Maze, The Manor of the

Above: Map of the land around Tooley Street, showing the approximate boundaries of the manors related to the Manor of the Maze (Click on image to enlarge to 1280×800).

‘The Manor of the Maze’ is really quite an intriguing name. It was situated at the northern end of what is now the London Borough of Southwark and its site today is covered by part of London Bridge Station and also part of Guy’s Hospital. You could be forgiven for not having heard about it because the Manor has not been in existence since at least the 1700s and all remaining traces of it gradually vanished in the years following the opening of Guy’s Hospital in 1725.

John Aubrey, in his ‘Anecdotes and Traditions’, says, ‘At Southwark was a maze, which is now converted into buildings bearing that name;’ while Peter Cunningham in his ‘Handbook of London’, published in 1849, says that ‘Maze Pond is so called from the ‘Manor of Maze’ which formerly existed here’.

In terms of size, this piece of land was relatively small. Its northern boundary was Tooley Street and it may have extended south to the street called Snowsfields. Its exact east-west boundaries are not clear. Its western boundary was some distance from the numerous inns lining the east side of Borough High Street. It may have extended east nearly as far as Bermondsey Street. The Maze was never a true manor but just a large landholding. The map at the top shows a very approximate boundary for the Maze. It would be more accurate to say that the dotted line shows land that was definitely part of the Maze but that the boundary line is only approximate.

It was mentioned by John Stow in his ‘Survay of London’ as being opposite ‘the walks and gardens appertaining to the inn of the Abbot of Battle’ – meaning that Battle Inn was land on the north side of Tooley Street with the entrance to the ‘The Maze’ being on the south side of Tooley Street. In fact, Battle Inn – the London house of the Abbot of Battle Abbey, in Sussex – stood on land now covered by Hay’s Galleria. Purely by chance the pedestrian entrance to London Bridge Station, from Tooley Street beside the Shipwright’s Arms pub, is almost on the exact spot.

Further details of the Maze are also known – listed in ‘A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4’ published by the Victoria County History, London, in 1912. The Manor of the Maze was in 1386 in the tenure of Sir William Burcestre, knight. It was held in dower in 1423 by Margaret, widow of Sir William, and was settled after her death on his son John. The latter is stated, in a survey made in 1429–30, to have held a water mill in Southwark of the Abbot of Battle for a yearly rent of £3 6s. 8d (meaning £3, six shillings and eight old pence). Probably not only a mill but the whole property of William and John Burcestre was held of the abbot. By 1472 the manor had been ‘alienated’, being granted by Robert Lemyng, brother and heir of William Lemyng, lately citizen and grocer of London, to Roger Copley and others. The land followed the descent of the manor of Gatton until after the sale of Gatton in 1654 by John Weston of Sutton and Mary his wife, daughter and co-heir of William Copley, after which it descended with the Sutton Place estate until as late as 1814, when it was held by John Webbe Weston of Sutton Place. This, of course, explains why Weston Street was so-named. The street used to run south from Tooley Street, under London Bridge Station until the whole station was rebuilt. The southern continuation of the street remains – extending south as far as Long Lane.

The later years of the manor are also described in the Victoria County History. From 1550 it was acquired by the City and provided it with an annual rent of 3s. 2 1⁄2d (three shillings and two and a half old pence). The Manor was probably conveyed to the land of Battle Abbey which leads to the conclusion that both properties were within the Great Liberty Manor. Stow describes the Maze as ‘Much other buildings of small tenements are thereon builded, replenished with strangers and other, for the most part poor people.’ In 1650 the manor was worth £480 a year, but two-thirds of it had been let to George Weston at an annual rent of £220, because all the houses were out of repair, two of them had lately been burnt, an expenditure of £60 on the amendment of a wharf would shortly be necessary, and some tenants were too poor to pay arrears of rent.

Filling a few scant details of the Manor of the Maze, there was an entrance gate on the south side of Tooley Street on a site almost opposite today’s main entrance to Hay’s Galleria (the site of the gate is shown on the map). As has already been mentioned, Weston Street was so-named after owners of the land. There was no manor house on the land. As already mentioned, most of the land was fields, pasture and many small houses. One other street whose name is related to the ancient manor is Great Maze Pond, which is the subject of a separate blog.


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1 Response to Maze, The Manor of the

  1. Patrick Dennison says:

    Thanks Adrian, a very interesting article about my late work stamping ground.


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