Cardinal Cap Alley, SE1

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Road · The Underground Map · SE1 ·
APRIL
29
2017

Cardinal Cap Alley is an alley in Bankside.

The entrance to the Cardinal Cap Alley is under the lamp, left of the yellow door
Credit: Peter Holmes
Until the 1600s Bankside was a bawdy place, full of taverns, brothels then called ’stews’ from the stewhouses, which were steam baths doubling as brothels, there was bear and bull-baiting pits and, in the time of Shakespeare, public theatres. Cardinal Cap Alley. off Bankside, used to lead to a brothel called the The Cardinal’s Cap which was so-called because it had been owned by Henry Beaufort, the Bishop of Winchester, who had paraded here, wearing his red hat, after being appointed a cardinal by the Pope.

Until the time of the reformation the Abbot of St Mary Overy, which is now Southwark Cathedral, owned a large part of the area of Southwark, and Cardinal Cap Alley undoubtedly had connections with the Abbey. At some point way back in history, certainly long before 1533, the Abbot built a house on the site of the Alley, which, at the dissolution of the monasteries was seized by the Crown. It is not known whether this house remained standing or a new building was erected but shortly after Henry VIII had rid himself of Papal connections the site was taken over by an inn known as the Cardinal’s Hat. When the wardens of St Saviour’s dined at this inn in 1579 Thomas Mansfield was in occupation of the tenancy and a few years later Thomas Browker was the owner. The Alley may have formed an access to the inn.

Once a maze of Thames-side warehouses, the area around Cardinal Cap Alley has for a number of years now been under redevelopment. The Alley itself still remains, shadowed in the disused Bankside Power Station, and just to the east is the International Shakespeare Globe Centre containing a full size reproduction of the Globe Theatre. A path joining the Thames-side a little to the east of Blackfriars Bridge leads past the power station to link up with Bankside. From here there is a most advantageous view of the north bank and St Paul’s Cathedral. During the building of the Cathedral it is thought that Sir Christopher Wren paced this stretch viewing the progression of his masterpiece. Then it was a forest of spires, now it is a jungle of concrete and glass.

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