Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve in the Brockley Jack, 1869

The Penny Illustrated Paper, 1 January 1870 includes an article 'Village Ale-House on New Year's Eve' extolling the virtues of a walk in the countryside followed by a drink at the Brockley Jack.

It starts ''There are worse methods of inaugurating the New Year than that of starting out for a brisk walk into the country after a short railway journey which carries the pedestrian to a point beyond the last straggling houses of suburban streets'. The countryside recommended is in Kent around Knowle (assume he means Knole by Sevenoaks) and Chislehurst.

The author goes on: 'Should you wish to return to town by way of Lewisham you may as well take the short cut, and that will lead you through some country lanes stiff with clay; having recovered from which you will, unless you are an 'abstainer', which is scarcely probable, feel that a glass of good ale would not be the worst kind of refreshment. By this time you may have come upon the outskirts of a little village, where, if you are particularly fortunate you may see a labourer, or a tramp, or a wandering tinker; and if, with a laudable desire for information , you inquire of such a person where you can obtain the desired refreshment, he way say' "Why, it's mostly Jack's that people goes hereabout". Should you pursue the subject by any inquiry as to the identify of Jack's, you will learn that it is Brockley Jack's of course; and as "it's close by and precious sharp weather somehow makes yer feel thirsty like' the "price of a pint" cannot be reasonably expected "either to make you or break you; which here you are, with the name wrote on a bladebone" though whether a real bone or not your informant "ain't rightly certain; but it's a big 'un if it is real, that's all".

Now supposing it to be New Year's Eve - or, for the matter of that, almost any other eve in the year - you are not likely to learn much about either Brockley Jack or the great bladebone, because there are so many people in front of the bar that there is quite enough to do to draw beer for them, without answering questions'.

There's still a whalebone in the pub, not the original one as far as I know - or is it? Incidentally old maps show there was indeed a pathway across fields between Peckham and Lewisham and that it followed the course of the Brockley Footpath (still there by the Jack) and Sevenoaks/Ewhurst roads. Presumably this track went further into Kent , and Sevenoaks road is so called because it actually was on the old path to there. Presumably too, the author of this piece came across this track, as the Brockley Jack is directly on it.

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