Old and New London: Volume 6. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
In this section
BERMONDSEY (continued).—THE ABBEY, &c.
The sacred taper's lights are gone,
Grey moss has clad the altar-stone,
The holy image is o'erthrown,
The bell has ceased to toll:
The long-ribb'd aisles are burst and shrunk,
The holy shrine to ruin sunk,
Departed is the pious monk;
God's blessing on his soul!"—Scott.
The Dissolution of Monasteries by Henry VIII.—Earliest Historical Mention of Bermondsey Abbey—Some Account of the Cluniac Monasteries in England, and Customs of the Cluniac Order—Grant of the Manor of Bermondsey to Bermondsey Abbey—Queen Katherine, Widow of Henry V.; retires hither—Elizabeth Woodville, Widow of Edward IV., a Prisoner here—Form of Service for the Repose of the Souls of the Queen of Henry VII. and her Children—Grant of the Monastery to Sir Robert Southwell—Its Sale to Sir Thomas Pope—Demolition of the Abbey Church—Remains of the Abbey at the Close of the Last Century—Neckinger Road—The Church of St. Mary Magdalen—A Curious Matrimonial Ceremony—An Ancient Salver—The Rood of Bermondsey—Grange Walk and Grange Road—The Tanning and Leather Trades in Bermondsey—"Simon the Tanner"—Fellmongery—Bermondsey Hide and Skin Market—Russell Street—St. Olave's Union—Bricklayers' Arms Station—Growth of Modern Bermondsey—Neckinger Mills—The Spa—Baths and Wash-houses—Christ Church—Roman Catholic Church of the Most Holy Trinity, and Convent of the Sisters of Mercy—Jamaica Road—The Old "Jamaica" Tavern—The "Lion and Castle"—Cherry Garden—St. James's Church—Traffic on the Railway near Bermondsey—Messrs. Peek, Frean, and Co.'s Biscuit Factory—Blue Anchor Road—Galley Wall.
Readers of English history need scarcely be told how that King Henry VIII., in his selfish zeal for novelties in religion, laid violent hands on all the abbeys and other religious houses in the kingdom, except a very few, which were spared at the earnest petition of the people, or given up to the representatives of the original founders. Before proceeding to the final suppression, under the pretext of checking the superstitious worshipping of images, he had laid bare their altars and stripped their shrines of everything that was valuable; nor did he spare the rich coffins and crumbling bones of the dead. Although four hundred years had passed away since the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, the venerated tomb was broken open, and a sort of criminal information was filed against the dead saint, as "Thomas Becket, sometime Archbishop of Canterbury," who was formally cited to appear in court and answer to the charges. As the saint did not appear at the bar of this earthly court, which was held in Westminster Hall in 1539, it was deemed proper to declare that "he was no saint whatever, but a rebel and traitor to his prince, and that therefore he, the king, strictly commanded that he should not be any longer esteemed or called a saint; that all images and pictures of him should be destroyed; and that his name and remembrance should be erased out of all books, under pain of his majesty's indignation, and imprisonment at his grace's pleasure." Other shrines had been plundered before, and certain images and relics of saints had been broken to pieces publicly at St. Paul's Cross; but now every shrine was laid bare, or, if any escaped, it was owing to the poverty of their decorations and offerings. "In the final seizure of the abbeys and monasteries," writes the author of the "Comprehensive History of England," "the richest fell first. After Canterbury, Battle Abbey; Merton, in Surrey; Stratford, in Essex; Lewes, in Sussex; the Charterhouse, the Blackfriars, the Greyfriars, and the Whitefriars, in London, felt the fury of the same whirlwind, which gradually blew over the whole land, until, in the spring of the year 1540, all the monastic establishments of the kingdom were suppressed, and the mass of their landed property was divided among courtiers and parasites. … All the abbeys were totally dismantled, except in the cases where they happened to be the parish churches also; as was the case at St. Albans, Tewkesbury, Malvern, and elsewhere, where they were rescued, in part by the petitions and pecuniary contributions of the pious inhabitants, who were averse to the worshipping of God in a stable." Of the "lesser monasteries" which were thus ruthlessly swept away was the Abbey of Bermondsey, which is now kept in remembrance mainly by the names given to a few streets which cover its site, and through which we are about to pass.
The earliest mention of this abbey occurs in the account of Bermondsey in "Domesday," from which may be gathered some idea of the solitude and seclusion which the place then enjoyed; when it is stated that there was "woodland" round about for the "pannage" of a certain number of hogs; and that there was also "a new and fair church, with twenty acres of meadow." Soon after the Norman conquest, a number of Cluniac monks settled in this country; and in 1082 a wealthy citizen of London, Aylwin Childe, founded a monastery at Bermondsey, which some of the ecclesiastics from the Monastery of La Charité, on the Loire, made their new home in the land of their adoption.
"The Cluniacs," says Mr. A. Wood in his "Ecclesiastical Antiquities," "derived their name from Clugni, in Burgundy, where Odo, an abbot in the tenth century, reformed the Benedictine rule. Their habit was the same as the Benedictine. The order was introduced into England in 1077, when a Cluniac house was established at Lewes, in Sussex, under the protection of Earl Warenne, the Conqueror's son-in-law. In the twelfth century the Abbey of Clugni was at the height of its reputation under Peter the Venerable (1122–1156). From the 13th of September till Lent, the Cluniacs had one meal only a day, except during the octaves of Christmas and the Epiphany, when they had an extra meal. Still eighteen poor were fed at their table. There were never more than twenty Cluniac houses in England, nearly all of them founded before the reign of Henry II. Until the fourteenth century, all the Cluniac houses were priories dependent on the parent house. The Prior of St. Pancras, Lewes, was the high-chamberlain, and frequently the vicar-general of the Abbey of Cluny, and exercised the functions of a Provincial in England. The English houses were all governed by foreigners, and the monks were oftener of foreign than of English extraction. In the fourteenth century, however, there was a change; many of the houses became denizen, and Bermondsey was made an abbey."
The following interesting particulars of the customs of the Cluniac order are gathered from Stevens's translation of the French history of the monastic orders, given in his continuation of Dugdale, and transcribed in the great edition of the "Monasticon:"—"They every day sung two solemn masses, at each of which a monk of one of the choirs offered two hosts. If any one would celebrate mass on Holy Thursday, before the solemn mass was sung, he made no use of light, because the new fire was not yet blessed. The preparation they used for making the bread which was to serve for the sacrifice of the altar is worthy to be observed. They first chose the wheat, grain by grain, and washed it very carefully. Being put into a bag, appointed only for that use, a servant, known to be a just man, carried it to the mill, washed the grindstones, covered them with curtains above and below, and having put on himself an alb, covered his face with a veil, nothing but his eyes appearing. The same precaution was used with the meal. It was not boulted till it had been well washed; and the warden of the church, if he were either priest or deacon, finished the rest, being assisted by two other religious men, who were in the same orders, and by a lay brother particularly appointed for that business. These four monks, when matins were ended, washed their faces and hands; the three first of them did put on albs; one of them washed the meal with pure clean water, and the other two baked the hosts in the iron moulds; so great was the veneration and respect the monks of Cluni paid to the Holy Eucharist." The sites of the mill and the bakehouse of Bermondsey Abbey were both traceable as late as the year 1876.
William Rufus enriched the abbey by the grant of the manor of Bermondsey; and the establishment soon became one of the most important in England. In 1213, Prior Richard erected an almonry or hospital adjoining the monastery; but no traces of that now exist. The parish church of St. Mary Magdalen, rebuilt in 1680, at the junction of Bermondsey Street and Abbey Street, occupies nearly the site of the conventual church. The monastic buildings were, doubtless, very extensive and magnificent; and the monks maintained a splendid hospitality and state. Katherine of France, widow of Henry V., retired hither to mourn, perhaps the victor of Agincourt, to whose memory she had erected, in Westminster Abbey, a life-sized silver-gilt statue; or it may have been her second husband, Owen Tudor, who perhaps little thought he would ever become the progenitor of two of the greatest monarchs who ever sat on the English throne—bluff King Henry and Queen Bess, not to mention Henry's father, the conqueror of crook-backed Richard, and Elizabeth's boy-brother and her sister Mary. Katherine died at Bermondsey, a double widow, in January, 1437. In the convent here Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of Edward IV., was shut up as a sort of prisoner by Henry VII., shortly after the marriage of the latter with her daughter Elizabeth. The Queen Dowager died in 1492. A few days before her death she made her will, and a pathetic document it is. Her son-in-law, Henry VII., cruelly neglected her; and when in after years he ordered an anniversary service to be sung on the 6th of February, by the monks of Bermondsey, for the repose of the souls of his late queen and children, his father and his mother, he forgot to include poor Elizabeth, the mother of his wife, once queen of England, but who ended her days almost a pauper in the very abbey where the stately service was performed.
As a glimpse of what was sometimes doing in the old church, as well as of the old custom itself the following extract will be found interesting:—"The abbot and convent of St. Saviour of Bermondsey shall provide at every such anniversary a hearse, to be set in the midst of the high chancel of the same monastery before the high altar, covered and apparelled with the best and most honourable stuff in the same monastery convenient for the same. And also four tapers of wax, each of them weighing eight pounds, to be set about the same hearse, that is to say, on either side thereof one taper, and at either end of the same hearse another taper, and all the same four tapers to be lighted and burning continually during all the time of every such Placebo, Dirige, with nine lessons, lauds and mass of Requiem, with the prayers and obeisances above rehearsed."
At the dissolution of the monasteries, Bermondsey Abbey, with its rich manor, was seized—as was the case with other similar places—by Henry VIII. At that time the Abbot of Bermondsey had no very tender scruples about conscience or principle, like so many of his brethren, but arranged everything in the pleasantest possible manner for the king; and he had his reward. While the poor monks had pensions varying from £5 6s. 8d. to £10 a year each allowed them, the good Lord Abbot's pension amounted to £336 6s. 8d. The monastery itself, with the manor, demesnes, &c., were granted by the Crown to Sir Robert Southwell, Master of the Rolls, who sold them to Sir Thomas Pope, the founder of Trinity College, Oxford. In 1545 Sir Thomas pulled down the old priory church, and built Bermondsey House upon the site and with the materials. Here died, in 1583, Thomas Radcliffe, Earl of Sussex, Lord Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth. This was the Earl of Sussex who, according to Sir Walter Scott in his interesting romance of "Kenilworth," was visited by "Master" Tressilian at Sayes Court, Deptford, and restored from a dangerous illness by the skill of Wayland Smith, to the great wonder of Walter Raleigh and Sir Thomas Blount. About 1760, the east gate of the monastery was removed; and early in the present century nearly all that was left of the old buildings shared the same fate, and Abbey Street was built upon the site. The Neckinger Road—at a short distance southward of Jacob's Island, Dockhead, and the other waterside places mentioned towards the close of the preceding chapter—marks the ancient water-course, formerly navigable as far as the precincts of the abbey. This road, which is at the junction of Parker's Row with Jamaica Road, leads westward, by Abbey Street and Long Lane, into the Borough High Street, close by St. George's Church. This, then, is the spot on which the ancient monastery once flourished; there are, however, scarcely any remains of the conventual building left standing, and a walk over the site of the great abbey of the Cluniacs can now afford but little gratification. The entire site is now pretty well covered over with modern houses and dirty streets and courts.
"The Long Walk," as Charles Knight pleasantly suggests in his "London," "was once perhaps a fine shady avenue, where the abbot or his monks were accustomed to while away the summer afternoon, but is about one of the last places that would now tempt the wandering footstep of the stranger; the 'Grange Walk' no longer leads to the pleasant farm or park of the abbey, and is in itself but a painful mockery of the associations roused by the name; the 'Court,' or Base Courtyard, is changed into Bermondsey Square, flanked on all sides by small tenements, the handiwork of the builders who completed a few years ago what Sir Thomas Pope began; and though some trees are yet there, of so ancient appearance that, for aught we know, they may have witnessed the destruction of the very conventual church, yet they are dwindling and dwindling away, as though they felt themselves a part of the old abbey, and had no business to survive its destruction. They will not have much longer to wait; little remains to be destroyed. In the Grange Walk is a part of the gate-house of the east gateway, with a portion of the rusted hinge of the monastic doors. In Long Walk, on the right, is a small and filthy quadrangle (once called, from some tradition connected with the visits of the early English monarchs to Bermondsey, King John's Court, now Bear Yard) in which are a few dilapidated houses, where the stonework, and form and antiquity of the windows, afford abundant evidence of their connection with the monastery. Lastly, in the churchyard of the present church of St. Mary Magdalen are some pieces of the wall that surrounded the gardens and church of the Cluniacs."
Although Bermondsey is, perhaps, not the most civilised and scholastic part of London now, it is no small credit to the churchmen of the early Norman times, that, according to Fitzstephen, as interpreted to us by honest John Stow, the three earliest schools for youth in London and its neighbourhood were founded under the shadows respectively of Old St. Paul's, of St. Peter's Abbey, Westminster, and of the Abbey of Bermondsey.
In Faithorne's map of London and Southwark (1643–8) the abbey is shown as standing in its entire condition in its own enclosed grounds.
The church of St. Mary Magdalen, at the corner
of Abbey Street and Bermondsey Street, stands
on the site of the ancient conventual church. It
is a brick-built structure, consisting of a chancel,
nave, two aisles, and a transept; and at the western
end is a low square tower with a turret. The
church contains no monuments worthy of note.
In 1830 the tower was repaired and "beautified"
after the usual "churchwarden" fashion of the
period, and at the same time the Gothic windows
were restored, and since that date the church has
been re-seated, and otherwise greatly improved.
The registers commence in 1538, and have been
continued with very few interruptions up to the
present time. Some of the entries are very
singular and curious. Here, for instance, is one
which we give in extenso, since it may serve as a
model for such transactions in these days of
judicial separations. It is headed, "The forme of
a solemn vowe made betwixt a man and his wife,
having been long absent, through which occasion
the woman being married to another man, (the
husband) took her again as followeth:"—
THE MAN'S SPEECH.
Elizabeth, my beloved wife, I am righte sorie that I have
so long absented myself from thee, whereby thou shouldest
be occasioned to take another man to be thy husband.
Therefore I do now vowe and promise, in the sight of God
and this company, to take thee again as my owne, and will
not onlie forgive thee but live with thee, and do all other
duties to thee, as I promised at our marriage.
THE WOMAN'S SPEECH.
Raphe, my beloved husband, I am righte sorie that I have
in thy absence taken another man to be my husband; but
here, before God and this companie, I do renounce and
forsake him; I do promise to keep myself only to thee
duringe life, and to perform all the duties which I first
promised to thee in our marriage.
Then follows a short prayer, suited to the occasion, and the entry thus concludes:
The 1st day of August, 1604, Raphe Goodchild, of the parish of Barkinge, in Thames Street, and Elizabeth his wife were agreed to live together, and thereupon gave their hands one to another, making either of them solemn vow so to do in the presence of us, William Steres, Parson; Edward Coker; and Richard Eyres, Clerk.
Another entry in the register also is remarkable. "James Herriott, Esq., and Elizabeth Josey, Gent., were married Jan. 4., 1624–5. N.B. This James Herriott was one of the forty children of his father, a Scotchman." It is to be hoped, for the sake of the family, that the history of the parent did not repeat itself in that of the son.
In this church is a very curious ancient salver of silver, now used for the collection of the alms at the offertory. On the centre is a beautifullychased representation of the gate of a castle or town, with two figures, a knight kneeling before a lady, who is about to place his helmet on his head. The long-pointed solleretts of the feet, the ornaments of the armpits, and the form of the helmet, are supposed to mark the date of the salver as that of Edward II. The other memorial to which we have referred is of a much more interesting character; it is thus recorded in the "Chronicle of Bermondsey:"—"Anno Domini 1117. The cross of St. Saviour is found near the Thames." And again, under the date of 1118:—"William Earl of Morton was miraculously liberated from the Tower of London through the power of the holy cross." This Lord Morton was a son of the Earl of Morton mentioned in Domesday Book as possessing "a hide of land" in this parish, on which, it appears from another part of the record, he had a mansion-house. The above-mentioned nobleman seems to have had a perfect faith in the truth of the miracle; for the chronicle subsequently states: "In the year 1140 William Earl of Morton came to Bermondsey, and assumed the monastic habit." In our account of old St. Paul's Cathedral (fn. 1) we have spoken of the scene which was witnessed at Paul's Cross on the breaking up of the "Rood of Grace," which had been brought from Boxley Abbey, in Kent; and we may mention here that the degradation of the "Rood of Bermondsey" formed, as it were, an appendix to that day's proceedings. A reference to this transaction is to be found in an ancient diary of a citizen, preserved among the Cottonian MSS., under the date of 1558, in the following passage:—"M. Gresham, Mayor. On Saint Matthew's day, the Apostle, the 24th day of February, Sunday, did the Bishop of Rochester preach at Paul's Cross, and had standing afore him all his sermon time the picture of Rood of Grace in Kent, and was [i.e. which had been] greatly sought with pilgrims; and when he had made an end of his sermon, was torn all in pieces; then was the picture of Saint Saviour, that had stood in Barmsey Abbey many years, in Southwark, taken down." The word "picture," it may be stated, was often used in the widest sense to express an image or statue; and it may be remarked, with reference to the Rood in Bermondsey Abbey, that the words are "taken down," not that it was actually destroyed. In front of the building attached to the chief or north gate of the abbey was a rude representation of a small cross, with some zigzag ornamentation; the whole had the appearance of being something placed upon or let into the wall, and not a part of the original building; and there it remained till the comparatively recent destruction of this last remnant of the monastic pile. In a drawing made of the remains of the Abbey in 1679, which was afterwards engraved by Wilkinson, in his "Londinia Illustrata," the same cross appears in the same situation; from this it has been conjectured, apart from the corroborative evidence of tradition, that this was the old Saxon cross found near the Thames, or that it was a part of the "picture" before which pilgrims used to congregate in the old conventual church.
In Wilkinson's work above mentioned is engraved a ground-plan of the site and precincts of Bermondsey Abbey, copied from a survey made in 1679. It exhibits a ground-plot of the old conventual church, with gardens enclosed by stone walls, and bounded on the north by the churchyard of St. Mary Magdalen; the west and north gates, leading into the "base court-yard," the site of the mansion, with its long gallery, built by Sir Thomas Pope; and the east gate, leading into "Grange" Walk. In the same work is a general view of the remains of the monastic and other old buildings, with the adjacent country, taken in 1805, from the steeple of the adjoining church, and also an east view of the ancient gateway, with several other engravings relating to the abbey and its attached buildings. The east gate of the monastery, in Grange Walk, was pulled down about the middle of the last century. We learn from Brayley's "History of Surrey," that "the great gate-house, or principal entrance, the front of which was composed of squared flints and dark-red tiles, ranged alternately, was nearly entire in the year 1806; but shortly afterwards it was completely demolished, together with nearly all the adjacent ancient buildings, and Abbey Street was erected on their site. The north gate led into the great close of the abbey, now Bermondsey Square, and surrounded by modern houses. Grange Road, which was built on the pasture-ground belonging to the monastery, commences near the south-west corner of the square, and extends to what was till lately the Grange Farm, and continues onward to the ancient water-course called the Neckinger, over which is a bridge, leading to the water-side division of the parish. In 1810 the present churchyard (which had been previously extended in 1783) was enlarged by annexing to it a strip of land sixteen feet in width, that formed a part of the conventual burial-ground; in doing which many vestiges of sculpture were found, together with a stone coffin."
We may add that King Stephen was a great benefactor to the abbey, on which he bestowed broad lands in Writtle, near Chelmsford, in Essex, and in other places.
In the previous chapter we have stated that Bermondsey, in a certain sense, may be regarded as a "region of manufacturers." Indeed, for several centuries this locality has been the centre of the tanning and leather trades. But even this unsavoury trade has its advantages. When the Great Plague raged in the City of London, many of the terror-stricken creatures fled to the Bermondsey tan-pits, and found strong medicinal virtues in the nauseous smell. The great leather market has been established on this spot for above 200 years. Hat-making, too, is most extensively carried on; and it is said that in no place in the kingdom of equal area is there such a great variety of important manufactures. The intersection of the district by innumerable tidal ditches gave unusual facilities for the leather manufacture, but at the same time it also entailed frightful misery on the crowded inhabitants. If we draw a line from St. James's Church, in the Jamaica Road, to the intersection of the Grange Road with the Old Kent Road, we shall find to the west, or rather to the north-west, of that line, nearly the whole of the factories connected with the leather and wool trade of London. "A circle one mile in diameter, having its centre at the spot where the abbey once stood," says Charles Knight, in his "London," "will include within its limits most of the tanners, the curriers, the fellmongers, the woolstaplers, the leatherfactors, the leather-dressers, the leather-dyers, the parchment-makers, and the glue-makers, for which this district is so remarkable. There is scarcely a street, a road, a lane, into which we can turn without seeing evidences of one or other of these occupations. One narrow road—leading from the Grange Road to the Kent Road—is particularly distinguishable for the number of leather-factories which it exhibits on either side; some time-worn and mean, others newly and skilfully erected. Another street, known as Long Lane, and lying westward of the church, exhibits nearly twenty distinct establishments where skins or hides undergo some of the many processes to which they are subjected. In Snow's Fields; in Bermondsey New Road; in Russell Street, Upper and Lower; in Willow Walk, and Page's Walk, and Grange Walk, and others whose names we cannot now remember—in all of these, leather, skins, and wool seem to be the commodities out of which the wealth of the inhabitants has been created. Even the publichouses give note of these peculiarities by the signs chosen for them, such as the 'Woolpack,' the 'Fellmongers' Arms,' 'Simon the Tanner,' and others of like import. If there is any district in London whose inhabitants might be excused for supporting the proposition that 'There is nothing like leather,' surely Bermondsey is that place!"
The old-established house, known as "Simon the Tanner," is situated in Long Lane. The sign makes allusion, of course, to the tanner of Joppa, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, as having St. Peter as his lodger. "The sign," says Mr. Larwood, "is supposed to be unique."
From the following enumeration of some of the manufacturers in Bermondsey Street alone, it will be seen how many branches of industry are carried on here in connection with the leather trade: hidesellers, tanners, leather-dressers, morocco leather dressers, leather sellers and cutters, curriers, parchment-makers, wool-staplers, horsehair manufacturers, hair and flock manufacturers, patent hairfelt manufacturers. There are besides these skin and hide salesmen, fellmongers, leather-dyers, and glue-makers, in other parts of the vicinity.
Bermondsey Market, the great emporium for hides and skins, is in Weston Street, on the north side of Long Lane. It was established on this spot about the year 1833; and the building, together with the ground whereon it stands, cost nearly £50,000. It is a long series of brick warehouses, lighted by a range of windows, and having an arched entrance gateway at either end. These entrances open into a quadrangle or court, covered for the most part with grass and surrounded by warehouses, and enclosing others for the stowage of hops. In the warehouses is transacted the business of a class of persons who are termed "leather factors," who sell to the curriers or leather-sellers leather belonging to the tanners; or sell Londontanned leather to country purchasers, or countrytanned leather to London purchasers; in short, they are middle-men in the traffic in leather, as skin-salesmen are in the traffic in skins. Beyond this first quadrangle is a second, called the "Skin Depository," and having four entrances, two from the larger quadrangle, and two from a street leading into Bermondsey Street. This depository is an oblong plot of ground terminated by semi-circular ends; it is pitched with common road-stones along the middle, and flagged round with a broad footpavement. Over the pavement, through its whole extent, is an arcade supported by pillars; and the portion of pavement included between every two contiguous pillars is called a "bay." There are about fifty of these "bays," which are let out to skin-salesmen at about £15 per annum each; and on the pavement of his bay the salesman exposes the skins which he is commissioned to sell. Here on market-days may be seen a busy scene of traffic between the salesmen on the one hand and the fellmongers on the other. The carts, laden with sheepskins, come rattling into the place, and draw up in the roadway of the depository; the loads are taken out, and ranged on the pavement of the bays; the sellers and buyers make their bargains; the purchase-money is paid into the hands of the salesman, and by him transmitted to the butcher; and the hides or skins are removed to the yards of the buyers.
As was supposed, when the New Skin Market was built, the trade in hides, as well as that in skins, has come to be carried on here. A large quantity of ox-hides, however, from which the thicker kinds of leather are made, are still sold at Leadenhall Market, which was long the centre of this trade; and nearly all the leather manufacturers in Bermondsey are still proprietors in that market.
The whole of the fellmongers belonging to the metropolis are congregated within a small circle around the Skin Market in Weston Street. It forms no part of the occupation of these persons to convert the sheepskins into leather. The skins pass into their hands with the wool on, just as they are taken from the sheep; and the fellmonger then proceeds to remove the wool from the pelt, and to cleanse the latter from some of the impurities with which it is coated.
"The produce of the fellmongers' labours," writes Charles Knight, "passes into the hands of two or three other classes of manufacturers, such as the wool-stapler, the leather-dresser, and the parchment-maker. The wool-staplers, thirty or forty in number, are, like the fellmongers, located almost without a single exception in Bermondsey. They are wool dealers, who purchase the commodity as taken from the skins, and sell it to the hatters, the woollen and worsted manufacturers, and others. They are scarcely to be denominated manufacturers, since the wool passes through their hands without undergoing any particular change or preparation; it is sorted into various qualities, and, like the foreign wool, packed in bags for the market. In a street called Russell Street, intersecting Bermondsey Street, the large warehouses of these wool-staplers may be seen in great number; tiers of ware or store-rooms, with cranes over them; wagons in the yard beneath; huge bags filled with wool, some arriving and others departing—these are the appearances which a wool-warehouse presents. It may, perhaps, not be wholly unnecessary to observe that the sheep's wool here spoken of is only that portion which is taken from the pelt or skin of the slaughtered animal, and which is known by the name of skin-wool. The portion which is taken from the animal during life, and which is called 'shear wool,' possesses qualities in some respects different from the former, and passes through various hands. As very few sheep are sheared near London, the shear-wool is not, generally speaking, brought into the London market, except that which comes from abroad."
Russell Street, in which we have now found ourselves, perpetuates the name of a somewhat eccentric individual who lived in Bermondsey in the latter part of the last century—Mr. Richard Russell, who died at his house in this parish, in September, 1784. In Manning and Bray's "History of Surrey" we read that he was a bachelor, that he desired to be buried in the church of St. John, Horselydown, and that "he left, amongst other legacies, to the Magdalen Hospital, £3,000; to the Small-pox Hospital, £3,000; to the Lying-in Hospital, near Westminster Bridge, £3,000; to the Surrey Dispensary, £500; for a monument in St. John's Church, £2,000; to each of six young women to attend as pall-bearers at his funeral, £50; to four other young women to precede his corpse and strew flowers whilst the 'Dead March' in Saul was played by the organist of St. John's, each £20; to the Rev. Mr. Grose, for writing his epitaph, £100 (originally to Dr. Johnson, but by a codicil altered to Mr. Grose); all the residue to the Asylum for Young Girls, in Lambeth (supposed to be about £15,000); eight acting magistrates of Surrey to attend the funeral. The executors were Sir Joseph Mawbey, Samuel Gillam, Thomas Bell, and William Leavis, Esquires. There had not been anything apparent in the life of this person to entitle him to any particular respect, and the pompous funeral prepared for him produced no small disorder." As regards the monument to the memory of the deceased in St. John's Church, it may be stated that the provisions of his will were not complied with, but that his executors are said to have considered a payment which they made to the Rev. Mr. Peters, for a painting of the patron saint of the church over the altar, as an equivalent compensation.
In Russell Street is St. Olave's Union, which consists of some extensive ranges of buildings, forming a large square court, and covering a considerable space of ground. It affords a home for a large number of poor persons, worn out with age, or otherwise incapacitated from earning their livelihood.
Retracing our steps through Bermondsey Street, and by Star Corner, we make our way to the south side of the Grange Road, mentioned above. Here we again encounter evidences of the manufacturing industry of Bermondsey, in the shape of its tanyards—another of the numerous branches of trade arising out of the leather manufacture, which gives to Bermondsey so many of its characteristics. In Willow Walk, and one or two other places in the vicinity, may be seen instances of one of the purposes to which tan is appropriated. A large plot of ground contains, in addition to heaps of tan, skeleton frames about five or six feet in height, consisting of a range of shelves one above another; and on these shelves are placed the oblong, rectangular pieces of "tan-turf," with which the middle classes have not much to do, but which are extensively purchased for fuel, at "ten or twelve for a penny," by the humbler classes.
"All the tanneries in London, with, we believe, one exception," says Charles Knight, "are situated in Bermondsey, and all present nearly the same features. Whoever has resolution enough to brave the appeals to his organ of smell, and visit one of these places, will see a large area of ground—sometimes open above, and in other cases covered by a roof—intersected by pits or oblong cisterns, whose upper edges are level with the ground. These cisterns are the tan-pits, in which hides are exposed to the action of liquid containing oak-bark. He will see, perhaps, in one corner of the premises, a heap of ox and cow-horns, just removed from the hide, and about to be sold to the comb-makers, the knife-handle makers, and other manufacturers. He will see in another corner a heap of refuse matter about to be consigned to the glue-manufacturer. In a covered building he will find a heap of hides exposed to the action of lime, for loosening the hair with which the pelt is covered; and in an adjoining building he will probably see a number of men scraping the surfaces of the hides to prepare them for the tan-pits. In many of the tanneries, though not all, he will see stacks of spent tan, no longer useful in the tannery, but destined for fuel or manure, or gardeners' hot-beds. In airy buildings he will see the tanned leather hanging up to dry, disposed in long ranges of rooms or galleries. Such are the features which all the tanneries, with some minor differences, exhibit."
Between Willow Walk and the Old Kent Road, and stretching away from Page's Walk on the north-west to Upper Grange Road on the southeast, is the Bricklayers' Arms Station, the principal luggage and goods depôt of the South-Eastern Railway. In the station itself, from an architectural point of view, there is nothing requiring special mention. The arrangements for the reception and delivery of the goods at this station are in nowise remarkable, nor are there any warehouses or stores worthy of particular notice. The site was purchased by the South-Eastern Railway Company in 1843, and the lines of railway laid across the market-gardens of Bermondsey, in order to form a junction with the main line near New Cross. Besides being used as a heavy goods depôt, the Bricklayers' Arms Station was for many years—in fact, until the erection of the station at Charing Cross—used as the terminus for the arrival and departure of foreign potentates visiting this country, and also for members of our own Royal Family going abroad. Hither the body of the Duke of Wellington was brought by rail from Walmer Castle, in 1852, in order to be conveyed to Chelsea Hospital, preparatory to its interment in St. Paul's Cathedral.
It is mentioned in the histories of England that shortly after the battle of Edgehill the Common Council of London passed an act for fortifying the City, which was done with such dispatch, that a rampart, with bastions, redoubts, and other bulwarks, was shortly erected round the cities of London and Westminster and the borough of Southwark. It has been suggested that Fort Road—the thoroughfare running parallel with Blue Anchor Road, on the south side, from Upper Grange Road to St. James's Road—may mark the site of some of the fortifications here referred to.
A glance at a map of London of half a century ago—or, indeed, much more recently—will show that nearly the whole of the land hereabouts consisted of market-gardens and open fields. At a short distance eastward of the Upper Grange Road, and south of the Blue Anchor Road, stood a windmill, the site of which is now covered by part of Lynton Road. On the east side of the abbey enclosures was the farm known as "The Grange," after which the Grange Road and Grange Walk are named; and near the Grange wound the narrow tide-stream or ditch called the Neckinger, which was here spanned by a bridge. The Neckinger was formerly navigable, for small craft, from the Thames to the abbey precincts, and gives name to the Neckinger Road. When the abbey was destroyed, and the ground passed into the possession of others, the houses which were built on the site still received a supply of water from this water-course. In process of time tanneries were established on the spot, most probably on account of the valuable supply of fresh water obtainable every twelve hours from the river. "There appears reason to believe," says Charles Knight, "that the Neckinger was by degrees made to supply other ditches, or small water-courses, cut in different directions, and placed in communication with it; for, provided they were all nearly on a level, each high tide would as easily fill half a dozen as a single one. Had there been no mill at the mouth of the channel, the supply might have gone on continuously; but the mill continued to be moved by the stream, and to be held by parties who neither had nor felt any interest in the affairs of the Neckinger manufacturers. Disagreements thence arose; and we find that, towards the end of the last century, the tanners of the central parts of Bermondsey instituted a suit against the owner of the mill for shutting off the tide when it suited his own purpose so to do to the detriment of the leather manufacturers. The ancient usages of the district were brought forward in evidence, and the result was that the right of the inhabitants to a supply of water from the river, at every high tide, was confirmed to the discomfiture of the millowner. Since that period there were occasional disagreements between the manufacturers and the owners of the mill respecting the closing of sluicegates, the repair and cleansing of the ditch, and the construction of wooden bridges across it; but the tide, with few exceptions, still continued to flow daily to and fro from the Thames to the neighbourhood of the Grange and Neckinger Roads. Many of the largest establishments in Bermondsey were for years dependent on the tide-stream for the water—very abundant in quantity—required in the manufacture of leather. Other manufacturers, however, constructed artesian wells on their premises, while the mill at the mouth of the stream was worked by steam power, so that the channel itself became much less important than in former times. Latterly this ditch, or 'tide-stream,' as it was sometimes called, was under the management of commissioners, consisting of the principal manufacturers, who were empowered to levy a small rate for its maintenance and repair."
The Neckinger Mills, which cover a large space of ground between the Neckinger Road and the South-Eastern Railway, were erected a century or more ago by a company who attempted the manufacture of paper from straw; but this failing, the premises passed into the hands of others who established the leather manufacture.
An attempt was made in the latter part of the last century to raise Bermondsey to the dignity of a fashionable watering-place. Although that portion of the district near the river was so close and filthy, there were, as stated above, pleasant fields stretching away towards the Kent Road. The abbot's fat meadows were still green; and, indeed, a singular characteristic of the eastern parts of Bermondsey to this day (especially noticeable from the railway) is the strange mingling of factories, in which the most offensive trades are vigorously carried on, with market-gardens and green fields. In 1770 a chalybeate spring was discovered in some grounds adjoining the Grange Road, of which advantage was taken by the proprietor with the view of inducing the waterdrinkers and the lovers of a fashionable lounge and promenade to resort thither, and in that manner caused this district to become for a brief interval what Hampstead (fn. 2) had just ceased to be—a favourite suburban watering-place. In the Era Almanac, for 1870, it is stated that a public-house called the "Waterman's Arms" having become vacant, an artist, Mr. Thomas Keyse, purchased it, in 1766, along with some adjoining grounds, and formed it for the amusements of a "teagarden." He ornamented it with his own paintings, and the discovery in the grounds of a mineral spring, which was found to be an excellent chalybeate, so increased the attractions of the gardens that Bermondsey found the word "Spa" added to its name. On application to the Surrey magistrates in 1784, Mr. Keyse obtained a licence for music at his gardens, and this, with an expenditure of £4,000 on their decorations, gave them a considerable popularity. The space before the orchestra, which was about a quarter of the size of that at Vauxhall, was totally destitute of trees, the few that the gardens could then boast being planted merely as a screen to prevent the outside public from overlooking the interior of the place. The paintings executed by Keyse himself long existed, and were exhibited in an oblong room known as the "Picture Gallery;" they were chiefly representations of a butcher's shop, a greengrocer's shop, and so forth, all the details being worked out with Dutch minuteness.
Mr. J. T. Smith, in his "Book for a Rainy Day,"
tells us how, on one occasion, he was induced to
pay a visit to this place, and how, when he reached
the "Picture Gallery," he at first considered himself the only spectator. When he had gone the
round of the gallery he voluntarily re-commenced
his view, but what followed will be best told in Mr.
Smith's own words:—"Stepping back to study the
picture of the 'Green-stall,' 'I ask your pardon,'
said I, for I had trodden upon some one's toes.
'Sir, it is granted,' replied a little thick-set man,
with a round face, arch look, and closely-curled wig,
surmounted by a small three-cornered hat put very
knowingly on one side, not unlike Hogarth's head
in his print of the 'Gates of Calais.' 'You are an
artist, I presume; I noticed you from the end of
the gallery, when you first stepped back to look at
my best picture. I painted all the objects in this
room from nature and still life.' 'Your "Greengrocer's Shop,"' said I, 'is inimitable; the drops
of water on that savoy appear as if they had just
fallen from the element. Van Huysum could not
have pencilled them with greater delicacy.' 'What
do you think,' said he, 'of my "Butcher's Shop?"'
'Your pluck is bleeding fresh, and your sweetbread
is in a clean plate.' 'How do you like my bull's
eye?' 'Why, it would be a most excellent one for
Adams or Dollond to lecture upon. Your knuckle
of veal is the finest I ever saw.' 'It's young meat,'
replied he; 'any one who is a judge of meat can
tell that from the blueness of its bone.' 'What a
beautiful white you have used on the fat of that
Southdown leg! or is it Bagshot?' 'Yes,' said he,
'my solitary visitor, it is Bagshot; and as for my
white, that is the best Nottingham, which you or
any artist can procure at Stone and Puncheon's, in
Bishopsgate Street Within. Sir Joshua Reynolds,'
continued Mr. Keyse, 'paid me two visits. On the
second, he asked me what white I had used; and
when I told him, he observed, "It's very extraordinary, sir, how it keeps so bright; I use the
same." "Not at all, sir," I rejoined: "the doors
of this gallery are open day and night; and the
admission of fresh air, together with the great expansion of light from the sashes above, will never
suffer the white to turn yellow. Have you not
observed, Sir Joshua, how white the posts and rails
on the public roads are, though they have not
been re-painted for years?—that arises from constant air and bleaching." Come,' said Mr. Keyse,
putting his hand upon my shoulder, 'the bell
rings, not for prayers, nor for dinner, but for the
song.' As soon as we had reached the orchestra
the singer curtsied to us, for we were the only
persons in the gardens. 'This is sad work,' said
he, 'but the woman must sing, according to our
contract.' I recollect that the singer was handsome, most dashingly dressed, immensely plumed,
and villanously rouged; she smiled as she sang, but
it was not the bewitching smile of Mrs. Wrighten,
then applauded by thousands at Vauxhall Gardens.
As soon as the Spa lady had ended her song,
Keyse, after joining me in applause, apologised for
doing so, by observing that as he never suffered his
servants to applaud, and as the people in the road
(whose ears were close to the cracks in the paling
to hear the song) would make a bad report if they
had not heard more than the clapping of one pair
of hands, he had in this instance expressed his
reluctant feelings. As the lady retired from the
front of the orchestra, she, to keep herself in practice, curtsied to me with as much respect as she
would had Colonel Topham been the patron of a
gala-night. 'This is too bad,' again observed
Mr. Keyse, 'and I am sure you cannot expect
fireworks!' However, he politely asked me to
partake of a bottle of Lisbon, which upon my
refusing, he pressed me to accept of a catalogue
of his pictures. Blewitt, the scholar of Jonathan
Battishill, was the composer for the Spa establishment. The following verse is perhaps the first of
his most admired composition:—
"'In lonely cot, by Humber's side.'"
A large picture model of the "Siege of Gibraltar," painted by Keyse, and occupying about four acres, was exhibited here in the year 1784. Keyse died about sixteen years later, and their popularity having waned away, the gardens were shut up in 1804, leaving the modern Spa Road to perpetuate their name. There are a few "tokens" of the place extant; and the locality is also kept in remembrance by the "Spa Road" Station on the Greenwich Railway.
"What was once the suburbs of London," says the author of "Walks round London" (1832), "but which now forms an integral part of the town itself, was, in days long gone by, famous for its wells, of real or imaginary virtues. Springs, or holy wells, generally had their existence near some abbey, monastery, or religious house, and often formed no trifling addition to the revenues of the pious dwellers in those edifices. These wells have, with few exceptions, sunk into total disuse. In the south there was the long famous Bermondsey Spa. In the east was Holy Well, which has given its name to a neighbourhood. Not far distant was St. Agnes-le-Clair, still resorted to as a bath. On the northern side of the metropolis is Chad's Well, in Gray's Inn Road; Islington Spa, still of some account, and where in 1733 the Princesses Caroline and Amelia are said to have drank the waters; Bagnigge Wells, and Clerk's, or Clerkenwell—all famous in their day. A second Holy Well was near the Strand, and many others have sunk into oblivion."
At the corner of Neckinger and Spa Roads are some public baths and wash-houses. These institutions, which are now to be met with in almost every part of London, as well as in the country, originated in a public meeting held at the Mansion House in 1844, when a large subscription was raised to build an establishment to serve as a model for others, which it was anticipated would be erected, when it had been proved that the receipts, at the very low rate of charge contemplated, would be sufficient to cover the expenses, and gradually to repay the capital invested. The success of the bathing department in these establishments, as well as the necessity which existed for such means of cleanliness among the industrial classes, is to be found in the numbers who have used them since their first opening.
At the junction of Neckinger Road with the Jamaica Road is Parker's Row, at the southern end of which stands Christ Church, a brick-built edifice, of Romanesque architecture, erected in 1848, from the designs of Messrs. Allen and Hayes. It was built chiefly out of the Southwark Church and School Fund. At the north-western corner of Parker's Row is a large Roman Catholic church and convent. "It is a curious circumstance," writes Charles Knight, in his work quoted above, "and one in which the history of many changes of opinion may be read, that within forty years after what remained of the magnificent ecclesiastical foundation of the abbey of Bermondsey had been swept away, a new conventual establishment rose up, amidst the surrounding desecration of factories and warehouses, in a large and picturesque pile, with its stately church, fitted in every way for the residence and accommodation of thirty or forty inmates—the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy." This edifice, then, which was founded in 1839, was the first convent of the Sisters of Mercy established in the metropolis. The convent adjoins the Roman Catholic Church of the Most Holy Trinity, which was built from the designs of Mr. A. W. Pugin. The first stone of the church was laid in 1834, by Dr. Bramston, the then Vicar-Apostolic of the London district, and it was formally opened in the following year. The church is a fine brick-built structure, in the Early Pointed style of Gothic architecture. The plot of ground on which it stands was purchased at the expense of a benevolent lady, the Baroness Montesquieu, who also bought and furnished a well-built house adjoining.
The convent of the Sisters of Mercy is also in the Gothic style of architecture, in keeping with the church. Lady Barbara Eyre contributed no less than £1,000 towards its erection. Considerable additions were made to the edifice in 1876–7. In addition to a large school conducted by the "religious" of Our Lady of Mercy, there are four other numerously-attended Roman Catholic schools in this district.
The edifice mentioned above was erected on a site which had previously served as a tan-yard, supplied with water from the tide-stream, which at one time passed close to the convent in its progress from the "Folly" to the neighbourhood of the Neckinger Mills, of which we have already spoken.
Jamaica Road, which winds eastward in the direction of Rotherhithe and Deptford, is so named from an inn called the "Jamaica," which stood in this immediate neighbourhood, in what is now Cherry Garden Street, down till a comparatively recent date. The house itself, which was named, in compliment, no doubt, to the island which was the birthplace of rum, is traditionally said to have been one of the many residences of Oliver Cromwell, but we cannot guarantee the tradition. It is thus mentioned, in a work published in 1854:—"The building, of which only a moiety now remains, and that very ruinous, the other having been removed years ago to make room for modern erections, presents almost the same features as when tenanted by the Protector. The carved quatrefoils and flowers upon the staircase beams, the old-fashioned fastenings of the doors—bolts, locks, and bars—the huge single gable (which in a modern house would be double), even the divided section, like a monstrous amputated stump, imperfectly plastered over, patched here and there with planks, slates, and tiles, to keep out the wind and weather, though it be very poorly, all are in keeping; and the glimmer of the gas, by which the old and ruinous kitchen is dimly lighted, seems to 'pale its ineffectual fire,' in striving to illuminate the old black settles and still older wainscot." Mr. J. Larwood, in his "History of Sign-boards," tells us that after the Restoration this house became a tavern; and he reminds us how, after the homely, kindhearted custom of the times, Sam Pepys, on Sunday, April 14, 1667, took his wife and her maids there to give them a day's pleasure. "Over the water," writes the Secretary to the Admiralty in his "Diary," "to the Jamaica house, where I never was before, and then the girls did run wagers on the bowling-green, and there with much pleasure spent but little, and so home." It is added that Pepys appears in after times to have frequently resorted to this place—possibly without madame—and it has been considered by some writers to be the same which he elsewhere terms the "Halfway House," probably in allusion to the dockyard at Deptford. From a reference to modern maps, however, it would appear that the "Halfway House" was about a mile nearer Deptford. A tavern called the "New Jamaica" has been built on the west side of Jamaica Level, near the Jamaica Road and Mill Pond Bridge. At Cherry Garden Stairs, Bermondsey Wall—as that part of the river-side north of the Jamaica Road is called—was an inn bearing the sign of the "Lion and Castle." This sign is often thought to be derived from some of the marriages between our own royal House of Stuart and that of Spain; though, as Mr. Larwood says, we need not accept this version, but may simply refer to "the brand of Spanish arms on the sherry casks, and have been put up by the landlord to indicate the sale of genuine Spanish wines, such as sack, canary, and mountain."
The Cherry Garden itself, the site of which is now covered by a street bearing that name, was a place of public resort in the days of the Stuarts. It is mentioned by Pepys in his "Diary," under date 15th June, 1664: "To Greenwich, and so to the Cherry Garden, and thence by water, singing finely, to the bridge, and there landed." Charles Dickens, too, speaks of the place in one of his inimitable works.
On the south side of Jamaica Road, and at the northern end of Spa Road, stands the parish church of St. James. It is a spacious building of brick and stone, and dates its erection from the year 1829. The edifice, which is in the Grecian style of architecture, consists of a nave and side aisles, with a chancel and vestibules. The west front has a portico in the centre, composed of four Ionic columns, surmounted by an entablature and pediment. The steeple, which rises from the centre of this front, is square in plan, and of four stages or divisions, each of which are ornamented by clusters of columns and pilasters, the last storey being crowned with entablatures, having cinerary urns and vases above the angles. The spire is crowned with a vane in the form of a dragon. In the tower is a fine peal of ten bells.
Near St. James's Church is the Spa Road Station, on the Deptford and Greenwich Railway. We have already spoken of the formation of this line of railway; but it may not be out of place to add here that few persons are aware of the enormous traffic passing daily in each direction between London Bridge Station and Spa Road, where the railway assumes its greatest width. The accompanying diagram, which represents the number of lines of railway seen at a point about a mile east of the London Bridge Station, will give some idea of what this traffic really is. A passenger travelling over this particular spot will see eight lines of rails, besides the one on which he is travelling, and over nearly all these lines trains are constantly passing. This is more than double the width of any other railway in England, the utmost number of pairs of rails seen elsewhere being four. The line numbered No. 1 is the up line from Greenwich, which, to avoid crossing from side to side at a point more distant, is on the left hand instead of the right; the down line to Greenwich being the same as that used for the North Kent, Mid Kent, &c. (No. 2). No. 3 is the North Kent and Mid Kent up line. Over No. 4 run the main line and many of the suburban down trains of the Brighton Company, as well as a few trains of the South-Eastern Company. No. 7 is the South London down line to Victoria, Sutton, &c. Till about the year 1868, when the South London line was opened, there were six lines of rails running side by side for the first mile and a half from London Bridge. The South London first branches off on the right, and at some distance lower down Nos. 4, 5, and 6 diverge from Nos, 1, 2, 3; and a short distance further, the North Kent line parts company with the Greenwich, which for the rest of the distance pursues its course alone to Deptford and Greenwich. Between 6.0 a.m. and 12.0 midnight, over line No. 2 pass daily about 48 trains to Greenwich, about 21 for the Mid Kent Branch, about 60 for the North Kent line, and about 26 of the South-Eastern main line trains: total, 155. Over No. 4, during the same period, run 21 main line trains of the Brighton Company, about 75 trains for Croydon, Crystal Palace, and Victoria; and about 15 of the South-Eastern Company's trains to Red Hill, &c.: total, 111. Over No. 7 also pass 63 trains to Victoria, via Peckham, and 36 to Wimbledon, Sutton, Croydon, and Clapham Junction, &c.: total, 99. Thus, without reckoning the extra trains on Saturdays, we have the astonishing number of 365 trains running daily, in one direction, over three lines of railway for comparatively short distances; and if to this number we add the return trains running over lines Nos. 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, we have more than 700 trains running for the accommodation of persons residing principally in the southern suburbs of London.
In Drummond Road, close by St. James's Church, is the biscuit factory of Messrs. Peek, Frean, and Co. The manufactory covers a large space of ground immediately on the north side of the railway, near the Spa Road Station. It comprises several high blocks of buildings, for the most part connected with each other, and gives employment to a very large number of hands. In the centre of the building is a lofty clock-tower.
The Blue Anchor Road—so named from a tavern bearing that sign, at the corner of Blue Anchor Lane—commences at the Grange Road, and winding in a north-easterly direction under the railway, and so on to the end of the Jamaica Road, forms the boundary between the parishes of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. In a map of London and its environs, published in 1828, and also in Coghlan's map (1834), the whole of this thoroughfare, which in those times had but few houses built along it, is marked as "Blue Anchor Road;" but in the Post Office Directory of the present day, that part of the road lying northward of the railway is called "Jamaica Level," the west side being entered as belonging to the parish of Bermondsey, and the east side to that of Rotherhithe. In the maps above mentioned a narrow roadway running eastward across the market-gardens is marked as the "Galley Wall." This thoroughfare, which diverges from the Blue Anchor Road at the point where the latter passes under the railway, is now almost entirely built upon on both sides, and has been for many years known as the Manor Road. In the early part of the year 1877, however, the Commissioners of the Board of Works caused it to resume its original name of "Galley Wall." What may have been the origin of that name it is now somewhat difficult to decide. Close by the eastern end of this roadway there was till within the last few years a narrow canal or ditch winding its sluggish course from the Thames, across the Deptford Road, and through the fields and market-gardens, in a south-westerly direction. This ditch, although for the most part now filled up and obliterated, is the boundary line separating the counties of Kent and Surrey.
It is said by historians that in order to reduce London, Knut cut a trench or canal through the marshes on the south of the Thames; and Maitland considered that he had discovered its course, from its "influx into the Thames at the lower end of Chelsea Reach" through the Spring Garden at Vauxhall, by the Black Prince at Kennington, and the south of Newington Butts, and across the Deptford Road, to its "outflux where the great wet dock below Rotherhithe is situated."
It is quite possible that Maitland was rather credulous, like many other antiquaries and topographers; though certainly it ought to be added that he does not "speak without book," but honestly gives his authority; for he says that he "inquired of a carpenter named Webster, who was employed in making the 'great wet dock at Rotherhithe' in the year 1694, and who remembered that in the course of that work a considerable body of fagots and stakes were discovered," which Maitland considers as "part of the works intended to strengthen the banks of the canal." Allen adds, in his "History of London," a remark to the effect that "it is allowed by many eminent antiquaries that there might have been such a water-course as Maitland describes from the wet dock at Deptford round by St. Thomas à Watering and Newington Butts, quite up to Vauxhall, and into the Thames at Chelsea Reach." It has been suggested that the ditch here referred to may have been the same which we have mentioned above as passing by the end of Galley Wall; and that there may have been near this spot, in very remote times, a "wall" or landing-stage for the shipment of merchandise from the ancient "galleys." The trade of the Venetians in the spices and other merchandise which they brought overland from India and sent to London in their "galleys" has passed away; and few are reminded by the name of "Galley Quay," in Thames Street, that their proud argosies were once accustomed to ride at anchor there. It is just possible that there may have been a similar quay—or galley wall—at this spot for the use of the inhabitants of the south side of the Thames.
It may be here remarked that in the early part of the present century there were pleasant walks about the Kent Road and Bermondsey where we should now look in vain for rural enjoyments. The favourite route from Southwark to the Old Kent Road was by way of the Halfpenny Hatch, the name of which is still retained, though the poplars and willows, and airy walks by the side of the small canals, are no more. "It is," writes an enthusiastic cockney of our grandfathers' times, "a delightful spot, where the pensive mind may in a summer evening indulge in an hour or two of delightful musing and wholesome promenade." The locality here referred to lies about midway between Long Lane and Kent Street, near the junction of Baalzephon and Hunter Streets.
We may remark here, by way of a conclusion to this chapter, that Bermondsey and Rotherhithe are both well matched in point of filth, dirt, and unsavoury smells with their neighbour across the river—Wapping. But squalid as is their general appearance, they abound in wealth, the fruits of industry and labour, no inconsiderable portion of it their own, while the remainder is stored up and warehoused within their boundaries for the convenience of their richer neighbours.