist, celebrated by the Bishop of London, was recently discovered at the back of a cupboard.

Engraved on it are the words ‘For the use of ye Lock in Kent Street Southwark’.

This cup recalls the Lock Hospital which stood by the Pilgrims’ Way from at least 1350, but probably the 1240s, until 1760.

The Lock, or Hospital of St Mary & St Leonard, stood on the right as you reach the end of Southwark’s Tabard Street (formerly Kent Street) where it merges with the Great Dover Street -created the 1750s just before the hospital closed.

Here the pilgrim would have passed its long wall and courtyard gateway before crossing the Lock stream flowing towards St Saviour’s Priory (now Bermondsey Square) and the Thames.

A milestone opposite the Lock indicated that the isolation hospital was safely a mile from London Bridge.

It appears that Henry VIII, who dissolved the Smithfield priory, did not also close this tiny leprosy and contagious diseases hospital. In 1549 the Lord Mayor of London and City aldermen, who three years earlier had reopened the monastic Bart’s Hospital, stepped in and placed Lock Hospital under Bart’s care.

Bartholomew Street at the junction (south side) recalls the Bart’s association.

Plan of the Lock Hospital, Southwark from the original plans in the Archives of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, to whom the copyright belongs.
Tabard Street as it joins Great Dover Street (right). Bartholomew Street is on the far right by St Saviour’s School. The trees and grass (right) are the successor to the hospital garden.

To Canterbury from Winchester and London / Leigh Hatts