The Borough, which is, confusingly, today part of the Borough of Southwark, lies to the south of the Thames at London Bridge. It’s main artery is Borough High Street, itself an ancient and historically interesting thoroughfare about which much could be said. I walked along it today and took a few photos. These, as the title indicated, show only a few bits of the Street, which could bear a more thorough exploration.
I started at the bottom end where Borough High Street meets Newington Causeway, whose name reminds us that this used to be an area of marshland. The above picture looks towards the Elephant and Castle, another interesting quarter.
The view up Borough High Street towards London Bridge used to be dominated by the spire of St George’s, but the church is today overshadowed by the monstrosity called the Shard which is intended to be the tallest building in Europe and a blot on the landscape of London.
This is Southwark Police station, not very interesting in itself perhaps, but a plate on the wall (to the right of the gentleman in the beige coat) tells us that during the Civil War, this was the position of the Stones End fort, set up by the Parliamentarians to defend to approaches to London.
In those days, all the roads from the south to London converged here because London Bridge was the sole entry into London. The bridge was too narrow for vehicles so that coaches stopped here and deposited their passengers at the many coaching inns which, side by side, lined the street.
Southwark is famous for its cathedral but Borough High Street has its own church, that of St George the Martyr, seen here from the churchyard, now a garden. It was rebuilt in the 1730s after what became known as the “Little Fire of London” devastated much of the area in 1676.
The church and churchyard are today separated by a pedestrian walkway called Tabard Street in memory of a famous inn that stood near here and about which a slightly curious tale is told. The inn was destroyed in the fire and later rebuilt but as the Talbot. Why? According to the story, because the signwriter misunderstood his brief!
The north side of the churchyard is limited by this high wall. If you think it looks rather elaborate for a churchyard, you would be right. It was the wall of the famous Marshallsea Prison which in 1824 detained the father of Charles Dickens, jailed for debt.
Today a public passage runs where Dickens Sr languished. There were in fact two prisons here, Marshalsea and the Surrey County or White Lion prison. The latter closed in 1799 and Marshalsea was demolished in 1887.
Further along is the War Memorial with its First World War soldier shown in graphic detail by P. Lindsey Clark.
Beside the memorial is this property with a gated yard and a building that is said to be the last half-timbered house in the area with an overhanging upper floor. I would have liked to go in but there was a prominent “Private” notice on the gate.
A slightly unusual trade represented in the area was hop trading and this very pretty building for W.H. and H. LeMay still stands as a reminder. It will have been built in the 19th century but I do not know the precise date.
One cannot talk about the Borough without mentioning Borough Market. Its history goes back to the Middle Ages but the current building dates from 1932. The life of the market has been somewhat disrupted in recent times by work to extend the nearby railway.
The original viaduct dates from 1874 and acts as a bottleneck preventing easy movement in and out of this very busy station which serves the south and south-east.
A new viaduct is creeping slowly but inexorably towards the station. At some point it will have to reach across the busy main road, its path lengthened by the diagonal angle. How they will do this remains to be seen.
At this point, I turned and went underground, into London Bridge tube station, from where I was carried, first under the river, and then to the Angel, where the longest escalator in London restored me to the surface. There is still plenty to see in the Borough and in Southwark in general. I hope to make further explorations in due course.