Survey of London: Volume 25, St George's Fields (The Parishes of St. George the Martyr Southwark and St. Mary Newington). Originally published by London County Council, London, 1955.
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This volume completes the Survey, begun in Bankside, of the Metropolitan Borough of Southwark. The parishes of St. George the Martyr and St. Mary, Newington, are not rich in buildings of outstanding architectural merit or historical interest. Nothing has survived of the old village nucleus at Newington, or of any pre-17th century building in either parish, and many of the remaining 18th and 19th century houses and most of the churches and chapels suffered severe war damage in 1939–45. Reconstruction has been slow. Of the churches, for example, only two have been completely restored, the 18th century church of St. George the Martyr in Borough High Street, and St. Peter's, Walworth, built by Sir John Soane. It is inevitable, therefore, that in this volume more space has been given to history than to architecture, though the account of the early attempts at town planning by the City Corporation in St. George's Fields, and by the Corporation of Trinity House on their Newington Estate, will be of interest to planners.
Three main factors have influenced the development of this part of Southwark: its proximity to the City of London, the marshy nature of the ground, and the roads—"that ganglion of roads from Kent and Surrey, centring in the far-famed Elephant," as Dickens described them. Inns for travellers, pilgrims and traders abounded along the old roads, and the prisons, which existed side by side with the inns in Borough High Street, were at a convenient distance from the City of London and the royal palaces at Westminster. The ground in St. George's Fields and Walworth was too wet for normal building development until it was systematically drained at the beginning of the 19th century, but the cheap sites made accessible by the formation of the roads across St. George's Fields in the middle of the 18th century attracted a large number of charitable organizations to build premises there.
A detailed analysis of the ground levels has given a reasonable explanation of the conjectured lines of the Roman roads and their later successors. The site of the Elizabethan playhouse at Newington, precursor of the more famous theatres, the Rose, the Swan, and the Globe on Bankside, has been plotted for the first time.
Much of the information relating to St. George's parish has been derived from the Guildhall Library and the City Records Office, and particular thanks are due to Mr. P. E. Jones, LL.B., F.R.Hist.S., the Deputy Keeper of the records, who read in manuscript and advised on the chapters relating to St. George's Fields. The Dean and Chapter of Canterbury, the Church Commissioners, and the Corporation of Trinity House have kindly allowed the Council's officers free access to the manor and estate records of Walworth and Newington, hitherto untapped sources of material for the topography of the manor, its place-names and customs, and for the lay-out and design of the streets and buildings which now cover the whole of the manor and parish. Much use has also been made of the archives of St. Bartholomew's and St. Thomas' Hospitals and of records in the Surrey Record Office, in the Minet Library and at Southwark Town Hall and Reference Library. Acknowledgment must be made of the help given by the clergy and ministers of churches and chapels, by Canon B. Bogan of St. George's Cathedral, and by many business firms, solicitors and property owners.
Members of the Monumental Brass Society helped to elucidate the mediaeval inscriptions on the stones in the tower of St. George the Martyr; the paraphrase from Romeo and Juliet on p. 26 was suggested by the Secretary, Mr. R. H. Pearson, F.S.A.
The Council's own Record Office is now the Diocesan Repository for the part of the Diocese of Southwark which lies within the County of London, and it has been of great assistance in the compilation of the volume to have many of the parish records available for consultation in County Hall.
For the sake of brevity, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, now the Church Commissioners, are consistently referred to by the latter name, and the title City Corporation is used throughout the volume to denote the governing body of the City of London.
The text of the volume and its executive editorship are the work of Miss Ida Darlington, M.A., F.L.A., the Council's Librarian, who has been assisted by Miss M. P. G. Christie, B.A., and Miss P. M. Barnes, B.A., of my department. The measured drawings and plans have been prepared under the direction of the Architect to the Council, who wishes to acknowledge the assistance he has received from Mr. F. A. Evans, and also from Mr. Kenneth S. Mills, A.R.I.B.A., A.M.T.P.I., Mr. F. J. Collins, A.R.I.C.S., and Mr. F. R. Buggey of his department, who have supplied the architectural and archaeological information.
In 1953 the London Survey Committee decided that it could no longer take an active share in the production of the parish volumes of the Survey, and the long partnership which the committee has had with the Council came to an end. The Joint Publishing Committee has been dissolved, and the Town Planning Committee of the Council will, for the future, be responsible for the publication of the series.