Dickens, Chaucer, Scoundrels, Scallywags, Sugababes and a lock-in involving Princess Margaret: the astonishing history of one legendary pub

Pete Brown, author of three best-selling social histories based around beer, returns to the pub with his latest book Shakespeare’s Local, which hits the shelves on 8th November. It has also been selected as BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week in the week before Christmas, guaranteeing its place in the stockings of book-lovers around the country.

Shakespeare’s Local: Six Centuries of History Seen Through One Extraordinary Pub is the story of the George Inn, Southwark, the last surviving galleried coaching inn in London.  It reveals how the pub, as well as playing a key role in the development of Elizabethan theatre, was also close to the birth of English literature (Geoffrey Chaucer’s Tabard stood just next door) and has its own dubious poetic claim, having been immortalised by the leading (possibly only) exponent of Stuart-era Fart Poetry.  The George also counted Charles Dickens among its many fans.

“At a time when pubs are getting shafted from all sides, I wanted to write a perfect case study of how important pubs have been throughout our history,” says Brown.  “This was helped by the fundamental truth that a good boozer always has a few interesting characters propping up the bar.  Take a look at five or six hundred years in the history of one pub, and the characters you discover pretty much do the job for you.”

However, it’s a small miracle the book got finished at all. In a stroke of supreme irony, Brown was nine months into the project, with 25,000 words written (but not backed up) on his laptop when it got stolen – in his local pub.  “I had to start again from scratch with four months left before my deadline,” says Brown. “People ask me if having to rewrite every word to that point has made it a better book.  Being chosen as Book of the Week suggests it has, but I still wouldn’t recommend leaving your laptop unattended in a busy pub for four hours as a technique for any aspiring writer.”

 About the book

Sit down for a pint with Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dickens in the most extraordinary pub in British history with ‘the beer drinkers’ Bill Bryson’. 

Welcome to the George Inn near London Bridge; a cosy, wood-panelled, galleried coaching house a few minutes’ walk from the Thames. And consider this: who else has stopped to drink, gossip, do business and relax here over the last 600 years?

Chaucer and his fellow pilgrims probably drank in the George on their way out of London to Canterbury. Shakespeare will have popped in from the nearby Globe for a pint, and Dickens was a regular. 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 is the ‘primordial cell of British life’ and The George is the perfect case study. This pub has seen it all, from murderers, highwaymen and ladies of the night to gossiping pedlars and hard-working clerks. Pete Brown takes us on a revealing historical tour as buildings and the capital’s fortunes rise and fall around this one extraordinary local and its colourful cast of regulars.

About the author

Pete Brown is an influential drinks writer and commentator, with columns for London Loves Business, the Publican’s Morning Advertiser and Just-Drinks.com. In 2009 Pete was named Beer Writer of the Year by the British Guild of Beer Writers.  He has recently been a judge for the BBC Food & Farming Awards and the Great Taste Awards, and this year has appeared on a number of high profile radio and TV programmes including Great Train Journeys with Michael Portillo, Radio 4’s Food Programme, Sky News and BBC4’s Timeshift. He’s the author of Man Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer; Three Sheets to the Wind and Hops and Glory, which saw him dubbed ‘The Beer Drinker’s Bill Bryson’ by both the TLS and The Independent.  Pete’s award-winning blog is at http://petebrown.blogspot.com.

For further information please contact Dusty Miller on 020 7014 6188 or email d.miller@macmillan.co.uk