Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
3 June 2017
Welcome to Exploring Southwark, a website that visits places of interest throughout the London Borough of Southwark and discovers their history and the human and social story behind them. Some are well known, others more off the beaten track, and there is an emphasis on places and buildings from the 19th century. The website has grown out of my love of walking around London and a curiosity to find out more about the buildings and places I come across. Hopefully it will appeal to both residents and visitors alike.
There are many pages devoted to the wonderful parks and open spaces we have in Southwark, the history of their formation is sometimes surprisingly interesting. For example, do you know which open space owes its existence to an American heiress from a well known family who was a most unlikely London County Councillor?
Southwark is a borough of great contrast and variety, a long, triangular shaped borough that covers the area south of the River Thames between Bankside, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe down to the southernmost tip in Crystal Palace Parade. It extends from the busy urban Bankside and Borough area, home to the Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre, to the more leafy peaceful suburbs of Dulwich.
There has been a settlement in the Borough since Roman times and the villages of Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Newington, Walworth, Camberwell, Peckham, Nunhead and Dulwich gradually developed with their own individual identities. When the population of London increased dramatically in the 19th century and the railways arrived, the separate villages became part of the urban sprawl of London but still maintained their individual identities and characters.
The individual villages were run by their respective parish vestries, but when the Metropolitan Board of Works was created in 1855 it became responsible for many local government issues throughout London but some matters were still dealt with by the local vestries which now became non-secular. The London County Council replaced the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1889 and in 1900 the Metropolitan Boroughs of Southwark, Bermondsey and Camberwell were formed. These were amalgamated to form the London Borough of Southwark in 1965 at the time of the creation of the Greater London Council.