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Falcon Inn

Situated on the south bank of the Thames in Southwark, the Falcon Inn or Falcon Tavern, as it was sometimes called, enjoys to this day a reputation as a frequent haunt of the most famous playwrights of the early modern era. According to John Bickerdyke’s The Curiosities of Ale and Beer: An Entertaining History,
Amongst the inns and taverns frequented by Shakspere [sic] may be mentioned the Falcon Tavern, by the Bankside, which was the place of meeting of the mighty poets and wits of the Elizabethan age—of Shakspere, Ben Jonson, Marlow, Massinger, Ford, Beaumont, Fletcher, Drayton, Herrick, and a host of lesser names. An assemblage, indeed, unique in any country or in any age! Here took place thos wit combats, of which Fuller speaks, between Shakspere and Ben Jonson, which two I behold like a Spanish great galleon, and an English man-of-war; Master Jonson (like the former) was built far higher in learning; solid, but slow, in his performances. Shakspere, like the English man-of-war, lesser in bulk, but lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides, tack about, and take advantage of all winds by the quickness of his wit and invention.
(Bickerdyke 205)
Such an illustrious clientele is indeed probable, as the Falcon Inn was not far west of the Globe, which staged many of Shakespeare’s plays. In fact, it is quite likely that many of the theatre patrons coming from London to the Globe and Rose theatres would have crossed the Thames by boat or barge, landing in the area of the Falcon Inn. Perhaps, then, if they had time before a performance, they may have stopped by the inn for a drink before completing their journeys to the theatres.
The inn itself no longer stands, having been torn down in the early nineteenth century. However, before its demolition, Robert Wilkinson had a drawing made of the tavern, which he then published as an engraving in 1805. The engraving, which depicts the south side of the inn, shows a multi-storey building with two doors separated by a sizeable gap that appears to allow passage from one side of the building to the other. The upper levels are dominated by large windows arranged into two rows of three. Judging by these, the inn would have been a cheery enough atmosphere on sunny days, when the large windows would allow sunlight to fill the interior and warm the patrons.
We may also imagine a somewhat raucous atmosphere at the Falcon Inn, since Southwark and more specifically Bankside was a place where one could indulge numerous vices like gambling and drinking and seek out diverse entertainments ranging from bear baiting to theatrical performances to paid companionship in a local brothel (Bankside). Yet the inn also served a more practical purpose. In addition to providing lodging for travellers, it was a regular shelter for mail carriers. According to The Carriers’ Cosmography, A Carrier from Reygate in Surrey doth come every thursday (or oftner) to the Falcon in Southwark (Taylor). Thus, the inn would have attracted a diverse group of people, from travellers to revellers, to your everyday London denizens.
Finally, with a name like Falcon Inn, it is no surprise that the Southwark lodging house and tavern on the south bank of the Thames shared its name with other locations. Another Falcon Inn is recorded in the county of Devon in 1654, and Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon boasts a Falcon Inn, which still draws tourists to this day. It can thus be easy to confuse the Falcon Inn that Shakespeare patronized in the company of other playwrights with the one that still stands in his hometown.


Cite this page

MLA citation

Riley, Gregory. Falcon Inn. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 05 May 2022,

Chicago citation

Riley, Gregory. Falcon Inn. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed May 05, 2022.

APA citation

Riley, G. 2022. Falcon Inn. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London (Edition 7.0). Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from

RIS file (for RefMan, RefWorks, EndNote etc.)

Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
Content: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

A1  - Riley, Gregory
ED  - Jenstad, Janelle
T1  - Falcon Inn
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
ET  - 7.0
PY  - 2022
DA  - 2022/05/05
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  -
UR  -
ER  - 

TEI citation

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