Bermondsey Street, SE1

Road in/near Bermondsey, existing until now.

(51.50079 -0.0819, 51.5 -0.081) 
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Road · * · SE1 ·
Bermondsey Street was named for the Abbey of St Saviour’s.

Towards the southern end of Bermondsey Street stood the Abbey of St Saviour’s, founded by Alwin Childe in 1081.

Tucked away behind London Bridge station, Bermondsey Street was once a centre for the leather and other noxious industries that the City of London didn’t want within its walls.

All the raw materials for tanning leather were easily at hand. As early as 1392, butchers were permitted to dump their refuse in Southwark. Water was available from the Neckinger stream and oak bark was sourced from south London woods.

The accompanying photograph was taken by Henry Dixon. The photograph includes two leatherworkers - either shoemakers or cobblers - standing at the entrance to their establishment.

At the time Bermondsey was an area of biscuit making, leather working and tanneries - nearly all the tanneries of London were situated within Bermondsey’s borders.

Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike Licence

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Vic Stanley   
Added: 24 Feb 2024 17:38 GMT   

The postcode is SE15, NOT SE1

Added: 17 Feb 2024 00:08 GMT   

No 36 Upper East Smithfield
My great great grandfather was born at No 36 Upper East Smithfield and spent his early years staring out at a "dead wall" of St Katharine’s Docks. His father was an outfitter and sold clothing for sailors. He describes the place as being backed by tenements in terrible condition and most of the people living there were Irish.


Kevin Pont   
Added: 16 Feb 2024 20:32 GMT   

Name origin
Interestingly South Lambeth derives its name from the same source as Lambeth itself - a landing place for lambs.

But South Lambeth has no landing place - it is not on the River Thames


C Hobbs   
Added: 31 Jan 2024 23:53 GMT   

George Gut (1853 - 1861)
George Gut, Master Baker lived with his family in Long Lane.
George was born in Bernbach, Hesse, Germany and came to the UK sometime in the 1840s. In 1849, George married an Englishwoman called Matilda Baker and became a nauralized Englishman. He was given the Freedom of the City of London (by Redemption in the Company of Bakers), in 1853 and was at that time, recorded as living at 3 Long Lane. In the 1861 census, George Gut was living at 11 Long Lane.

Emma Beach   
Added: 18 Jan 2024 04:33 GMT   

William Sutton Thwaites
William Sutton Thwaites was the father of Frances Lydia Alice Knorr nee Thwaites�’�’she was executed in 1894 in Melbourne, Victoria Australia for infanticide. In the year prior to his marriage, to her mother Frances Jeanette Thwaites nee Robin, William Sutton was working as a tailor for Mr Orchard who employed four tailors in the hamlet of Mile End Old Town on at Crombies Row, Commercial Road East.

Source: 1861 England Census Class: Rg 9; Piece: 293; Folio: 20; Page: 2; GSU roll: 542608

Added: 15 Jan 2024 15:44 GMT   

Simon De Charmes, clockmaker
De Charmes (or Des Charmes), Simon, of French Huguenot extraction. Recorded 1688 and Free of the Clockmakers’ Company 1691-1730. In London until 1704 at least at ’his House, the Sign of the Clock, the Corner of Warwick St, Charing Cross’. See Brian Loomes The Early Clockmakers of Great Britain, NAG Press, 1981, p.188

Born here
Jacqueline Mico   
Added: 14 Jan 2024 07:29 GMT   

Robert Bolam
This is where my grandad was born, he went on to be a beautiful man, he became a shop owner, a father, and grandfather, he lost a leg when he was a milkman and the horse kicked him, then opened a shop in New Cross and then moved to Lewisham where he had a Newsagents and tobacconists.

Tom Hughes   
Added: 5 Jan 2024 14:11 GMT   

4 Edwardes Terrace
In 1871, Mrs. Blake, widow of Gen. Blake, died in her home at 4 Edwardes Terrace, leaving a fortune of 140,000 pounds, something like 20 million quid today. She left no will. The exact fortune may have been exaggerated but for years claimants sought their share of the "Blake millions" which eventually went to "the Crown."



The name Bermondsey first appears in a letter from Pope Constantine during the 8th century.

Pope Constantine (708-715), in a letter, granted privileges to a monastery at Vermundesei, then in the hands of the abbot of Medeshamstede (as Peterborough was known at the time).

Though Bermondsey’s name may derive from Beornmund’s island (whoever the Anglo-Saxon Beornmund was, is another matter), but Bermondsey is likely to have been a higher, drier spot in an otherwise marshy area, rather than a real island.

Bermondsey appears in the Domesday Book and it was then held by King William (the Conqueror). A small part of the area was in the hands of Robert, Count of Mortain - William’s half brother.

Bermondsey Abbey was founded in 1082 as a Cluniac priory, with St Saviour as the patron.

The monks from the abbey began to develop the area, cultivating land and embanking the river. They put a dock at the mouth of River Neckinger, an adjacent tidal inlet. Records show this was called St Savior’s Dock, after their abbey.

Also owning land here was the Knights Templar. They gave a names to one of the most distinctive streets in London - Shad Thames, a later corruption of ’St John at Thames’.

Other ecclesiastical properties stood nearby. The name ’Tooley Street’ was another corruption - this time of St Olave’s’ Street. It was located in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s manor of Southwark. In Tooley Street, wealthy citizens and clerics built houses.

After the Great Fire of London, Bermondsey started to be settled by the well-to-do. It took on the character of a garden suburb - especially along Grange Road.

A pleasure garden - the Cherry Garden - was founded in the area in the 17th century near to the current Cherry Garden Pier. In 1664, Samuel Pepys visited ’Jamaica House’ in the gardens and wrote in his diary that he had left it "singing finely". Later, from the garden, J.M.W. Turner painted The Fighting Temeraire Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up (1839), showing the veteran warship being towed to Rotherhithe to be scrapped.

The church of St Mary Magdalen in Bermondsey Street was completed in 1690, although a church has been recorded on the site since the 13th century. This church survived both 19th-century redevelopment and the Blitz unscathed. It is an unusual survivor of this period in Bermondsey and in Inner London in general.

In the 18th century, the discovery of a spring from the River Neckinger in the area led to Bermondsey becoming a spa resort - then all the rage. The name Spa Road commemorates this - situated between Grange Road and Jamaica Road.

Bermondsey’s fortunes took a huge nosedive as the Industrial Revolution took hold. Certain industries were deemed too inconvenient to be carried on within the small area of the City of London and banished east - both north and south of the river. One such that came to dominate central Bermondsey was the processing of leather and hides.

Parts of Bermondsey, especially along the riverside, become a notorious slum. The area around St Saviour’s Dock and Shad Thames - known as Jacob’s Island - was one of the worst in London. In Charles Dickens’s novel Oliver Twist, the principal villain Bill Sikes meets a nasty end in the mud of ’Folly Ditch’ an area which was known as Hickmans Folly — the scene of an attack by Spring Heeled Jack in 1845 — surrounding Jacob’s Island. Dickens provides a vivid description of what it was like:

<CITE>... crazy wooden galleries common to the backs of half a dozen houses, with holes from which to look upon the slime beneath; windows, broken and patched, with poles thrust out, on which to dry the linen that is never there; rooms so small, so filthy, so confined, that the air would seem to be too tainted even for the dirt and squalor which they shelter; wooden chambers thrusting themselves out above the mud and threatening to fall into it — as some have done; dirt-besmeared walls and decaying foundations, every repulsive lineament of poverty, every loathsome indication of filth, rot, and garbage: all these ornament the banks of Jacob’s Island.</CITE>

In 1836, London’s first passenger railway terminus was built by the London & Greenwich Railway at London Bridge. The first section of the line to be used was between the Spa Road Station and Deptford High Street. But Spa Road station closed in 1915.

The area was extensively redeveloped during the 19th century and early 20th century with both the expansion of the river trade and the connectivity that the railway brought about. Bermondsey Town Hall - a mark of its civic emergence - was built on Spa Road in 1881. To the east of Tower Bridge, Bermondsey’s three and a half miles of riverside were lined with warehouses and wharves, of which the best known is Butler’s Wharf.

Many buildings from this era survive (around Leathermarket Street) including the huge Leather, Hide and Wool Exchange (now residential and small work spaces). Hepburn and Gale’s tannery, though now disused, on Long Lane is also a substantial survivor of the leather trade.

Peek, Frean and Company was established in 1857 at Dockhead by James Peek and George Hender Frean. They moved to a larger plant in Clements Road in 1866, leading to the nickname ’Biscuit Town’ for Bermondsey. They continued baking here until the brand was discontinued in 1989.

Wee Willie Harris - usually credited as the first British rock and roller - came from Bermondsey. He also worked in Peak Freans before his fame.

Bermondsey’s riverside suffered severe damage in Second World War bombing. A couple of decades later, the wharves became redundant following the collapse of the river trade. After standing derelict, many of the wharves were redeveloped by the London Docklands Development Corporation during the 1980s. They have now been converted into a mixture of residential and commercial accommodations and have become some of the most upmarket and expensive properties in London.

In 1910, Millwall F.C. had moved to a new stadium on Coldblow Lane, having previously played in Millwall on the Isle of Dogs. They kept their original name despite playing on the opposite side of the River Thames to the Millwall area. They played at The Den until 1993, when they relocated to the New Den nearby. The New Den is now back to being called The Den.

In 2000, Bermondsey tube station on the Jubilee Line Extension opened.

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Byward Tower, 1893
TUM image id: 1556882285
Licence: CC BY 2.0

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