The Ring

Sports club/centre in/near Southwark, existed between the 1910s and the 1940s

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Sports club/centre · Southwark · SE1 ·
The Ring was a boxing stadium which once stood on Blackfriars Road in Southwark.

The Ring (1925)
Although established as a boxing venue in 1910, the actual building dated from 1783 as the Surrey Congregational Chapel by the Reverend Rowland Hill - who reportedly opted for the unusual, circular design so that there would be no corners in which the devil could hide.

It was used as a chapel for 75 years after which its lease was not renewed and the congregation moved to another site.

The person responsible for overseeing the chapel’s final conversion was Dick Burge, a former English middleweight champion from Cheltenham. The former place of worship had become a warehouse.

Dick and (his wife) Bella Burge enlisted the help of local homeless people to clean out the building and transform it into a state fit for presenting boxing to the public.

The Ring opened on 14 May 1910, with the Blackfriars arena soon staging events four to five times a week, and the name from the circular shape of the building. The term "boxing ring" is not derived from the name of the building, contrary to local legend/

Not forgetting the help they’d received from London’s homeless, Dick and Bella set up a soup kitchen which they ran from the building during the quieter daytime hours.

As the First World War began, Dick enlisted with the First Surrey Rifles but died of pneumonia in 1918. 2000 mourners attended his funeral at St Marylebone Church. Following the ceremony, Dick’s body was taken to Golders Green for cremation.

On his deathbed, Dick had asked Bella to ensure that she kept their business going. She thus became the world’s first female boxing promoter. The pioneering promoter soon earned an affectionate nickname; ‘Bella of Blackfriars’.

So successful was The Ring under Bella’s leadership that, in 1928, the Prince of Wales decided to pop by and enjoy an evening’s boxing at the Ring; the main fight that night being between two highly regarded fighters; Manchester’s Len Johnson and Birmingham’s Jack Hood.

In 1932, The Ring added wrestling to the bill along with the odd Shakespeare play, performed by the local Bankside Players drama group.

By the late 1930s, The Ring began to experience fiscal problems which soon became so tough, Bella was forced to pawn her jewellery and other valuables in order to pay the venue’s staff. Sadly, her stoic attempts would prove to be in vain. At the height of the Blitz, one night in October 1940, The Ring suffered a direct hit. The 18th century building, which Bella had steered to greatness after a promise to her dying husband years before, was wiped out.

The Ring bombsite remained in tatters until the 1960s when a modern office block named ‘Orbit House’ was constructed over the ruins. Orbit House became home to the India Office’s library and archive (now housed in the British Library).

In the first decade of the 21st century, Orbit House was in turn demolished and replaced by an ultra-modern structure called ‘The Palestra’. Palestra is an Ancient Greek term denoting a public arena for wrestling. The futuristic office complex is now part of the administration for Transport for London.

The 1750 Rocque map is bounded by Sudbury (NW), Snaresbrook (NE), Eltham (SE) and Hampton Court (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1750 map does not display.

The 1800 mapping is bounded by Stanmore (NW), Woodford (NE), Bromley (SE) and Hampton Court (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1800 map does not display.

The 1830 mapping is bounded by West Hampstead (NW), Hackney (NE), Greenwich (SE) and Chelsea (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1830 map does not display.

The 1860 mapping is bounded by Brent Cross (NW), Stratford (NE), Greenwich (SE) and Hammermith (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1860 map does not display.

The 1900 mapping covers all of the London area.



Southwark is the area immediately south of London Bridge, opposite the City of London.

Southwark is on a previously marshy area south of the River Thames. Recent excavation has revealed prehistoric activity including evidence of early ploughing, burial mounds and ritual activity. The area was originally a series of islands in the River Thames. This formed the best place to bridge the Thames and the area became an important part of Londinium owing its importance to its position as the endpoint of the Roman London Bridge. Two Roman roads, Stane Street and Watling Street, met at Southwark in what is now Borough High Street.

At some point the Bridge fell or was pulled down. Southwark and the city seem to have become largely deserted during the Early Middle Ages. Archaeologically, evidence of settlement is replaced by a largely featureless soil called the Dark Earth which probably (although this is contested) represents an urban area abandoned.

Southwark appears to recover only during the time of King Alfred and his successors. Sometime in and around 886 AD the Bridge was rebuilt and the City and Southwark restored. Southwark was called ’Suddringa Geworc’ which means the ’defensive works of the men of Surrey’. It was probably fortified to defend the bridge and hence the re-emerging City of London to the north. This defensive role is highlighted by the use of the Bridge as a defense against King Swein, his son King Cnut and in 1066, against King William the Conqueror. He failed to force the Bridge during the Norman conquest of England, but Southwark was devastated.

Much of Southwark was originally owned by the church - the greatest reminder of monastic London is Southwark Cathedral, originally the priory of St Mary Overy.

During the Middle Ages, Southwark remained outside of the control of the City and was a haven for criminals and free traders, who would sell goods and conduct trades outside the regulation of the City Livery Companies. An important market - later to become known as the Borough Market - was established there some time in the 13th century. The area was renowned for its inns, especially The Tabard, from which Chaucer’s pilgrims set off on their journey in The Canterbury Tales.

After many decades’ petitioning, in 1550, Southwark was incorporated into the City of London as ’The Ward of Bridge Without’. It became the entertainment district for London, and it was also the red-light area. In 1599, William Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was built on the South Bank in Southwark, though it burned down in 1613. A modern replica, also called the Globe, has been built near the original site. Southwark was also a favorite area for entertainment like bull and bear-baiting. There was also a famous fair in Southwark which took place near the Church of St. George the Martyr. William Hogarth depicted this fair in his engraving of Southwark Fair (1733).

In 1844 the railway reached Southwark with the opening of London Bridge station.

In 1861 the Great Fire of Southwark destroyed a large number of buildings between Tooley Street and the Thames, including those around Hays Wharf, where Hays Galleria was later built, and blocks to the west almost as far as St Olave’s Church.

In 1899 Southwark was incorporated along with Newington and Walworth into the Metropolitan Borough of Southwark, and in 1965 this was incorporated with the Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell and Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey into the London Borough of Southwark.

Southwark tube station was opened on 20 November 1999 as part of the Jubilee Line Extension.

The original plan for the Extension did not include a station between those at Waterloo and London Bridge; Southwark station was added after lobbying by the local council. Although it is close to Waterloo, not near the Bankside attractions it was intended to serve, and its only rail interchange is to London Waterloo East mainline station; the passenger usage matches those of other minor central stations. It does however get over double the traffic of nearby Borough station and around triple Lambeth North.
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