Situated within the wall of what’s now a restaurant in London’s Bankside on the southern bank of the Thames, is a rather inconspicuous slab of stone. It is the last remaining example of the boatmen’s seats that once dotted the South Bank. In other words, an early illustration of London’s premier cab rank.
Before 1750, The London Bridge was the sole means of crossing the Thames in and out of central London. Ferrymen, or “Wherrymen” as they were referred to, would shuttle commuters and commodities in confined water taxis, or “wherries.” Stone seats lined the bank used as a perches where the drivers could wait for passengers. It is very likely that notable citizens as William Shakespeare and Samuel Pepys would have been customers and utilized the services of these boatmen.
Many of the ferrymen were boisterous patrons of the nearby brothels (called “stews” because they doubled as bath houses), bear-baiting rings (from which the street gets its name), and theatres such as the Rose and Shakespeare’s Globe which are located nearby.
The seat itself is constructed out of flint. Though its age is undetermined, it’s thought to have ancient origins, either from the 12th or 13th century.
Know Before You Go
Because of the hustle and bustle of the area, it's easy to miss. It's located on Bankside, heading east between the Old Globe Theatre and before Southwark Bridge.
Turn right onto Bear Gardens between Pizza Express and The Real Greek restaurants. It's immediately around the corner, under the sign for The Real Greek.