I tend not to labour on a subject for too long when writing this blog, but I seem to be on a bit of a roll with the 1893 OS map of London.
As described in an earlier post, Cartophilia told how the Cartographers that put the map together had the insight to add inscriptions denoting the site of former buildings. While writing a piece called The Pepperer’s I came upon an inscription which read. Site of the Old Barge Inn. Nothing strange in the name, it’s just where the inn is situated that seems strange. Why would a hostelry that was located right in the middle of the City of London’s financial heart bear the name the “Old Barge”, where did the nautical connection come from?
On the map the location of the former inn shows that two public houses were on the site in 1893, the first fronting onto Bucklersbury was quite easy to find with the earliest record being around 1848 when it was known as the Bucklersbury Arms and changed it’s name in 1851 to The Albion.. The other I think is Deacon’s Tavern, but have little information other than it’s name. So neither of these pubs have any watery links and one of them is in the wrong position. Barge Yard could be a bit of a clue, situated directly off Bucklersbury and shown on the map as a covered entrance, which usually denotes the possible sight of a building in the past.
As with most antiquity questions the best person to go to is John Strype who in 1720 wrote “From thence through Buckelsberry, by one great House builded of Stone and Timber, called the Old Barge, because Barges out of the River of Thames were rowed up so far into this Brook”. So it would appear that during the 12th century the Walbrook was navigable from the Thames up to and beyond Bucklersbury (it was culverted in the 16th century) and barges were moored up next to the large manor house known as Buckerel’s House. When the manor ceased to exist and the house was divided up and sold to private tenants it became known as the Old Barge or on some maps Le Barge. This representation of medieval London shows the Walbrook and the Old Barge / Buckerel’s House is adjacent to the oblong building, which was an earlier site for St Stephen’s church. It’s important to remember that today the church stand on the other side of the street known as Walbrook
So, job done, It was once a manor house, then divided up into private buildings and as time passed the larger buildings were demolished until a single structure remained, an inn that bore the name of the original building. That would be a nice tidy end to the tale, but unfortunately I can find no reference to an inn on the site called the Old Barge. Post Great Fire maps show that there was an inn nearby, but it was called The Bell, which I believe morphed into Deacon’s Tavern which in 1893 stood in Bell Yard which is too far south east of the plot.
There is also documentation that a hundred and fifty years before the fire the land was still occupied by residential properties, as no less than Sir Thomas More lived in Old Barge from 1502 until 1524. On a map of the City dating from 1561, More’s garden can still be seen, but none of the houses around the intersection of Walbrook and Bucklersbury look all that big and there doesn’t seem to be anything looking like a tavern or inn.
So was the inscription on the 1893 map just a typo, or is there some documentation out there to substantiate the claim that there was an inn on the site? Looking at the maps I’m going to take a punt on the Bucklersby Arms from 1893 as being at least some small part of the original “Old Barge” and possibly the site of an inn bearing the same name, which probably succumbed to the flames in 1666.