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Transpontine: The end of the (old) Brockley Jack

The current Brockley Jack pub dates back to 1898 and replaced an older building demolished not long before. The pub had actually only been known by that name since 1863 – prior to that it was called The Castle. It is described in Walter Besant’s London South of the Thames1 (published 1912, but written in the 1890s): ‘on the west side of the road is the Brockley Jack public-house.

It was named after Jack Cade and was formerly frequented by Dick Turpin and other highway- men, and is a good specimen of the English wayside tavern of the last century. The taproom and the whole architecture of the place with its old buildings are curious, and the sign nailed to the stump of an old elm in the yard is painted on a mammoth’s bone which was dug up in the railway cutting behind the house. The Croydon Canal was acquired by the Croydon Railway in 1836, and it was in deepening this that the bones, of which the sign is one, were found.

The old farm south of this inn will soon be built over, and houses are already appearing in the lane to Honor Oak, but most of the ground is still pasture’ (Jack Cade was a leader of the 1450 Kentish uprising2). The demolition of the old building was opposed by some, as indicated by this report from th Illustrated London News, 16 October 1897: ‘The Jack Inn, Brockley: The vandal is generally more inclined to spare a public-house than he is to spare a church; but it is the old Jack Inn at Brockley, in Kent, that is now marked down for demolition. Many a cyclist following the course of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway from London Bridge will miss the welcome which the inn continued to give from the old world; but the growth of suburban London is imperious in its demands.

Brockley is within the Parliamentary borough of Deptford; but the little boundaries and isolations of London are rapidly disappearing in that direction, and much beside the Jack Inn will disappear ere long in front of London’s immense army of occupation’ Judging by the number of paintings made of the old pub, it was something of an iconic building.

References

  1. ^ London South of the Thames (archive.org)
  2. ^ Jack Cade was a leader of the 1450 Kentish uprising (transpont.blogspot.co.uk)

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