Tag Archives: Bankside

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The south bank of the River Thames between Westminster and Tower Bridges has seen many changes. Once mainly an industrial area lined with factories, warehouses and wharves, these have been replaced by offices, restaurants, Tate Modern, the reproduction Globe Theatre etc.

Any day of the year, the walkway along the south bank will be crowded with tourists, those who work along the south bank and as a straightforward route to walk between east and west London.

The south bank was not always like this. This was the view in 1953, photographed by my father, looking along Bankside, west from the base of Southwark Bridge. The photo was taken from the area of the steps leading up to the bridge.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The same view in 2017.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The scene is so very different, how do I know it is the same view? There are a couple of well defined points of reference.

If you look to the left of the crane, there is part of a large building, with a further building just a bit further to the left with a distinctive spire on the roof.

If you look in the same position in my 2017 photo, the large building is Unilever House, now fully visible as the crane is not obscuring, and the building with the spire is the old City of London school. The spire is clearly visible in both photos.

You will also notice that the street (1953) and walkway (2017) curves to the left in the distance.

The original photo was taken during a weekend, the shadows indicating this was late afternoon. My photo was also at the weekend, although early afternoon. The solitary cyclist has been replaced by the crowds who daily walk along the south bank.

In the 1953 photo, you can see part of a name at the top of one of the buildings. The full name is Beck & Pollitzer, a successful engineering company that is still in existence today, although not on Bankside.

Beck and Pollitzer was formed in 1863 by two immigrants from central Europe, John Beck and Sigimund Pollitzer.  The company started as an importer and distributor of goods from across Europe and therefore needed warehouse space. In the late 19th century the company moved into warehouses on Bankside and eventually owned several on either side of Southwark Bridge.

The company evolved into a specialist engineering and support services provider and moved from Bankside to Dartford in Kent.

Beck & Pollitzer retain a link with London as they provide the transport and installation services for the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree.

In my father’s photo, Bankside is the street that runs along the edge of the River Thames. Although today it is primarily a walkway, it is an old street. The following extract from a map of the Parish of St. Saviours Southwark by Richard Blome (late 17th century but published by John Stow in 1720) shows the area long before Southwark Bridge, with Banck Side (one of the spellings used in the 18th century) running along the edge of the River Thames.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The first Southwark Bridge opened in 1819, 100 years after the map was printed. If you look in the centre of the map you will see Bear Alley. To the right is Rose Alley. There is a small street to the right of Rose Alley, which continues south to the bottom of the map. This is the location of Southwark Bridge.

Bear Alley and Rose Alley are still there today, although Rose Alley is now blocked off from Bankside. You can see that at the southern end of Bear Alley there is an open space marked as Bear Garden – one of the locations around Southwark that hosted the types of “entertainment” for which the area was well known.

The following extract from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Atlas of Greater London shows Southwark Bridge with Bear Alley now called Bear Gardens. Note also that in both the 1720 and 1940 maps, Bankside was two words, Bank Side more accurately refers to the origin of the name. Today it is generally found as one word.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

Bear Gardens today is a narrow street running south from Bankside. Bear Gardens is always rather empty when compared to the crowd who seem fixed on walking the length of the south bank without exploring slightly inland.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The construction of Southwark Bridge stopped Bankside from running alongside the river, it had to turn inland very slightly to run under the arches leading up to the bridge, before turning back towards the river.

Just to the left of where the top photos were taken is where the street runs inland and it is here that, despite the incredible amount of change in this small area, the view today is remarkably similar to that of 64 years ago.

My father took the following photo from under the warehouses that ran straight up to Southwark Bridge. Bankside turns to the right at the point where the photo is taken to run underneath the bridge.

St. Paul’s Cathedral is behind the warehouses on the north bank of the river and Queenhithe is to the right of centre.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The same view today.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

Although the warehouses along Bankside have long since been demolished, the new buildings follow the same layout, with a remarkably similar view across to St. Paul’s Cathedral. You can also see identical notches between the stone panels on the dark arch on the right of both photos, one of the arches that supports the run up to Southwark Bridge.

I suspect that the solitary man cycling along Bankside in 1953 could never have imagined how this area would change over the following decades.

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The Founder’s Arms, Falcon Stairs, A Brothel And Confused Street Names

A couple of week’s ago, my post was on No.49 Bankside, one of the few remaining historic buildings in Bankside, and for this week, I have moved across to the other side of Tate Modern, and found how echoes of London’s long history are still visible today, despite what at first sight, appears to be a very recent landscape.

My photo for this week from my father’s collection was taken in 1950. As the street sign confirms, it is on Bankside and looking across to a fine Victorian pub. This is the Founder’s Arms.

Behind the pub is the viaduct, approaching Blackfriars railway bridge, carrying the rail lines across the Thames into Blackfriars Station. A couple of the arches underneath the railway can just be seen to the left of the pub.

Founders 1

Although this part of Bankside has changed dramatically, it is relatively easy to place the location of the Founder’s Arms. The following is my 2015 photo, taken not quite from the same location as the new buildings on the right hide the view of the location of the pub, but using the arches in the railway viaduct and the road layout as reference points, where the pub once stood is now occupied by the single storey building behind the white van. The arches in the viaduct can just be seen on the left.

To the right of the pub in the 1950 photo, the roadway continues down to the wharfs and stairs on the river. Although not a road, this is still a footpath shown in the 2015 photo by the yellow railings. Bankside still curves to the right (although moved slightly away from the river, the original route now occupied by the buildings on the right), and in the 1950 photo, just visible to the left, two cobbled streets appear to be separated by a small part of pavement that extends into the centre left of the photo.

Founders 2

An alternative viewpoint with a better view of the arches under the viaduct with the position of the Founder’s Arms on the right:

Founders 12

To help understand the area in more detail, maps covering the last few centuries tell so much of how the area has changed, and what has remained.

Below is the latest Google map of the location. Hopton Street is seen in the middle of the map, coming up to a T junction at the top, with just before this, a small side extension to join with Holland Street.

Turn left at the T junction and the walkway to the river past the original location of the pub is shown in grey. The map still shows a Founder’s Arms, now directly on the river, I will come back to this later.

2015 map

Working back in time, the following map is from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London and shows the road layout as it was at the time of the 1950 photo. I have marked the position of the pub with a red dot.

Compare the roads Holland Street and Hopton Street. The 1940 map has these reversed compared to the Google map, and checking on site, Google is accurate, so was this just a map makers error?

1940 map with spot

Going back 10 years to the 1930 version of Bartholomew’s Atlas and it is even more confusing. Look at the same location near the top of the following map and now both are called Holland Street with no mention of Hopton Street.

1930 map

I checked the 1913 version of the same Atlas (yes, sadly I do have multiple editions of the same London Maps !!)  and the streets are both called Holland Street in this version as well, so I doubt this was an error.

So now, let’s jump back much further to John Rocque’s survey of London from 1746. I have again marked the approximate position of the pub by a red dot. In the John Rocque map, the reference point we can use that is still there today are the Hopton Almshouses which can be seen along The Green Walk. These can also be seen on the Bartholomew maps as the U-shaped building where Holland Street meets Southwark Street.

Founder 6a with spot So, in 1746, neither Hopton or Holland street names existed. Today’s Hopton Street was The Green Walk and today’s Holland Street was part of Gravel Lane.

To start with trying to explain the street name changes, George Cunningham in his survey of London’s streets, buildings and monuments gives an explanation for the name Holland Street:

“Location of the old moated Manor House of Paris Garden, subsequently notorious under the name of Holland’s Leaguer, from Holland, a procuress (an early name for a “woman who procures prostitutes”), who occupied it in Charles I’s time. The old Manor House was a favourite resort of James I and his Court, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham and the nobility generally.”

Holland was Sarah Holland who in 1631 had been charged as an “incontinent women” and imprisoned in Newgate. The Manor House was very suitable for her needs as she said it was “near the theatres and baiting rings, with their wild beasts and gladiators”.

George Cunningham’s book was published in 1927 and there is no mention of Hopton Street.

So that explains the source of the name Holland Street, but does not explain why or when The Green Walk and Gravel Lane changed their name. The 1913 Bartholomew Atlas is therefore correct by labelling the two streets (which were in effect one, looping back after reaching Bankside) as Holland Street.

In the original The Green Walk are Hopton’s Almshouses. These were built around 1749 for “twenty-six decayed house-keepers, each to have an upper and lower room with £10 per annum and a chaldron of coals.” They have been occupied continuously since July 1752.

The money (and name) for these came from one Charles Hopton who on his death left a large sum of money to his sister, and on her death the money was used to build the Almshouses. Hopton was born around 1654 into a wealthy merchant family and was a member of the Guild of Fishmongers.

The Almshouses are still there today. A surprise to walk down Hopton Street in the summer and suddenly find these 18th century buildings with at their centre a wonderful colourful garden:

Founders 7

The Almshouses as they appeared around 1850. A far more austere appearance with no gardens:

Founders 11

In 1831 there is a description of these as being “those of Mr Hopton in Green Walk” – so it appears the name had not changed to Holland Street by 1831. By the time of Edward Walfords Old and New London (1890) the name had changed to Holland Street.

Hopton Street has one further surprise. This is No. 61 Hopton Street, or when it was first built, No. 9 Green Walk and is the oldest building in the area.

One of a number of houses built by James Price around 1703. This is the sole survivor and is surrounded on all sides by much later (and much larger) additions to Hopton Street. The changes that this house has seen over the centuries must be quite remarkable.

Founders 8

The change of part of Holland Street to Hopton Street probably occurred around the mid 1930s.

In Grace Golden’s history of Old Bankside, published in 1951, she refers to: “An apparently puritanical drive has recently changed Holland into Hopton Street, named after Charles Hopton”.

Also, the licensing records for the Founder’s Arms state that the original address was 8 Holland Street and the address was changed to 56 Hopton Street between 1934 and 1938.

From this, I assume that in the 1930s, there was an initiative to change from Holland to Hopton Street to erase the reference to what must have effectively been a brothel kept by Sarah Holland at the old Paris Garden’s Manor House.

The reversal of Holland and Hopton Streets between the 1940 and today’s maps was probably down to it being a very recent change in 1940 and an error in recording which leg of Holland Street had changed (although I cannot find out why only part of the street changed – it may have been down to the Almshouses wanting to have an address of their founder rather than the founder of a brothel !)

Before I return to the Founder’s Arms, there is one further name that persists in this small area. At the end of Hopton and Holland Streets is a paved area, planted with trees. This is Falcon Point Piazza:

Founders 3

Also, the new buildings to the right of the above photo are named Falcon Point:

Founders 4

If you return to the John Rocque map from 1746 and look on the river’s edge to the lower right of the red circle you will see Faulcon Stairs, one of the many old stairs that led down to the river.

The earliest explanation I can find for the name is from the sport of Falconry that took place in the Paris Gardens that occupied much of this area, so the buildings and the Piazza both retain the name of a sport that took place here hundreds of years ago.

The Falcon name has other associations with the area.

Between the end of Holland / Hopton Streets and the Hopton Almshouses was the Falcon Glass Works. Built in the late 18th century by the firm of Pellatt & Green, partly on the site of a Millpond (the millpond can be seen on John Rocque’s map above. Look slightly below the red dot and to the left and a small shaded area adjacent to the road is the original millpond. The curve of the current road still maintains the outline of the millpond)

Writing of the Glass Works in 1843 in his History of Surrey, Brayley states that “Their present importance and excellence are mainly due to the taste and exertions of the present proprietor and the employment of skilful hands on materials that science and experience approve. By these means the most elegant productions of the Continent are advantageously rivalled, and in some respects surpassed”. 

Falcon Glass Works as they appeared in 1827:

Founders 10

As can be seen, they were located at the point where Hopton / Holland Streets loop round, back to Southwark Street and Sumner Street. The same location now with the curve of the road (due to the original millpond) still very obvious:

Founders 9

I have read, but have been unable to corroborate, that the source of the name Founder’s Arms was due to the Glass Works or Foundry as a “Founder” is also an operator of a Foundry.

In addition to the Founder’s Arms, there was a much earlier pub on the site of the Falcon Drawing Dock, (closer to the river, near the stairs). This was the Falcon Tavern which was allegedly used by Shakespeare, but was definitely a major coaching inn, acting as the terminus for coaches to Kent, Surrey and Sussex. The Falcon Tavern was demolished in 1808.

Now if we walk past where the Founder’s Arms use to be back up to the walkway along the river we find both the latest the latest incarnation of the Founder’s Arms and steps leading down to the river, roughly in the location of the Falcon Stairs (I say roughly as with the building of the walkway and other changes it is impossible to be precise).

Founders 5

A very different pub to the Victorian original but good that for at least 176 years (the earliest record I can find for the Founder’s Arms is from 1839) a pub with the same name has been found in this small area of Bankside.

A rather convoluted story, but one that demonstrates how much is to be found in one very small area of London, and that despite so much reconstruction and change, links with the history of the site are still there to be discovered.

The sources I used to research this post are:

  • Old and New London by Walter Thornbury published in 1881
  • London, South of the Thames by Sir Walter Besant published in 1912
  • Survey of London, Volume XXII published by the London County Council in 1950
  • Old Bankside by Grace Golden published in 1951
  • London by George H. Cunningham published in 1927
  • Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London, editions published in 1913, 1930 and 1940
  • A Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster and the Borough of Southwark by John Rocque published in 1746

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Cardinal Cap Alley And No. 49 Bankside

If you visit Bankside today, by far the main attraction is the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, however I would argue that there is a far more important historical building right next door to the Globe.

The following photo was taken by my father in 1947 and shows Cardinal Cap Alley. The building on the left of the alley is No. 49 Bankside, a building that exists to this day and has somehow managed to survive the considerable rebuilding along Bankside, and whilst having a well documented history, No. 49 also pretends to be something which it is not.

Cardinal Cap Alley

In the above photo, No. 49 and Cardinal Cap Alley are between one of the many industrial buildings along Bankside (Craig & Rose, paint manufacture’s ) and a short terrace of houses that were damaged by bombing in the last war.

The following photo is my 2015 view of the same area and shows No. 49 and Cardinal Cap Alley are now in between the Globe and the rebuilt terrace of houses, which were also reduced from three down to two houses in the post war reconstruction.

Cardinal Cap Alley

Cardinal Cap Alley and No. 49 have a fascinating history that tell so much about how Bankside has changed, and also how the history of the site can be traced to what we see along Bankside today.

As a starter, the following is from the London County Council Survey of London, Volume XXII published in 1950:

“The name Cardinal’s Hat (or Cap), for a house on the site of the present No. 49 Bankside, and for the narrow alley which runs down beside it, dates from at least the time of Elizabeth and perhaps earlier. The suggestion that it was named in compliment to Cardinal Beaufort is attractive but untenable, for Beaufort died in 1447, and the original Cardinal’s Hat was not built till many years later.

The site was described in 1470 as “a void piece of ground”. It is possible that it was named after Cardinal Wolsey who was Bishop of Winchester from 1529-30, although no buildings are mentioned in a sale of the site from John Merston, fishmonger, to Thomas Tailloure, fishmonger in 1533. Stowe lists the Cardinal’s Hat as one of the Stewhouses but he may possibly have been mistaken, including it only because it was one of the more prominent inns on Bankside in his day.

It is shown in the Token Book for 1593 as in occupation of John Raven and as one of a group of houses which in the book for 1588 is described as “Mr. Broker’s Rentes”. Hugh Browker, later the owner of the Manor of Paris Garden, was in possession of ground there in 1579 and it seems likely that he was responsible for the formation of Cardinal’s Cap Alley if not for the building of the original house.

Thomas Mansfield was the tenant of the inn when Edward Alleyn dined there with the “vestrye men” of St. Saviour’s parish in December 1617.

A few years later John Taylor, the water poet makes reference to having supper with “the players” at the Cardinal’s Hat on Bankside. Milchisedeck Fritter, brewer, who tenanted the house from 1627 to 1674 issued a halfpenny token. He was assessed for seven hearths in the hearth tax rolls.

The freehold was sold by Thomas Browker to Thomas Hudson in 1667. The later died in 1688 leaving his “messuages on Bankside” to his sister Mary Greene, with reversion to his great nieces Mary and Sarah Bruce. It was at about this date that the older part of the present house was built. During the 18th century it was bought by the Sells family who both owned and occupied it until 1830. in 1841 Edward Sells of Grove Lane, Camberwell, bequeathed his freehold messauge and yard and stables, being No. 49 Bankside, then in the tenure of George Holditch, merchant, to his son, Vincent Sells. The house is now owned by Major Malcolm Munthe. It has previously been occupied by Anna Lee, the actress.”

Although today the main Bankside attraction is the adjacent Globe Theatre, what does draw the attention of visitors to Bankside is the old looking plaque on No.49 with ornate script stating that Sir Christopher Wren lived in the building during the construction of St. Paul’s Cathedral and that Catherine of Aragon took shelter in the building on her arrival in London. This can be seen to the left of the doorway to No. 49 in my 2015 photo.

Sir Christopher Wren

But a close-up of the 1947 photo shows no evidence of the plaque to the left of the door and there is no mention of it in the 1950 Survey of London.

Cardinal Cap Alley

The origin of this plaque is documented in the really excellent book “The House by the Thames” by Gillian Tindall.

As the name suggests, the book is about the history of No. 49 Bankside, the occupiers of the house and the industries around Bankside. It is one of the most interesting and well researched accounts of a single house and its’ surroundings that I have read.

In the book, Tindall confirms that the plaque is a mid 20th Century invention. Malcolm Munthe, who purchased the house just after the end of the war, probably made the plaque himself and installed on the front of the house. There was a plaque on a house further up Bankside, claiming the occupancy of Wren, however this house was pulled down in 1906.

A close-up of Cardinal Cap Alley and the entrance to No. 49, showing the Wren plaque to the left of the door.

Cardinal Cap Alley

Also note that Cardinal Cap Alley is now gated. This use to be freely accessible and I took the following photo from inside the alley in the 1970s. Could not deal with the contrasting light very well, I was very young and this was with a Kodak Instamatic 126 camera – my very first.

Cardinal Cap 11

I did not take a photo looking down into the alley, probably thinking at the time it was not as good a view as across the river, however it is these views which are so important as they show, what at the time, are the day to day background of the city which are so important to record.

I am very grateful to Geraldine Moyle who sent me the following photo taken in 1973 looking down into Cardinal Cap Alley:

1973 Cardinal Cap Alley

The garden of No. 49 is on the left. Just an ordinary alley, but so typical of all the alleys that would have run back from the water front, between the houses that faced the river.

Tindall’s book runs through the whole history of No.49 and demonstrates how the history of a specific site over the past centuries has influenced the site to this day.

The occupiers of No. 49 and the adjacent buildings ran the ferry boats across the river, were lightermen and watermen and then moved into the coal trade. The Sell’s family who lived in the house for a number of generations, and who built a very successful coal trading business, finally merging with other coal trading companies to form the Charrington, Sells, Dale & Co. business which generally traded under the name of Charrington (a name that will be very familiar to anyone who can remember when there was still domestic coal distribution in the 1960s and 1970s).

How the history of Bankside has evolved over the centuries:

– the original occupations of many Bankside residents of ferrymen, lightermen and watermen. Working on the River Thames with the transportation of people and goods.

–  as the transport of coal became important to London, the development of many coal trading businesses along Bankside, including that of the Sell’s family

– the local coal trading led to the development of coal gas and electricity generation plants at Bankside (the Phoenix Gas Works are shown on the 1875 Ordnance Survey map covering the west side of the current Bankside Power Station / Tate Modern.)

– the first electricity generating plant being replaced by the Bankside Power Station that we see today and is now Tate Modern.

To quote Tindall:

“And this is why at the end of the twentieth century, a huge and distinctive brick red building was there to make an iconic focus for the regeneration of a Bankside from which industrial identity had by then fled.

Thus do patches of London’s ground, which are nothing in themselves but gravel and clay and river mud, and the ground down dust of brick and stone and bones, wood and wormwood and things thrown away, acquire through ancient incidental reasons a kind of genetic programming that persists through time”

This last paragraph sums up my interest in the history of London far better than I could put into words.

I really do recommend “The House by the Thames” by Gillian Tindall.

Going back to 1912, Sir Walter Besant writing in his “London – South of the River” describes Bankside at the height of industrialisation:

“Bankside is closely lined with foundries, engineering shops, dealers in metals, coke, fire-brick, coal, rags, iron and iron girders. the great works of the City of London Electric Lighting Corporation, which lights the city, is also here. On the river-side is a high brick building containing the coal-hoisting machinery. All is automatic; the coal is lifted, conveyed to the furnaces, fed to the fires, and the ashes brought back with hardly any attention whatever, at an immense savings of labour.”

Standing in Bankside today, the area could not be more different.

Another view of No. 49 Bankside. The street in front of these buildings is the original Bankside. As can just be seen, this comes to an abrupt stop due to the land beyond being occupied by the Bankside Power Station complex. It is perhaps surprising that N0.49 and Cardinal Cap Alley have survived this long given the considerable redevelopment along this stretch of the river. It is ironic that perhaps the false plaque claiming Sir Christopher Wren’s occupancy may have contributed to the survival of the building during the last half of the 20th century.

The Globe Bankside

My father also took a photo from Bankside across the river to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The larger ship traveling from left to right is the Firedog, owned by the Gas Light & Coke Company. Originally founded in 1812, the company had a fleet of ships to transport coal to the gas works it operated around London (this was before “natural” gas was discovered in the North Sea. Prior to this, gas was produced from coal). The Gas Light & Coke company absorbed many of the smaller companies across London before being nationalised in 1948 as a major part of North Thames Gas, which was then absorbed into British Gas.

St. Paul's Cathedral

The same view in 2015. The only building on the river front to have survived is the building on the far right.  Note the building in the middle of the 1947 photo. This is the head office of LEP (the letters can just be seen on the roof), the company that operated the last working crane on the Thames in central London, see my earlier post here. It is really good to see that the height of the buildings between the river and St. Paul’s are no higher today than they were in 1947. A very positive result of the planning controls that protect the view of the cathedral.

St. Paul's Cathedral

There is one final reminder of Bankside’s past. Walk past the Globe and on the side of a modern building with a Greek restaurant on the ground floor is the Ferryman’s Seat:

Ferryman's Seat

The plaque states;

“The Ferryman’s seat, located on previous buildings at this site was constructed for the convenience of Bankside watermen who operated ferrying services across the river. The seat’s age is unknown, but it is thought to have ancient origins.”

Although there is no firm evidence of the seat’s antiquity, the 1950 Survey of London for Bankside includes a drawing of the seat in the building on the site at the time and states that “Inserted in a modern building at the corner of Bear Gardens and Bankside is an old stone seat said to have been taken from an earlier building and to have been made for the convenience of watermen.”

Ferryman's Seat

Read Gillian Tindall’s book, then visit Bankside. Ignore the crowds around the Globe and reflect on Cardinal Cap Alley, No. 49 and the lives of countless Londoners who have lived and worked on Bankside over the centuries.

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