Southwark Boundary

Px00135 - 4 Jan 2015

Above: Street map taken from Bartholomew’s Atlas of Greater London, printed in 1961.

One of the complex subjects relating to Southwark is where its original eastern boundary with Bermondsey ran. Many parish boundaries just run down the middle of a road or a river. What makes this boundary complicated is that the boundary of medieval Southwark ran around the houses and their land on the eastern side of Borough High Street. The properties are long gone and so the boundary has continued to cross land that has been acquired by different owners.

At the northern end, where Borough High Street joins onto London Bridge, a new bridge was opened in 1831 on a new site – just west of the old one. This meant that Borough High Street had to be re-aligned to meet the new bridge.

The only street map to show the eastern boundary of Southwark with Bermondesy would have to be printed before 1965. Until that date Bermondsey and Southwark were separate Metropolitan Boroughs. In 1965 they was combined (along with Camberwell) to form the larger London Borough of Southwark. Notice that the name ‘Southwark’ can therefore apply to the old Metropolitan Borough and to the new London Borough.

At the northern end, the boundary line is seen to run just east of today’s London Bridge. That is because it followed the line of the old bridge. From that point the red dotted line aligns very roughly with the eastern side of Borough High Street before running down the centre of St Thomas Street. This, as the map shows, leaves London Bridge Station in Bermondsey but the older part of Guy’s Hospital in Southwark.

The dotted line then turns again, to follow a narrow street with the interesting name of Great Maze Pond. There was indeed once a maze on that land in the 17th century. The dotted line leaves Newcomen Street in Southwark and the street called Snowsfields in Bermondsey.

The dotted line continues south along Crosby Row before joining Long Lane. Eventually the boundary joins onto Old Kent Road.

We can therefore make a brief summary for Southwark: All the narrow turnings on the east side of Borough Street (like Talbot Yard and George Yard, where the George Inn stands) are all within the old Southwark boundary. The original buildings of Guy’s Hospital are also inside the Southwark boundary although the very large modern hospital blocks, to the east, stand on land that was once part of Bermondsey.

For Bemondsey: London Bridge Station stands on land that was part of Bermondsey. The modern Shard of Glass also stands on land that was part of Bermondsey, including the smaller buildings recently erected between the station and Borough High Street.

Land on the northern side of St Thomas Street is, according to the map, part of Bermondsey. It is now where the St Thomas’s Chapel stands and where St Thomas’s Hospital used to stand before it was relocated to Lambeth. Strictly speaking, the hospital should come under the history of Bermondsey. However, because it was founded as an off-shoot of the Priory of St Mary Overy (now Southwark Cathedral) it has always been associated with Southwark and so its history is always related to that of Southwark and not to Bermondsey.


This entry was posted in /Bermondsey, /Southwark, Borough High Street, London Bridge. Bookmark the permalink.

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