Southwark and its bridge

Southwark Bridge Road
Southwark Bridge Road

As we both have things to do around lunchtime tomorrow (Friday, Omelette Day), I went down to Borough today for lunch with Tigger. After lunch I went on a walkabout, taking Southwark Bridge Road as the spine or main axis of the walk.

Southwark Bridge is one of London’s least known bridges, perhaps because access by road is not very easy, but it is not without interest. The present bridge, the second on the site, was opened in 1921. Recently, there have been refurbishment works slowing down the traffic but these are almost finished and the bridge is nearly clear.

London, of course, has attracted to itself people from all over the country and, indeed, from all over the world. Large numbers of Welsh people came to London, right from the times when Wales was still largely Welsh-speaking.

Old Fire Station
Old Fire Station

Near the Borough end of Southwark Bridge Road is the fire station. This is the old station, superseded and now housing the Fire Brigade museum. The new station is not as pretty but is no doubt more efficient.

Borough Welsh Congregational Chapel
Borough Welsh Congregational Chapel

As a result there are a number of Welsh chapels in London, still holding services in Welsh or bilingual services.

It is no secret that church attendance is in serious decline and as a result, many minority churches, including Welsh chapels, are unable to continue, but this one, the Borough Welsh Congregational Chapel (Capel-y-Boro) seems to be surviving and lays claim to a proud historical heritage, as proclaimed in a notice at the entrance.

Mention Southwark to tea or coffee lovers and they will remind you that this is the home of Edward Bramah’s famous Tea and Coffee Museum and tea room. Afternoon tea was served properly there with cakes on a multilevel cake stand, often to the accompaniment of live piano music.

Bramah tea room as it was
Bramah tea room as it was
The site today
The site today

Unfortunately, the Museum has been closed for some time and although the Web site promises it will reopen “early in 2009”, there is no sign of this happening. Worse: the site is now occupied by another business entirely, as you can see in the photo above. No announcement seems to have been made as to its fate.

Just before we reach the bridge, we encounter some large commercial buildings, such as the one on the left below. Nothing odd about that, you might say, and you would be right, except for the fact that in front of this building there is the small memorial garden pictured on the right.

Corporate building Memorial garden

All I know about this touching tribute is the grey plaque with golden letters that reads as follows:

IN MEMORY OF
JO LOUISE MINVALLA
WHO DIED TRAGICALLY
AFTER BEING STRUCK HERE ON
6TH JULY 1990

Whatever tragedy overtook Jo Louise, she is loved and remembered and we can only sympathize with those who created this garden for her.

Opposite is the premises of that icon of the world of money, the Financial Times. I lost interest in it when the Lucy Kellaway’s Martin Lukes column could no longer be accessed without subscribing.

Financial Times building Anchor Terrace

Next to it is this fine stand of (we think) Georgian houses. This used to be the site of the Anchor Brewery, so these houses probably provided accommodation for the more important members of the firm. These days they are offices with a rather prestigious address.

Views from Southwark Bridge are quite pleasant on a sunny day. (Actually, we had both sun and rain today, which added spice to the photography.)

Downstream view
Downstream: Cannon Street station and railway bridge and St Mary Axe aka “the Gherkin”

Upstream view
Upstream: the Tate Modern and the Millennium Bridge

Two features of Southwark Bridge are famous: the pierced turrets atop the supporting piers and the triple lamps. The seats in the turrets might once have been pleasant places to sit but these days they are better employed as storage points for safety equipment.

Pierced turret Triple lamp

The “triple” lamps are now single, of course, although if you look closely at the remains of the side lamps, you can still see the old gas taps.

From the Bridge, I walked on down and discovered some more wonders but I think this post is already long enough, so I will save the rest for another time.

I will leave you with another view of the Thames because I love the Thames: there is always something to see on and around it and it opens up the city, bringing in light and air and sunshine. The Thames created London and still today it casts its magic over the city.

Thames and St Paul's

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About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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3 Responses to Southwark and its bridge

  1. Ian says:

    Jo Minvalla was killed in a storm which blew the scaffolding around the construction site down on her. She was much loved, a native of Poole, and was studying in London. Devastating for her family and mine – my son was soft on her!

    • SilverTiger says:

      Thank you very much for that information. I’m glad to know the story behind the memorial even though it is a sad one.

      I hope your son has now recovered from the sad loss of a young life.

    • Pete Minvalla says:

      Hi Ian – I am Jo’s brother. What actually happened was a shuttering board was being handled by 3 building workers on the top floor and a gust of wind took it over the edge and it hit her in the back of her head… There was no edge protection in place. What is your son’s name I may well know him!

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