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It seems likely, then, that the Tabard had its origin as an adjunct of the town house of a Hampshire ecclesiastic.
More than two centuries had passed since Thomas a Becket had fallen before the altar of St.
Benedict in the minster of Canterbury, pierced with many swords as his reward for contesting the supremacy of the Church against Henry II.
It was from that direction assault was most likely to come.
From the western and southern counties of England, and, above all, from the Continent, this was the high road into the capital. As London Bridge was the only causeway over the Thames, and as the High street of Southwark was the southern continuation of that causeway, it followed that diplomatic visitors from the Continent and the countless traders who had business in the capital were obliged to use this route coming and going.
The records show that he twice represented the borough of Southwark in Parliament, and another ancient document bears witness how he and his wife, Christian by name, were called upon to contribute two shillings to the subsidy of Richard II.
These are the dry bones of history; for the living picture of the man himself recourse must be had to Chaucer's verse: A semely man our hoste was with-alle For to han been a marshal in an halle; A large man he was with eyen stepe, A fairer burgeys is ther noon in Chepe; Bold of his speche, and wys, and well y-taught, And of manhood him lakkede right naught. No twentieth century pilgrim to the Tabard inn must expect to find its environment at all in harmony with the picture enshrined in Chaucer's verse. Sense of "a woman who employs others or has authority over servants" is from 1426.At any rate, if the lady of the house objected to it, it could return with Mistress Randall.The logical result of this constant traffic is seen in the countless inns of the district.In the great majority of cases those visitors who had business in the city itself during the day elected to make their headquarters for the night on the southern shore of the Thames.Master received him with cordiality, and presented him to mistress.Next day he called at the gate, on horseback, to inquire for mistress.Drawn on the principle that a minimum of lines and a maximum of description are the best aid to the imagination, this plan of Southwark indicates the main routes of thoroughfare with a few bold strokes, and then tills in the blanks with queer little drawings of churches and inns, the former depicted in delightfully distorted perspective and the latter by two or three half-circular strokes.That there may be no confusion between church and inn, the possibility of which is suggested by the fact that several of the latter are adorned with spire-like embellishments, the sixteenth-century cartographer told which were which in so many words.It is by close attention to the letter-press, and by observing the frequent appearance of names which have age-long association with houses of entertainment, that the student of this map awakens to the conviction that ancient Southwark rejoiced in a more than generous provision of inns. Southwark is really the south-work of London, that is, the southern defence or fortification of the city.Such was the case from the earliest period of which there is any record. The Thames is here a moat of spacious breadth and formidable depth, yet the Romans did not trust to that defence alone, but threw up further obstacles for any enemy approaching the city from the south.