Paris Garden

Above: Part of the Paris Garden shown on the Agas map (c1561). The large house towards the middle was the Paris Garden Manor House. A stream is shown flowing into the Thames with a tide-mill built above the end near the river. On the far right edge is shown the Falcon Inn – a well-known inn on Bankside.

The history of Southwark – that is to say the land that became the Metropolitan Borough of Southwark – was in early times mainly the story of several manors and liberties. This was unusual because most of what is now Inner London was mainly composed of large manors which were not subdivided but had just one lord of the manor owning all the land.

In 1113 the manor of Paris Garden was given by Robert Marmion to Bermondsey Abbey. It was not called the Paris Garden until the 14th century. This, with the Great Liberty and the Clink Liberty, was one of the three liberties of Southwark. The land was marshy, intersected by many small streams, with numerous willow trees growing on the land. Paris Garden comprised a little less than 100 acres (40 hectares), roughly a hide of ground, called ‘Wideflete’ with a mill, and other buildings.

The land was granted by Bermondsey Abbey to the Knights Templar in 1166, who held it until they were suppressed in 1312. A breach of the river wall occurred in 1311 on the low-lying land “on the marshes of Southwark, formerly belonging to the Knights Templar, but then in the King’s hands”.

At an approximate date of 1380, the land was in the hands of a Robert de Paris who had a house and garden on the land during the reign of Richard II. It is claimed by some that the name ‘Paris Garden’ began to be used due to his ownership. Another theory is that the name is a corruption of ‘Parish Garden’.

The manor land became the haunt of 16th century pleasure-seekers. The marshy land is clearly shown on the Agas map, along with the manor house which stood on land now covered by the brick railway arches running south from Blackfriars Station.

Henry Wheatley’s ‘London Past and Present’ recounts that “In 1578 the garden was described as being notorious for secret meetings of foreign ambassadors and their agents.” One would love to know more details of such affairs. A few years later, in 1589, the manor was bought by Francis Langley who was a member of the Drapers’ Company and had practised as a goldsmith. On 26 May 1599 the land was visited by Elizabeth I who went by water with the French ambassadors to Paris Garden, where they saw baiting of bulls and bears.

From 1601 the land was held by several owners. In that year, the manor was sold by Francis Langley to Hugh Bowker, a lawyer and member of a well known Southwark family. In 1644 the land was sold once more to a London grocer called William Angel. He later sold off the the Manor House to a woollen draper whose widow occupied it on his death and used the spacious grounds for stretching and bleaching cloth. In 1670 an Act was passed which constituted the parish of Christ Church. Three quarters of the land consisted of fields with a population of about 1,000 residents.

There are no old maps showing the boundary of the Paris Garden but, as a rough guide, the manor extended west to the site of today’s street called Broadwall, north to the Thames, and almost as far east as the present Founders Arms pub. The parish of Christ Church, Southwark covers approximately the same area as the manor. The only reminder of the Paris Garden today is a street by the same name, which runs south off Stamford Street.


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4 Responses to Paris Garden

  1. Pingback: The Tudors Recap – Season 4 Episode 7: Sixth and Final Wife (Part 1) – Autocrat on a Sofa

  2. la Clarina says:

    I’ve just discovered your wonderful website, and prowling about in utter fascination. I have a question – I hope you won’t mind: it’s about the row of houses above the Paris Garden Manor House, right on the riverbank, where the Falcon Inn was. Once Bridge Ward Without was created, would those houses be part of it (and therefore under City jurisdiction), or belong still to the Liberty? Thank you very much!


    • Thank you for your kind comments. You are welcome to do all the ‘prowling’ (your word!) that you like. In fact, the Website which now contains just over 1,100 pages is all set up for people like you. You are welcome to ask questions. Whether I always know the answer is a different matter. In answer to your question, I suggest you start by reading the article headed ‘Guildable Manor’ which shows a map of that manor. To the west was the ‘Manor of the Clink’ (for which I have not yet produced a Webpage). To the west of that manor was the ‘Manor of Paris Garden’. When the City took over a small part of Southwark – calling it Bridge Ward Without – the land did not include the Manor of the Clink or the Manor of Paris Garden. The answer to your question is, therefore, that the City never controlled the Paris Garden. If you have an interest in London, I suggest you ‘sign up’ and Follow my Website. It’s totally free and you can cancel at any time. You will get a reminder of each new blog and also any Newsletters which help with finding topics on the Website. Thank you for your interest.

      Liked by 1 person

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