A few bits of Borough High Street

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.

Looking down Newington Causeway
Looking down Newington Causeway

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.

Looking towards London Bridge (not yet visible)
Looking towards London Bridge (not visible)

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.

Southwark Police station
Southwark Police station

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.

Church of St George the Martyr
Church of St George the Martyr

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.

St George's churchyard
St George’s churchyard

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!

What's in a wall
What’s in a wall?

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.

A passage runs where the prisons once stood
A passage runs where the prisons once stood

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.

War Memorial
War Memorial

Ships Planes
The bronze panels are by the same sculptor

Further along is the War Memorial with its First World War soldier shown in graphic detail by P. Lindsey Clark.

Yard with half-timbered house
Yard with half-timbered house

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.

W H and H LeMay, Hop Facors
W H and H LeMay, Hop Facors

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.

Borough Market
Borough Market

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.

London Bridge viaduct
London Bridge viaduct

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.

The new viaduct
The new viaduct

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.

St George (Borough War Memorial)
St George (Borough War Memorial)

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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 A few bits of Borough High Street

  1. WOL says:

    St. Geo the Martyr looks like it’s built higher on one side than on the other. I’d like to know how that works out inside. Interesting how they just left up one wall of the Marshalsea when they took the building down. Too bad Dickens, fils, didn’t live to see it torn down. The railway extension is for surface trains, I take it. Interesting that during your Civil War London Bridge was not wide enough for coach traffic — I assume by “coach” you mean the large mail coaches or similar coaches which would have been drawn by 4-6 horses. I assume a carriage with a single horse would have fit — I can’t imagine the well-to-do walking across, especially the ladies. Interesting relief of St. George in armour with sword and shield, but without a helmet.

    • SilverTiger says:

      I read many accounts of people riding across the bridge but none of people going across in carriages of any sort. There had been a sequence of bridges and later ones had 2- and 3-storey buildings on both sides and a chapel in the middle, so it is very plausible that the walkway was too narrow even for the smallest horse-drawn carriage. People who went across either walked or rode, including the king.

      I don’t know what the Church of St George the Martyr is like inside. It seems to be kept locked so one would probably have to visit it during a service when wandering about and taking photos would not be appreciated.

      I assume the relief of St George represents an “after the battle” moment when the saint considers his fallen enemy. He is a rather feminine looking male.

  2. WOL says:

    Duh! — I wasn’t thinking. They had sedan chairs during that time — I would imagine one could make a tidy living running people across the bridge in a sedan chair, or anywhere else throught the tangled narrow streets.

    http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2008/11/02/sedan-chairs-an-efficient-mode-of-transportation-in-georgian-london/

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