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The Tabard

The Tabard, an inn that stood on the east side of Borough High Street in Southwark, was established in 1307, when the abbot of Hyde purchased the land to construct a hostel for himself and his brethren, when business took them to London, as well as an inn to accommodate the numerous pilgrims headed on annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Thomas Beckett in Canterbury Cathedral. The Tabard is famous as the place owned by Harry Bailey, the host in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and is described in the first few lines of Chaucer's work as the location where the pilgrims first meet on their journey to Canterbury in the 1380s:
Bifel that in that seson on a day,
In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
To Caunterbury with ful devout corage,
At nyght was come into that hostelrye
Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye
Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,
That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde;
The chambres and the stables weren wyde,
And well we weren esed atte beste.

By the time the antiquary John Stow wrote his Survey, the Tabard was one among a crowd of inns that lined the thoroughfare that led south from London Bridge towards Canterbury and Dover, "many fair inns, for receipt of travellers, by these signs: the Spurre, Christopher, Bull, Queen's Head, Tabard, George, Hart, King's Head" &c. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries "the Tabard of the Monastery of Hyde, and the Abbot's Place, with the stable and gardens thereunto belonging" were sold to John and Thomas Master.

The inn, entered through a gateway in the high street, and clustered around its yard, was destroyed by a major fire in Southwark in 1676 but was immediately rebuilt and renamed The Talbot. It profited from the coaching trade and was renowned as a coaching inn in the days of Charles Dickens. However, it fell into disuse with the arrival of the railways and was converted into stores. It was demolished in 1873.

The site of the Tabard is next door to The George (itself one of London's oldest public houses) in Talbot Yard (to the east of Borough High Street). On November 23rd 2003 a blue plaque was installed on the wall of Copyprints Ltd, the oldest building in Talbot Yard, describing the historical significance of the Tabard Inn and celebrating Southwark's cultural links with Geoffrey Chaucer. It was unveiled by former Python and Medieval enthusiast Terry Jones.

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