Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
The Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey was formed from the vestries of St Olave and St Mary Magdalen in Bermondsey, and St Mary the Virgin in Rotherhithe. The new borough was created in 1900 and the coat of arms was granted a year later. It comprises emblems for each the three constituent parishes.
St Mary Magdalen Church was once a part of Bermondsey Abbey and was where the Abbey’s lay workers worshipped. This is represented by the lion and crosier.
St Olave’s Church is represented by the axe and crown which were emblems of King Olaf of Norway. The king was later beatified and a church dedicated to him was built in Tooley Street. This was demolished in the early 20th century and the art deco St Olaf House built on the site.
The parish of St Mary the Virgin in Rotherhithe is situated in what used to be the centre of the shipbuilding industry in London and is represented by the ship on the coat of arms which also relates to the Surrey Commercial Docks.
The motto Prosunt Gentribus Artes translates into Arts Profit the People.
The Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey became part of the enlarged Borough of Southwark in 1965 which was awarded a coat of arms a year later. It comprises elements from the coats of arms of the former Metropolitan Boroughs of Bermondsey, Camberwell and Southwark with figures depicting Hamlet and the esquire from the Canterbury Tales reflecting Southwark's proud literary heritage. It can be seen with a full description on the Mayor of Southwark's webpage on the Southwark Council website.
The coat of arms in the photo at the top of the page stands over the entrance to the Leisure Centre in Lower Road, Rotherhithe which was opened in the last days of the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey.