Monthly Archives: December 2018

A Return To Bermondsey Wall – Bevington Street, George Row And Bridge House

A couple of months ago, I featured a photo that my father had taken in Bermondsey. He had written the following notes to explain when and where the photo was taken “Flockton Street looking south from Bermondsey Wall. 19th century slum dwellings ravaged by the blitz – Summer 1948”. When I visited what remains of Flockton Street I was doubtful that this was the right location. Many features of the existing streets and in the photo did not line up.

I am really gratefull to a number of readers who identified the correct location as being Bevington Street in Bermondsey, and that a couple of the features in the original 1948 photo can still be seen to confirm. A quick look at Google Streetview clearly showed the location, however I was not content just to use Streetview as the purpose of this project is to revisit and photograph from the same viewpoints as in my father’s photos, so a couple of weeks ago I took another walk to Bermondsey to photograph Bevington Street – a location I have walked past a number of times, but for reasons I will explain later in the post, I was looking in the other direction.

My revisit also enabled the location of another photo to be confirmed, and I also found the location of a building photographed for the Wonderful London series of books published in 1926.

This is the view of Bevington Street from Bermondsey Wall photographed by my father in 1948:

Bermondsey Wall

And this is the same view today:

Bermondsey Wall

There are only two features that remain the same, but serve to confirm the location. The school on the left and the small brick building on the right which now appears to house an electrical substation – remarkable that in all the redevelopment of the area this small building has survived.

So where is Bevington Street? The following extract from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Atlas of Greater London shows the location. Bevington Street can be seen just to the right of the large Y. The school is further to the right, just across Farncombe Street.

Bermondsey Wall

Flockton Street, the wrongly identified location can be seen to the left, leading off from Bermondsey Wall, so these streets are very close. I suspect my father wrote up his notes for the photos after developing the negatives and looking at his route on the map, accidentally picked the wrong street.

I have used this 1940 map as it helps to explain a feature that can be seen today.

Bevington Street ends at Bermondsey Wall, and directly across from Bevington Street, between Bermondsey Wall and the River Thames is Fountain Green Square. The following photo is the view from the end of Bevington Street, looking across Bermondsey Wall to Fountain Green Square.

Bermondsey Wall

The name is very appropriate as there is a central green with a stone fountain in the centre. New housing is arranged around two sides of the green and the River Thames is alongside the far side of the green.

Looking back at the 1940 map and there is a feature here called Fountain Dock. The 1895 Ordnance Survey Map provides some additional detail and shows the shape and location of Fountain Dock.

Bermondsey Wall

Credit: ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ 

The Southwark Council Conservation Area Appraisal (February 2013) confirms that the site of Fountain Green Square was the site of Fountain Dock, and that the dock was one of the few dry docks that operated along this part of the river.

Checking the overlay feature on the National Library of Scotland site, the dry docks appears over the easterly part of the green and partly under the houses on the eastern edge of the green, rather than occupying the full space of the green.

I checked the London Metropolitan Archives, Collage site and there are two photos from 1929 that show the dry dock. The first is looking from the north west corner of the dock, back towards where Bermondsey Wall runs right to left.

Bermondsey Wall

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0912_A52734

The second photo, also from 1929, is looking from the south east corner of the dock, towards the river and the direction of the City.

Bermondsey Wall

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0912_A5273

These photos from 1929 show Fountain Dock much as it must have been in the 19th century. Dry docks are important as they allow the hull of a ship to be inspected and worked on. The ship was moved into the dock, gates to the river closed and water pumped out from the dock, so somewhere alongside there must have been a building that housed the pump.

In an advert for the dry dock in Lloyd’s List on the 13th May 1893, the dimensions are given as a length of 161 feet and depth of 16 feet. The dock was owned by Mills & Knight who also owned the larger Nelson Dry Dock in Rotherhithe.

In addition to numerous adverts for the dry dock, 19th century newspapers included reports of accidents at the dock, as well as ships for sale. It appears to have been standard practice to offer a ship for sale when the ship is in dry dock for repair. The earliest example I could find was from the Shipping & Mercantile Gazette on the 27th August 1850, when the following ship was in Fountain Dry Dock and advertised for sale:

“The A1 Liverpool-built Barque BRAZILIAN, 345 tons, now lying in the Fountain Dry Dock, and ready for inspection; is in the course of re-coppering, &c., and, if not sold within a reasonable time, will be sent out again by her present owner. Length, 107 feet; breadth, 23 1-10 feet; depth 13 3-10 feet; carries a large cargo at an extraordinary light draught of water, and shifts without ballast”.

The following photo is the view taken from roughly the same viewpoint as the above photo. Today there is a fountain in the centre of the green.

Bermondsey Wall

The 1895 Ordnance Survey Map does not show a fountain, so I do not know if the fountain was moved here when the green was created to provide some relevance to the name. I doubt the fountain was here originally as it looks of rather fine construction to have been in such an industrial area – however I also do not know how Fountain Dock was named.

The origin of the name Bevington Street is interesting. When looking for this street on the 1895 OS map, whilst the street is there, in 1895 is was named Princes Road. It had changed to the current name sometime between 1895 and the 1940 map.

Although I have not been able to find any written confirmation of this, I suspect the name change may have been in the first decade of the 20th century. Bevington probably refers to Colonel Samuel Bourne Bevington. 

When Bermondsey Borough Council was formed in 1900, Samuel Bevington was the first mayor and he was reelected the following year. He came from the family that had established  Bevington and Sons, a company that manufactured leather products at Neckinger Mills in Abbey Street, Bermondsey. He was also a Colonel of the West Surrey Regiment, Justice of the Peace, on school boards and coming from a Quaker background, used family money to support a number of philanthropic activities.

Samuel Bourne Bevington died on the 14th April 1907 leaving a considerable estate to the value of £133,195. His will included money to provide income for four men and four women over the age of 60 who had been engaged in the leather trade.

Because of his role in the leather trade in Bermondsey, that he was the first mayor of Bermondsey Borough Council, and his other activities, I suspect that after his death, the council looked at ways to commemorate him, and one of the ways within their power was to rename one of the local streets, so Princes Road became Bevington Street.

There is much else of interest to be seen from the junction of Bevington Street and Bermondsey Wall.

A very short distance to the east along Bermondsey Wall is a rather unique, listed pub – the Old Justice.

Bermondsey Wall

The pub, as with so many London pubs, has closed, however the building is Grade II listed.

The reason for the listing is that the pub is a rather well preserved example of a style of pub design from the inter-war period. The majority of Victorian London pubs were small and focused on drinking. The design initiatives after the First World War, focused on improving the pub environment, the provision of space for other activities apart from basic drinking, for example with the provision of restaurant space and a function room.

The Old Justice was designed by Sidney C Clark in 1933 for the Hoare & Co brewery. It followed a mock Tudor design that was frequently used on many pubs of the period.

Hoare & Co were taken over by Charringtons and the pub has a pair of Charrington lanterns on the frount, these probably date from the 1960s.

Bermondsey Wall

Alongside one of the lanterns is a plaque recording that Sir Paul McCartney used interiors and exteriors of the Old Justice as locations in his film “Give My Regards To Broad Street” and in the music video to “No More Lonely Nights”.

As well as the pub, the film also has some fascinating shots of the front of the warehouses along the Thames in Bermondsey.

I looked in through the windows of the Old Justice and the interior looks to have been reasonably well gutted, although the wooden paneling remains on the walls and the fireplace is still intact.

The Old Justice is just to the east of the junction of Bevington Street and Bermondsey Wall. To the west is another building that is earlier than the majority of buildings in the area. This is Fountain House:

Bermondsey Wall

I am not sure when Fountain House was constructed, or whether the name is original. however it did feature in another of my father’s photos of Bermondsey. I have now been able to identify the following photo as having been taken in Loftie Street, which runs parallel to part of Bevington Street.

Bermondsey Wall

The rear of Fountain House is on the left of the photo, but what confirmed the location was the rear of the electrical substation building that was one of the surviving features in the photo of Bevington Street. The rear of this building can be seen in the above photo, to the right of Fountain House.

The houses are the rear of the houses that front onto Bevington Street. Washing is hanging to dry at the rear of one house, and I am fascinated by the height of the chimneys on these houses.

What must be the remains of a bomb site is to the front of the photo.

I tried to take a photo from a similar position today, but it was not easy with the buildings and fences that now occupy the area, however in the following photo, the rear of Fountain House can be seen, and just to the right, a small part of the top of the rear wall of the electrical substation building is just visible.

Bermondsey Wall

There was one additional place I wanted to track down. When I was looking for Flockton Street, I walked along George Row, which runs parallel to the original route of Flockton Street. The name George Row was familiar and I recently remembered where I had seen the name.

In 1926 a three volume set of photos and articles titled “Wonderful London” was published and the first main photo in volume 3 was titled “The Bridge House In George Row, Bermondsey”.

Bermondsey Wall

The caption with the above photo read:

“Bermondsey has had its royal palace dating perhaps from Edward the Confessor, and it was only in 1805 that the North Gate of its Abbey was taken down. The building in the photograph is called the Bridge House, since it stands where a bridge was built over one of the creeks that entered the river and made, with what is called St. Saviour’s Dock, Jacob’s Island. This was a densely populated quarter a hundred years ago, and its many canals and ditches had a Dutch air, according to the chroniclers”.

George Row today is a wide street that runs from Jamaica Road down to Bermondsey Wall. There are no buildings that look like the above photo and I was doubtful that I could find the location, however I turned to the 1895 Ordnance Survey map, and at the northern end of George Row, close to the junction with Bermondsey Wall, there is a building clearly labelled Bridge House. The map also shows the steps leading down from the building with what appear to be steps leading down from the building on the eastern side and sidesteps on the western side. This would confirm that the photo from Wonderful London was taken of the eastern face of the building.

Bermondsey Wall

Credit: ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ 

It was easy now to find the location of Bridge House, the map overlay feature helped confirm exactly where to look. Bridge House was not directly on George Row. In the above map there is a space, which appears to be open space between the building and street, and this configuration remains today.

The following photo shows the location of Bridge House today, with a 4 storey block of flats – Providence Square – now standing in what appears to be almost the same footprint of Bridge House.

Bermondsey Wall

It would be interesting to know why the new building did not extend to George Row. Developers tend to maximise the amount they can build and make use of every available bit of space and the area between the building and George Row serves no apparent purpose.

I walked up to the edge of the building to take a photo from roughly the same position as the photo from Wonderful London.

Bermondsey Wall

The caption to the photograph in Wonderful London explains the source of the original name for the building: “The building in the photograph is called the Bridge House, since it stands where a bridge was built over one of the creeks that entered the river and made, with what is called St. Saviour’s Dock, Jacob’s Island”.

There are no signs of the creek today, however maps provide some indications.

In the 1895 Ordnance Survey map the word Neckinger can be seen running alongside George Row. This refers to the River Neckinger. I have read many different accounts of where the Neckinger entered the River Thames, most claim that St. Saviour’s Dock was the main estuary of the Neckinger into the Thames, however this was always low lying marsh land, and there have been many canals and ditches built in this area (I mentioned the 19th century walled drain in my post on Flockton Street, and the outline of this drain can still be seen running across the street).

The book “Bermondsey, Its Historic Memories And Associations” written by E.T. Clarke and published in 1902 provides a location for the creek and bridge. The book includes the following map of the area.

Bermondsey Wall

The so called Jacob’s Island is in the centre of the map, bounded by the Thames at the bottom of the map, St. Saviours Dock to the right, a canal running alongside London Street to the top, and on the left, a canal running along the full length of George Row.

Based on the locations of streets that can still be found today, I have circled in red the bridge that gave Bridge House its name.

This is pure speculation, but it may be that Bridge House is the rectangular building on the above map to the lower right of the red circle.

I do not know when this canal or extension of the Neckinger was filled in – it had disappeared by the time of the 1895 map, but it is interesting that the open space between George Row and the building that now occupies the location of Bridge House would have been where the canal ran.

Finding the location of Bridge House helps to understand how this area has developed over the centuries. Fountain Green Square provides a link to the dry dock that once occupied the site, and Bevington Street records the first mayor of Bermondsey and the leather industry of area.

Finding Bevington Street means I can tick off another of my father’s photos from 70 years ago. My thanks again to everyone who identified the correct location of the photo.

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The Angel Rotherhithe

There are many good reasons for a walk along the River Thames, east from Tower Bridge to Rotherhithe. Views over the river, the historic streets, historic architecture and a number of excellent pubs. One of which is the subject of this week’s post – The Angel Rotherhithe.

My father took the following photo of the pub from the foreshore of the river in 1951:

Angel Rotherhithe

I have been meaning to take a photo of the same view for a couple of years, however my previous walks here have been when the tide has not been low enough, or last year when the tide was low, but the pub had scaffolding around the building.

I was lucky on my recent visit as the tide was low, building work had finished and after some early morning rain, the weather was improving. This is the same view of the Angel Rotherhithe in 2018 from the foreshore of the River Thames:

Angel Rotherhithe

The pub looks much the same despite the 67 years between the two photos. Cosmetic changes, and I suspect some of the woodwork has been replaced.

There is one aspect of my father’s original photo that is a mystery. If you look along the balcony facing the river, there is a wooden panel with what appears to be two badges. I have zoomed in on the original negative scan and I cannot make out what they are. I have enlarged and cropped these out to show in the photo below:

Angel Rotherhithe

They both look to have some form of cross. The lower with a darker cross is a bit more clear than the one above. I do not know if the lower badge is that of the City of London.

They are on the balcony facing the river, so I suspect have some relevance to the working river. I would really appreciate any information as to what these symbols may mean.

There is easy access to the foreshore here, there are stairs just to the right side of the pub in the above photo, these are the Rotherhithe Stairs with a better view in the photo below:

Angel Rotherhithe

A short distance along the river to the east are another set of stairs, the stairs I used to walk down to the foreshore, shown in the photo below. These are the modern replacement for the King’s Stairs. One of the many sets of stairs that used to exist down to the river.

Angel Rotherhithe

From the foreshore it is possible to appreciate the tidal range of the River Thames. The green algae on the walls show the normal tidal range, with occasional high tides reaching further up the wall.

The King’s Stair’s and Rotherhithe Stair’s have been providing access to the river for many centuries. They were both shown on the 1746 Rocque map of London, although the Rotherhithe Stair’s were recorded as Redriff Stair’s (one of the earlier names for Rotherhithe).

Angel Rotherhithe

I suspect that the wooden posts supporting the balcony of the pub have been replaced since my father’s photo. The remains of the angled post shown in the 1951 photo can still be seen, the top part of the post showing considerable signs of decay. The posts also look as if the upper parts have been renewed but the lower section is older. The upper parts are smoother than the lower and they appear of different age.

Angel Rotherhithe

The Angel Rotherhithe is a wonderful early 19th century pub. Grade II listed and dating from the 1830s. The listing states that the building potentially includes material from a 17th century building that occupied the same position.  The entrance is on the westerly facing corner of the building, adjacent to the stairs leading down to the river.

Angel Rotherhithe

Over the years the pub has served the many, varied functions of a public house, over and above selling alcohol. It has hosted inquests, been the meeting place of clubs and societies, sales have taken place and the pub has been used as a contact address. Customers have occasionally attempted fraud (a common method appears to be demanding change when not originally having handed over any note or coin), along with the time in 1845 when the landlady was charged with allowing drinking in the Angel at 11 in the morning on a Sunday.

The Angel has open space on either side of the pub building. Space once occupied by the many working buildings along the river, but today transformed into a space to admire the full sweep of the Thames.

To the west of the Angel, a cat sits on the river wall.

Angel Rotherhithe

The cat is part of a group of figures by the sculptor Diane Gorvin titled “Dr Salter’s Daydream”.

Angel Rotherhithe

The Salter’s were a family who had a considerable impact on the lives of those living in Bermondsey.

Ada Brown was born in 1866 and moved to Bermondsey to work in the slums in one of the Settlements established across London. Alfred Salter was a student at Guy’s Hospital when he met Ada at the Bermindsey Settlement.

They married in 1900 and lived in Bermondsey. Both Ada and Alfred worked tirelessly to improve conditions in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe.

Ada became a Labour councilor, the first woman councilor in Bermondsey in 1909 and set about recruiting women workers to trade unions to organise against the terrible working conditions in the area’s factories.

Alfred was elected MP for Bermondsey in 1909, the same year as Ada was elected Mayor.

Health for those living in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe was not good. Tuberculosis was rife and average life expectancy was at the low end of what could be expected across the whole of London.

Long before the NHS they promoted free medical treatment and education on how hygiene could improve health and prevent disease.

These initiatives resulted in the death rate being reduced from 16.7 per 1,000 down to 12.9 per 1,000 of population in the five years following 1922.

Alfred worked on slum clearance programes whilst Ada focused on how the appearance of an area could improve living conditions, initiatives such as tree planting, public gardens and flower planting.

Ada died in 1942 and Alfred three years later in 1945. The group of statues next to the Angel reveal a tragedy in the lives of the Salter’s. The third statue, up against the river wall is that of a young girl. This is Joyce, their only child who died from scarlet fever in 1920, aged 8.

The title of the group is “Dr. Salter’s Daydream” and represents Alfred in his old age, dreaming of happier times with his wife Ada, their daughter Joyce and her cat.

I am not sure what Alfred would have thought with the statues being located next to the Angel pub as newspaper reports of his death included:

“An advocate of total abstinence, Dr. Salter once declared that he had seen many M.P.s drunk in the House and added that no party was exempt from that failing. He refused to withdraw the statement, and later spoke of Labour Members who ‘soak themselves until they are stupid’. Clergymen and ministers who drank in moderation, he declared, were worse enemies to the temperance cause than clergymen who were drunkards.”

He was also a pacifist. In coverage of local elections in 1907, the London Daily News reported that:

“Bermondsey’s other Councillor, Dr. Cooper, was also elected to Parliament last year. He immediately resigned from the L.C.C. and the seat was retained by Dr. Alfred Salter, who is again before the electors. Dr. Salter is a Quaker and life abstainer, and has resided at the Bermondsey Settlement for several years. He got his municipal training on the Bermondsey Borough Council. As a Passive Resister he has been to prison nine times.”

Dr. Alfred Salter in 1907:

Angel Rotherhithe

The open space next to the Angel provides some wonderful views of the river. Starting with the westerly view towards the City and Tower Bridge:

Angel Rotherhithe

Directly across the river to Wapping:

Angel Rotherhithe

Looking east along the river towards Shadwell:

Angel Rotherhithe

Three years before my father took the photo of the Angel at the top of the post, he took a river trip from Westminster to Greenwich and took photos along the way. The following photo shows the Angel in August 1948.

Angel Rotherhithe

Barges fill the river and large warehouses fill the space to the right of the Angel.

The large, flat roof warehouse was relatively recent. This was a bonded tobacco warehouse built in the 1930s in place of a previous 1907 warehouse (which was probably in place of earlier warehouses).

The LMA Collage archive includes a photo from 1956 of the Angle and the large, 1930s warehouse:

Angel Rotherhithe

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_040_81_9834

Surprisingly, given the size of the warehouse building, the remains of a much earlier building survived underneath. Much of the space that was occupied by the warehouse is now a large grassed space just to the south west of the Angel. There are the remains of some walls visible above the grass, the remains of King Edward III’s Manor House.

Angel Rotherhithe

Edward III reigned for a surprising long 50 years (for the fourteenth century) from 1327 to 1377. The manor house was constructed on a low lying island when much of the land here was still marsh.

The manor house consisted of a central open courtyard surrounded by buildings with a moat around three sides. The fourth side was open to the River Thames as the land on which Bermondsey Wall now runs had not yet been reclaimed.

There is no written record of why Edward III had a manor house in what must have been a rather damp and isolated place in the 14th century. The information panel states that there is documentary reference to the housing of the king’s falcons ‘in the chamber’ so perhaps it was the isolation and marshy land that provided the perfect place for falconry, at a location easy to access from the river and not far from the City.

The growth of industry eastwards from the City resulted in construction of embankments and walls along the river which cut off the house from the river by the end of the 16th century. The buildings were sold and used for a variety of purposes, before being integrated within the expanding warehouses along the river in the 18th and 19th century.

Some of the walls were still standing at the start of the 20th century when they were part of a 1907 warehouse.

The walls that remain above the current ground level may not look all that impressive (although to me, finding 14th century remains in Rotherhithe is impressive), however much of what was found when the site was excavated in the 1980s was buried for protection.

The buried southern wall includes the remains of what may have been a staircase. The manor house extended beyond the grassed area to include the houses that can be seen to the south and three medieval stone lined cesspits were found during excavations and preserved under these houses.

Excavations also identified a possible late Bronze Age ditch, two Roman pits and additional medieval features, so perhaps this area close the river was reasonably dry and attracted people to build, live and work here for many centuries.

The view from the opposite corner to the above photo, looking back over the remains of the manor house towards the Angel Rotherhithe.

Angel Rotherhithe

This is a fascinating area. Within such a small area there are two historic stairs down to the river, a group of statues commemorating a couple that did much to improve the conditions of the people of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, as well as the grief they must have felt in the loss of their only child, along with the remains of a 14th century Manor House.

Angel Rotherhithe

The Angel Rotherhithe is also one of my favourite places to stand with a pint on a sunny day and watch the Thames flowing past.

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