Bermondsey in 1878

A description of Bermondsey in 1878 by Charles Knight

Drawing of the Anchor Brewhouse in Horsleydown

“Noble arches here and there bestride the streets of Bermondsey, bearing up a railway, with its engines puffing like so many overworked giants, and its rapid trains of passengers; an elegant free school enriches one part, and a picturesque church another; but they all serve by contrast to show more vividly the unpleasant features of the neighbourhood, and, whilst they cannot but command the spectator’s admiration, make him at the same time wonder how they got there. The answer is at hand. There is great industry in Bermondsey, and the wretchedness is more on the surface than in the depth of this quarter of the town.”

“Both here, and also in the adjoining parish of Rotherhithe, extensive manufactures are carried on: in Bermondsey the tanners and ropemakers abound; at Rotherhithe, timber merchants, sawyers, and boat-builders.”

Grammar School of St Olav’s, 1810

“It is difficult to imagine that a neighbourhood now so crowded with wharves and warehouses, granaries and factories, mills, breweries, and places of business of all kinds, and where the busy hum of men at work like bees in a hive is incessant, can have been, not many centuries since, a region of fields and meadows, pastures for sheep and cattle, with pleasant houses and gardens, shady lanes where lovers might wander (not unseen), clear streams with stately swans, and cool walks by the river-side. Horselydown was a large field anciently used by the neighbouring inhabitants for pasturing their horses and cattle, and was called Horsedown or Horseydown.”

“Shad Thames, and, indeed, the whole river-side, contain extensive granaries and storehouses for the supply of the metropolis. Indeed, from Morgan’s Lane — a turning about the middle of Tooley Street, on the north side, to St. Saviour’s (once called Savory) Dock, the whole line of street — called in one part Pickle Herring Street, and in another Shad Thames — exhibits an uninterrupted series of wharves, warehouses, mills, and factories, on both sides of the narrow and crowded roadway. The buildings on the northern side are contiguous to the river, and through gateways and openings in these we witness the busy scenes and the mazes of shipping which pertain to such a spot.”

[Extracted from: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol6/pp100-117]

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