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Bermondsey ( ) is an area in Londonmarker on the south bank of the river Thames, and is part of the London Borough of Southwarkmarker. To the west lies Southwarkmarker, to the east Rotherhithemarker, and to the south, Walworthmarker.

Parish, vestry and local government

The first 'Bermondsey' is that known as the location of an Anglo-Saxon monastery, and known from later charters to be the area around the post-Conquest Bermondsey Abbeymarker and its manor, which was in turn part of the medieval parish. References in the Parliamentary Rolls describe it as "in Southwark".[] A later, Victorian civil parish of Bermondsey did not include Rotherhithe or St Olave's; this was the arrangement under the Metropolis Management Act of 1855. The Southwark parishes of St Olave's and St John's Horsleydownmarker (the latter a 'daughter' of the former) with St Thomas's formed a parish union ('District Board of Works') known as 'St Olave's' from that date. This was the arrangement within the London County from 1889. In 1899 St Olave and St Thomas's District was created as a single civil parish and the next year, following London government reorganisation, this was merged with Rotherhithe and part of Deptford to form, with Bermondsey civil parish, the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondseymarker. This borough disappeared into the London Borough of Southwark, in the Greater London reorganisation of 1964.

Parts of Southwark (between London Bridge and Tower Bridge, most notably Hays Galleria), Tooley Street and Camberwell (Old Kent Road) are often mistakenly assigned to Bermondsey. The present council has divided the borough into 'Community Council' areas and has promoted signage for identity. These are based for convenience on the current wards, and therefore 'Borough and Bankside' (old Southwark) intrudes into Bermondsey Street, the oldest part of Bermondsey. The Community Council named 'Bermondsey' comprises the wards of Riverside (effectively Rotherhithe), Grange, and South Bermondsey (areas south of Lower Road).

Parliamentary representation

Bermondsey's parliamentary representation has fluctuated with its population. Since at least the 13th century, it had formed part of the Southwark constituency. From 1885 to 1918, a separate Bermondsey constituency existed, which included part of the older Southwark constituency. 1918 saw the seat split between two new constituencies: Rotherhithe and Bermondsey West, both of which were in place until the 1950 general election when the old Bermondsey seat was recreated.

In 1983, the area played host to the famous Bermondsey by-election in which Labour's Peter Tatchell lost the previously safe Labour seat to the Liberal Simon Hughes on a swing of 44%. Hughes has represented the area ever since, although parliamentary boundaries (and constituency names) have changed since then. At the 1983 general election (which took place several months after the by-election), a new Southwark and Bermondsey constituency was created, becoming North Southwark and Bermondseymarker in 1997.

History

Anglo-Saxon and Norman period

Bermondsey may be understood to mean 'Beornmund's island'; but, while "Beornmund" represents an Old English personal name, identifying an individual once associated with the place, the element "-ey" represents Old English "eg", for "island", "piece of firm land in a fen", or simply a "place by a stream or river". Thus Bermondsey need not have been an island as such in the Anglo-Saxon period, and is as likely to have been a higher, drier spot in an otherwise marshy area.

Though Bermondsey's earliest written appearance is in the Domesday Book of 1086, it also appears in a source which, though surviving only in a copy written at Peterborough Abbeymarker in the 12th century, reliably describes earlier events. This is a letter of Pope Constantine (708-715), in which he grants privileges to a monastery at Vermundesei, then in the hands of the abbot of Medeshamstede, as Peterborough was known at the time.

Bermondsey appears in Domesday Book as Bermundesy and Bermundesye. It was then held by King William, though a small part was in the hands of Robert, Count of Mortain, the king's half brother, and younger brother of Odo of Bayeux, then earl of Kent. Its Domesday assets were recorded as including 13 hide, 'a new and handsome church', 5 ploughs, of meadow, and woodland for 5 pigs. It rendered £15 in total. It also included interests in London, in respect of which 13 burgess paid 44d (£0.18).

The church mentioned in Domesday Book was presumably the nascent Bermondsey Abbeymarker, which was founded as a Cluniacmarker priory in 1082, and was dedicated to St Saviour. Monks from the abbey began the development of the area, cultivating the land and embanking the riverside. They turned an adjacent tidal inlet at the mouth of the River Neckingermarker into a dock, named St Saviour's Dockmarker after their abbey. But Bermondsey then was little more than a high street ribbon (the modern Bermondsey Street), leading from the southern bank of the Thames, at Tooley Street, up to the abbey close.
Former Alaska factory in Bermondsey
Leather, Hide and Wool Exchange, Bermondsey.
(March 2007)
The Knights Templar also owned land here and gave their names to one of the most distinctive streets in London, Shad Thamesmarker (a corruption of "St John at Thames"). Other ecclesiastical properties stood nearby at Tooley (a corruption of "St Olave's") Street, located in the Archbishop of Canterbury's manor of Southwark, where wealthy citizens and clerics had their houses, including the priors of Lewesmarker and St Augustine'smarker, Canterbury, and the abbot of Battlemarker.

14th century

King Edward III built a manor house close to the Thames in Bermondsey in 1353. The excavated foundations are visible next to Bermondsey Wall East close to the Famous Angel public house.

17th century

As it developed over the centuries, Bermondsey underwent some striking changes. After the Great Fire of Londonmarker, it was settled by the well-to-do and took on the character of a garden suburb especially along the lines of Grange Road, as Bermondsey Street became more urbanised, and of Jamaica/ Lower Road. A pleasure garden was founded there in the 17th century, commemorated by the Cherry Garden Pier. Samuel Pepys visited "Jamaica House" at Cherry Gardens in 1664 and recorded in his diary that he had left it "singing finely".

Though not many buildings survive from this era, one notable exception is the church of St Mary Magdalenmarker on Bermondsey Streetmarker, completed in 1690 (although a church has been recorded on this site from the 13th Century). This church came through both 19th-century redevelopment and The Blitz unscathed. It is not just an unusual survivor forBermondsey; buildings of this era are relative rarities in Inner London in general.

18th century

In the 18th century, the discovery of a spring in the area led to Bermondsey becoming a spa leisure resort, as the area between Grange and Jamaica Roads called Spa Road commemorates. A new church was built for the growing population of the area, and named St John Horsleydownmarker.

19th century

It was from the Bermondsey riverside that the painter J.M.W. Turner executed his famous painting of The Fighting "Temeraire" Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up (1839), depicting the veteran warship being towed to Rotherhithemarker to be scrapped.

By the mid-19th century parts of Bermondsey, especially along the riverside had become a notorious slum - with the arrival of industrial plants, docks and immigrant housing. The area around St Saviour's Dock, known as Jacob's Islandmarker, was one of the worst in London. It was immortalised by Charles Dickens's novel Oliver Twist, in which the principal villain Bill Sikes meets a nasty end in the mud of 'Folly Ditch' - 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:

"... 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."


Bermondsey Town Hall was built on Spa Road in 1881.The area was extensively redeveloped during the 19th century and early 20th century with the expansion of the river trade and the arrival of the railways. London's first passenger railway terminus was built by the London to Greenwich Railway in 1836 at London Bridgemarker. The first section to be used was between the Spa Road Stationmarker and Deptford High Street. This local station had closed by 1915.

The industrial boom of the 19th century was an extension of Bermondsey's manufacturing role in earlier eras. As in the East Endmarker, industries that were deemed too noisome to be carried on within the narrow confines of the City of Londonmarker had been located here - one such that came to dominate central Bermondsey, away from the riverfront, was the processing and trading of leather and hides. 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 (disused as of early 2007) on Long Lane is also a substantial survivor of the leather trade.



20th century

Bermondsey Fashion and Textiles Museum.
(March 2007)


From 1899 to 1965, Bermondsey formed part of the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondseymarker.

To the east of Tower Bridge, Bermondsey's 3½ miles of riverside were lined with warehouses and wharves, of which the best known is Butler's Wharfmarker. They suffered severe damage in World War II bombing and became redundant in the 1960s following the collapse of the river trade. After standing derelict for some years, many of the wharves were redeveloped under the aegis of 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 1997, US President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair visited the area to dine at the Pont de la Tour restaurant at Butler's Wharf.

Bermondsey had been host to London's first railway, from Spa Road, as part of the London Bridge to Greenwich line, and the junction of lines from Croydon and Kent at South Bermondsey, the Brunel's Rotherhithe foot-tunnel was converted into part of the East London Railway with original connections from Liverpool Street Station via Whitechapel to New Cross and New Cross Gate. However, reorganisation of lines and closure of stations left Bermondsey's transport links with the rest of London poorer in the late Twentieth Century. This was remedied in 2000 with the opening of Bermondsey tube stationmarker on the London Underground's Jubilee Line Extensionmarker and the East London Line is to form part of the new London Overground system reopening direct links with the City and north London.

Bermondsey Antiques Market.


Places of interest



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