The Brockley Jack, Brockley ("Kentish Suburbs"). T. R. Way. Signed and dated 1899. Lithograph. Source: Reliques of Old London, 89. Click on image to enlarge it.

Commentary by H. B. Wheatley from Reliques of Old London

NOT many years ago, before railways made them accessible, Brockley and New Cross were very rural places, and fields were common in their neighbourhood. Now the number of houses is dsuly increasing, and little or nothing of the country remains.

One of the last relics of past times, the wayside inn in the Brockley Road, was cleared away two years ago. Tradition says that an inn has stood on the site of the Brockley Jack for nigh on four centuries, but tradition does not help us to any trustworthy information respecting its history, and the sign could hardly have been given to it before the seventeenth or the eighteenth century.

Anecdotes of highwaymen are more common on the north side of the river than on the south, but there were a considerable number of these gentry in the south. The open country and protecting woods were favourable to their attacks upon property, particularly as coaches and carriages on the great southern road were very numerous.

Brockley Jack is said to have been the name of one of these highwaymen, but whether this be so or not, there is little doubt that the old inn was frequented by gentlemen of the road. There was a particular staircase so constructed that it could be removed at night, and thus cut off access to the upper storey, in the case of criminals being secreted there.

The inn was a long low house with a bay window looking on to the front garden, built and added to at different times. In the garden were rows of seats and tables beneath old trees, and a large but almost branchless stump carried the signboard. [89]


Way, T. R., and H. B. Wheatley. Reliques of Old London upon the Banks of the Thames and in the Subburbs South of the River. London: George Bell and Sons, 1909. [title page] Internet Archive version of a copy in the Boston Public Library. Web. 22 April 2012.

Last modified 23 April 2012