If all goes to plan this will be the penultimate post documenting this project. Recording a journey through the streets in the far south-eastern corner of the designated target area, this one covers the part of the capital stretching roughly from Bermondsey Square to Butlers Wharf going south to north and intersected by Tower Bridge Road. The walk took place on another glorious spring day with the sun beaming down and the cherry blossom out in full force. It was also the day the UK was supposed to be cutting itself adrift from the European Union, notwithstanding the postponement of which the hordes of Mordor still descended on Parliament Square. But let’s return swiftly to the sunlit and verdant streets of SE1.
We begin on the east side of Tower Bridge Road with Grange Walk. The south side of the street is home to a number of listed houses dating from the late 17th century and, on the corner with Grigg’s Place, the former Bermondsey United Charity School for Girls built in the 1830’s.
A short way further along is another converted schoolhouse, the Grange Walk Infants School of late Victorian vintage.
The north side of the street marks the southern end of the massive St Saviours Estate which we dip into briefly by way of Fendall Street before continuing east on Grange Walk as far as Bridewain Street.
Bridewain Walk connects Grange Walk with Abbey Street as do, moving back westward, Maltby Street and The Grange. From the northern end of the latter we return along Abbey Street to the former and continue on its northern section down to Millstream Road which after a brief diversion into Stanworth Street takes us under the railway arches and into Druid Street.
The plaque you see in the photograph above commemorates the WW2 bombing of the railway here which took seven lives. We head back under the railway via Tanner Street and wander up Rope Walk which runs alongside the arches on the west side. A timely celebration of London’s international diversity here.
We loop back to Tanner Street taking the final stretch of Maltby Street and turn west which takes us past Ugly Duck a for-hire venue for creative projects housed in a former Victorian warehouse and polythene bag factory. (bit of a cheat here – some of the photos in the sequence below were taken in 2017 when I was helping out with an installation for an exhibition).
From here we snake round Pope Street, Riley Road and Purbrook Street to get back on Tower Bridge Road just north of where we started out from. Just beyond Stevens Street on the corner with Abbey Street a plaque fixed to the side of the end house of a row of council properties marks the site of the 11th century Cluniac priory that evolved and expanded to become Bermondsey Abbey. The priory and then the abbey played host to a number of notable royal occasions until the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII (yes that again) instigated its eventual break up. The newly crowned King Henry II and his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, held court here at Christmas in 1154 shortly before the birth of their second son. Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of Edward IV and the mother of the young princes murdered in the Tower at the behest of Richard III, registered as a boarder at the Abbey in 1487, after retiring from the court of Henry VII (who had defeated Richard and also married her daughter, Elizabeth of York). She died there on 8 June 1492. Today all that remains of the Abbey is a small section of the medieval gatehouse which forms part of the structure of some of those 17th century houses on Grange Walk.
Just beyond the junction with Abbey Street we cut back through Bermondsey Square, where the weekly antiques market is underway, to the eastern end of Long Lane.
Across the road is the churchyard of St Mary Magdalen Bermondsey. The church itself we discussed in the last post. The churchyard, which stands on part of the site of Bermondsey Abbey, is now an open space having been largely cleared of gravestones after closing as a burial ground in the mid 19th century. A few large chest tombs remain along with an obelisk which commemorates the granting of the space to the vestry of Bermondsey in the 1880’s. There is also a typically Victorian (though it dates from 1902) shrine-type fountain, a gift of one Colonel Bevington.
After crossing the churchyard we head briefly south again to the waggishly named Long Walk which dog-legs between Tower Bridge Road and Abbey Street and must be all of 50 metres from one end to the other. Final stop off on Abbey Street is Radcliffe Road and then it’s back to Tower Bridge Road and a good leg stretch north back to Tanner Street.
So we head west on Tanner Street (with a short diversion to take in Archie Street) and find ourselves briefly on Bermondsey Street from where we make a circuit of Whites Grounds and Brunswick Court before ending up back on Tower Bridge Road. Continuing north there are some splendid examples of the cherry blossom, we referred to at the outset, leading up to Roper Lane which runs once again beneath the railway.
At the end we turn right on Druid Street and follow this east across TBR and alongside another set of railway arches that are largely occupied by specialist motor vehicle service providers (car mechanics to you guv’).
We make a left next onto Coxson Way and at the end of this follow Fair Street back to TBR. A few paces further north and we arrive at Tooley Street which takes us eastward again. Almost straight away we pass the Dixon Hotel which has made its home in the 1906 edifice that formerly served as the Tower Bridge Magistrates Court. The hotel takes its name from John Dixon Butler who was the architect of the Grade II listed Edwardian building.
We continue east as far as Three Oak Lane and then use this, Lafone Street and Boss Street to weave our way back west between Tooley Street and Queen Elizabeth Street. Horselydown Lane then takes us further north as far as Gainsford Street where we switch east again before taking a left on Curlew Street which carries us down to Shad Thames, Butler’s Wharf and the river. Butler’s Wharf was built between 1865 and 1873 as a shipping wharf and warehouse complex dealing in commodities such as grain, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, rubber, tapioca and tea. The warehouse used for the latter was reputedly the largest of its kind in the world. The buildings gradually fell into disuse during the 20th century and their original commercial purpose was finally redundant when the Port of London closed in 1972.
In the 1970’s artists such as David Hockney, Andrew Logan and Derek Jarman used the empty buildings as a space for the creation of video and performance art. Then in 1981 Terence Conran led a consortium that bid successfully to redevelop the Grade II listed site for mixed use. The renovation of Butler’s Wharf was a 20 year project that involved renovating and developing six buildings: the Butlers Wharf building itself, and the renamed Cardamom, Clove, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Coriander warehouses. Conran’s pet project the Design Museum was included alongside the residential, retail and restaurant developments (though it has recently moved to a new building in Kensington).
In an earlier post we talked about the Barclay Perkins Brewery on Bankside which was also known as the Anchor Brewery. Well they obviously had trouble coming up with original names back in the 18th century because when John Courage founded his eponymous brewery in 1787 he gave it the exact same alternative monicker. At first his brewery consisted of just a small building on the foreshore, adjacent to what would be the southern end of Tower Bridge when that was built in 1886, but he and his son (after his death) rapidly built up the surrounding site. Some of the land had to be surrendered when the bridge was constructed and then in 1891 a spark in the malt mills caused a fire that razed the brewery to the ground. It was rebuilt to what were at the time state-of-the art specifications and was soon producing 300,000 barrels a year. The Courage family were still in full control of the business at this time even though it had floated on the stock market in 1889. By 1955 however it was forced to merge with the Barclay Perkins Brewery and in 1972 the combined entity was acquired by Imperial Tobacco. The writing was probably already on the wall by then and it 1981 both the Anchor Breweries were closed down. The Bankside site was demolished completely but in the case of the Courage Brewery the riverside frontage was retained (including the chimney which you can see in the picture above) while the buildings to the rear were torn down for redevelopment. As of 2017 the Courage brand is in the possession of Marston’s Brewery.
It’s fitting then that today’s pub of the day is the Anchor Tap on Horselydown Lane which was the Courage Brewery’s Tap (though it claims to originate from 1761 a couple of decades and some before John Courage set up). It’s now part of the Sam Smith’s estate and provided me with a very decent pint of cider and an excellent B.L.T.
On leaving the pub we go back down Tower Bridge Road as far as St John’s Church park on the west side. Cutting through this brings us back onto Fair Street and then Tooley Street again.
Continuing west we visit a sequence of streets that run off Tooley Street to the south – an orphan section of Druid Street, Banham Street and Shand Street. At the end of the latter we turn onto Holyrood Street, another that skirts the rail lines out of London Bridge.
We double sharply back down Magdalen Street to return to Tooley Street, dipping into Gibbon’s Rent and Bursar Street en route. Then it’s west on Tooley Street as far as Bermondsey Street where we negotiate its northernmost section that includes the long tunnel under the railtrack and finishes at the junction with St Thomas St. We’ve visited St Thomas Street before of course but on that previous occasion I overlooked the London Science Gallery which is sited on part of the Kings College campus by Guy’s Hospital and only opened last September (2018) with a mission to connect art, science and healthcare. The photos below are from a video work that forms part of the current (until 12 May 2019) exhibition Spare Parts which explores the art and science of organ transplantation and tissue regeneration.
The other reason for trekking all the way along St Thomas Street for a second time is that although it has loomed large in the background of many of the photographs in this and previous posts we haven’t yet dealt properly with the elephant in the city that is the Shard. So here, in no particular order, are the facts. It’s the tallest building in the UK and the European Union (which at the time of writing are still one and the same thing). Construction began in 2009 and it topped out three years later at 309.7 metres. It is 95 storeys tall with 72 habitable floors the uppermost of which at 244 metres incudes the UK’s highest viewing gallery. Floors 53 to 65 are taken up with residential apartments while the Shangri-La Hotel occupies floors 34 to 52 and the rest is mainly offices. These floors are served by a total of 36 lifts which can travel at speeds up to 6 metres a second. Its exterior is covered by 11,000 glass panels – equivalent in area to eight football pitches or two and a half Trafalgar Squares. The lead architect was the Italian, Renzo Piano who also designed the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Towards the end of construction a fox was found up on the 72nd floor; nicknamed Romeo by staff, the fox is believed to have survived on food left by construction workers.
And finally, in a nod to the opening comments above I should mention that some people like to refer to The Shard as the Tower of Mordor.