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MARKET TOWNS OF SURREY (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Southwark in 1841

SOUTHWARK, one of the divisions of the metropolis of England, extending along the south bank of the river Thames, opposite the city of London. As this part of the metropolis is included in the general description given elsewhere (see LONDON), we have here only to add some particulars of its local history.

The flat land, which is bounded on three sides by the Thames, in the bend which it makes between Greenwich and Vauxhall, was originally overflowed by the tide, and formed a large marsh extending to the foot of the eminences which skirt the fourth (i.e. the south) side. It is probable that this space was banked in by the Romans so as to secure it from being overflowed ; and Roman remains which have been dug up in St. George's Fields and in other places in Southwark or its neighbourhood, indicate that they had a settlement of some kind there. As Ptolemy says that London was in the territory of the Cantii, it has been inferred that it was on the south side of the Thames ; but this opinion has been very generally rejected, as contrary to all the evidence. It is probable that on the site of Southwark there was a suburb of London, with which it communicated by a ferry near the site of the old bridge. At this ferry the great road Watling Street crossed the Thames.

In the early part of the Saxon times there is no notice of any town or other place on this spot ; but a tradition of Bartholomew Linsted, or Fowle, Iast prior of St. Mary Overie, preserved by Stow (Survey of London, book i, chapter xiii), notices that the profits of the ferry were devoted by the owner, "a maiden named Mary," to the foundation and endowment of a nunnery, or "house of sisters," afterwards converted into a college of priests, by whom a bridge of timber was built, which with the aid of the citizens was afterwards converted into one of stone. If this tradition is entitled to credit (which Maitland denies, History of London, book i, chapter vii), it would carry back the time of the foundation of the monastery of St. Mary Overie to a much earlier period than any existing historical notice of Southwark : and however doubtful the claim of the priests to the honour of building the bridge may be, we think the tradition may be taken as fair evidence of the early foundation of a religious house, and of its endowment with the profits of the then existing ferry. In AD 993, Anlaf, king of Norway, sailed up the river as far as Stane (Staines), from which it has been inferred that there was no bridge between London and Southwark ; but this inference is hardly authorised by subsequent events. In AD 994 there was a bridge which obstructed the flight of Sweyn's forces when he attacked London, and was repulsed, by the citizens. In AD 1016, when Canute attacked London, the bridge formed an obstacle to the advance of his fleet ; and in order to avoid it he dug a trench on the south side, by which be dragged his ships to the west side of the bridge. In the account of these transactions there is no mention of Southwark ; yet there must have been some defence for the south end of the bridge ; and in AD 1023, we read in the Saxon Chronicle that "on the sixth day before the ides of June, the illustrious king (Cnut, or Canute), and the archbishop (Egelnoth of Canterbury), and the diocesan bishops, and the earls, and very many others, both clergy and laity, carried by ship his holy corpse (i.e. the body of Aelfeah, or Alphege, saint and martyr) over the Thames to Suthgeweorke, or Southwark, on its way to Canterbury. This is, we believe, the earliest distinct mention of the pIace. In AD 1052, Godwin, then in rebellion against Edward the Confessor, came with his fleet to Southwark, and passing the bridge without opposition, proceeded to attack the king's navy which lay at Westminster ; but hostilities were averted by the offer of peace. At this time, Southwark had a harbour for ships (St. Saviour's dock?) and a monastery or church (St. Mary Overie?), both belonging to the king. Southwark was burned by William the Conqueror, when the citizens of London, after the battle of Hastings, closed their gates against him. In 'Domesday' the name appears under the form Sudwerche.

The wooden bridge which connected Southwark with London was burned in a fire which consumed great part of the city (AD 1136). It was however repaired in a few years afterwards ; and in AD 1163 still more thoroughly restored. It is probable that the charge of these repairs led to the erection of a more stable fabric of stone (AD 1176-1209), which remained till within the last few years. The old timber bridge appears to have been opposite Botolph Wharf, midway between the Custom-House and the present bridge : the former stone bridge was between the timber bridge and the present one, at the foot of Fish-Street Hill. In order to the erection of the stone bridge, a new channel was cut for the stream, so as to lay the natural bed of the river nearly dry. It appears that the bridge was not at first wholly occupied with houses, for in AD 1395 there was a tournament held on it. Stow infers from this that there were then no houses at all on the bridge, but such an inference is by no means necessary. In AD 1471 there were houses, several being burned by the Bastard of Fauconbridge. There appears to have been from the first a drawbridge, so as to allow the passage of vessels above bridge: also a chapel on the east side ; and two towers for defence, one at the south end of the bridge, and the other at the north end of the drawbridge. The bridge underwent many alterations and sustained many injuries before its final removal. The most remarkable alterations were the removal of the drawbridge and the clearing away of the houses and other buildings ; the last alteration took place in 1756. The bridge itself was taken down in 1831, after the opening of the present London Bridge.

In AD 1213 Southwark was nearly destroyed by fire ; and the flames having communicated to the northern end of the bridge, a number of the inhabitants of London, who had come to assist in putting out the fire, were destroyed by it or drowned in their attempts to escape : about 3,000 are said to have perished. In AD 1327 Southwark was, by charter of Edward III, in the first year of his reign, given to the city, great inconvenience having been found to arise from its affording a refuge to offenders of various kinds. The city was to pay to the Exchequer a yearly sum of £10 as fee-farm rent. Though in this grant it is called a "village" it must have been of considerable size ; for it had four parish churches - St. Mary's, a chapel of the great conventual church of St. Mary Over-the-Rie (or water) ; St. Margaret's, where the town-hall now stands ; St. Olave's ; and St. George's ; besides the priory and church of St. Mary Over-the-Rie (or Overie), for the canons of St. Augustin ; the hospital of St. Thomas ; two prisons, the Kings Bench and the Marshalsea ; and the houses of several prelates, nobles, or abbots. Near it were the villages of Rotherhithe or Redriffe ; Bermondsey, with its Cluniac priory (afterwards an abbey) ; and Walworth ; and the market-town of Lambeth, the residence of the primate, and in the parish of which, at Kennington, was a royal palace.

In AD 1381 the insurgent populace, Under Wat Tyler, took possession of Southwark, broke open the prisons and released the prisoners, and destroyed the 'stews' or brothels on Bankside, which were farmed of the city. They then, by threats of burning Southwark, obliged the lord mayor of London to admit them into the city, where they committed great excesses. In Cade's insurrection (AD 1450), Southwark was again occupied by the rebels, who, by intimidation, forced their way into the city. Twenty years afterwards (AD 1471), Southwark was seized by the Bastard of Fauconbridge. He attempted to storm the bridge, but was repulsed with great slaughter. In AD 1554 Southwark was occupied by Sir Thomas Wyatt, who was joined by the townsmen ; but he could not gain admission into London. It appears from these events that Southwark was destitute of fortifications.

In the time of Elizabeth, Southwark appears to have consisted of a line of street extending from the bridge nearly to where is now the King's Bench, formerly called Long Southwark ; Kent Street, then the high road to Dover, and of which only the part near St. George's Church was lined with houses ; a line of street, including Tooley (i.e. St. Olave's) Street, extending from the bridge foot to Rotherhithe Church; another line of street, running westward by Bankside to where the Blackfriars Road now stands ; and Bermondsey Street, branching off from Tooley Street to Bermondsey church. Except near St. Mary Overy's (now St. Saviour's) Church, there were scarcely any back or cross streets. Near Bankside were the bishop of Winchester's palace, the Globe theatre, the 'stews,' before spoken of (which were however suppressed at the Reformation), and two bear-gardens for baiting bulls and bears. The villages of Lambeth, Kennington, Newington, and Walworth were then separated by open fields.

In the civil war of Charles I, Southwark was included within the circuit of the fortifications erected by order of parliament. Towards the close of the seventeenth century it had considerably extended. The houses on the east side of Blackman Street extended to Newington and Walworth, which were thus united to the metropolis ; but St. George's Fields, on the opposite side, still remained open. Back streets had been formed on each side of the High Street as far as St. George's Church. In the early part of the following century the buildings extended along the river bank to Lambeth ; and Rotherhithe Street was continued to and even beyond Cuckold's Point, where the river bends to the southward. Later still, the opening of Blackfriars Bridge led to the formation of Great Surrey Street ; and towards the close of the century St. George's Fields were enclosed and laid out in new streets. Since the commencement of the present century, Lambeth Marsh, which formerly separated Southwark from Lambeth, has been covered with new streets and buildings ; and in every direction Southwark has spread, till it has united with the surrounding villages, from Greenwich to Battersea, and combined them into one large town, forming the southern division of the metropolis, and having a population of 300,000, of which town Southwark may be regarded as the nucleus.

Since its annexation to the city, its ecclesiastical divisions have become more numerous. The two parishes of St. Mary and St. Margaret have indeed been united into one, of which the fine old priory church of St. Mary Overie, better known as St. Saviour's, is the parish church ; but the parish of Christ Church has been formed from this united one of St. Saviour ; and within the last year or two, a new district church, St. Peter's, in Park Street, Bankside, in the same parish (St. Saviour's), has been completed. St. John's, Horslydown, has been formed out of St. Olave's, and St. Thomas's Hospital church has become parochial. That part of St. Saviour's parish of which Christ Church parish was formed, appears not to have been included in the grant to the city of London, which probably comprehended only the king's manor of Southwark, from which that of Christ Church (anciently the manor of Paris Garden) was distinct. Another portion of St. Saviours parish, 'the Clink Liberty,' belongs to the bishop of Winchester, who appoints a steward and bailiff, and appears never to have been granted to the city.

The grant of Edward III appears only to have conveyed to the city the lordship of the manor : this jurisdiction was augmented by new privileges in susequent reigns ; and in the reign of Edward VI, Southwark was by letters patent incorporated with the city, and constituted the ward of Bridge Without. Certain lands were excepted from this arrangement, as Southwark Mansion and Park, belonging to the king. The ward appears never to have been represented in the Common Council, nor do the inhabitants now elect their alderman. The senior alderman of London is always alderman of this ward, and on his death the next in seniority succeeds. He has no ward duties to perform. In the article LONDON this is said, but not accurately, to be the case with the alderman of Bridge Ward. There is a Bridge Ward Within, which is properly a part of the city ; and Bridge Ward Without, which comprehends Southwark. The alderman of Bridge Ward Within has the same duties as any other alderman. The city of London appoints a high-bailiff and steward for Southwark, but the county magistrates for Surrey exercise jurisdiction in several matters : it is also in the district of the metropolitan police. Southwark is a parliamentary borough, and has sent two representatives to parliament uninterruptedly from 23 Edward I. It is by Londoners colloquially termed 'The Borough.' By the Boundary Act, the Clink Liberty, and the parishes of Christ Church, Bermondsey, and Rotherhithe, have been added to it for parliamentary purposes. The number of voters on the register in 1835-6 was 5,388 ; in 1839-40, 5,047, viz. 4,096 ten-pound householders, and 951 scot and lot voters.

The borough as thus enlarged comprehends an important manufacturing and commercial district. Along the waterside there are numerous wharfs, and various establishments which are necessary for the construction, equipage, and freight of vessels. A considerable hat-manufacture is carried on in St. Saviour's parish and in Bermondsey, in which latter there are a number of tanners and curriers. Southwark is the chief place of business of those connected with the hop-trade; the largest porter brewery in London, and indeed in the world (Messrs. Barclay and Co.'s), and a very extensive vinegar-yard (Messrs. Potts), are included within it.