Up until the 19th century the most common way to travel long distance in Britain was by stagecoach. At a speed of up to 7 miles per hour, travellers often needed to spend one or more nights on the road, hence the creation of the coaching inns.
Coaching inns provided stabling for the horses and replaced tired mounts with fresh ones. They also provided food and drinks and overnight accommodation for coach travelers. Today there's only one surviving galleried coaching inn in London.
Located south of the River Thames near London Bridge, the George Inn was rebuilt in 1676 and was one of many coaching inns in Southwark.
The inn used to extend around three sides of a courtyard, but two-thirds of it was demolished to make way for the construction of railway over a century ago. Luckily the south front was saved, and today it's home to a beautifully restored and very popular pub, owned and protected by the National Trust.
The ground floor of the George Inn is adorned with lattice windows and oak beams and has several connecting bars. The Parliament Bar used to be the waiting room for coachmen and passengers and houses a rare Parliament clock. The Coffee Room, now the Middle Bar, was frequented by Charles Dickens, and a copy of his life insurance policy is framed on the wall.
The guest bed chambers were upstairs in the the galleried section which fronts the George Inn, a common feature on coaching inns back in the days to ensure that bedrooms had windows despite being backed onto other buildings. Now this area is a restaurant serving traditional British pub food.
As railway transport gained popularity, coaching inns saw a decline in business, and many eventually fell into disuse.