Survey of London: Volume 22, Bankside (The Parishes of St. Saviour and Christchurch Southwark). Originally published by London County Council, London, 1950.
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CHAPTER 15: SOUTHWARK STREET
In April 1856, the St. Saviour's District Board petitioned the Metropolitan Board of Works to form a new street between the terminus of the South Eastern Railway at London Bridge and the west end of London. (fn. 194) Powers to carry out this improvement were obtained by the Covent Garden Approach and Southwark and Westminster Communication Act in 1857. (fn. 195) About 400 houses were pulled down to clear the site. (fn. 196) The street, the first to be made by the Metropolitan Board of Works, was completed in 1864, a novel feature being the formation of a subway under the centre of the road with communicating side passages to take gas, water and drain pipes and telegraph wires. (fn. 197)
Many large commercial buildings were erected on either side of the street in 1864–75, but in places the strip of land that had been purchased for the improvement was too narrow for adequate development, and the awkward angles made by the crossings with former streets gave plots of unsatisfactory shape.
Architecturally many of the buildings have interest as experiments in the application of Italianate Romanesque and Gothic styles to commercial buildings, fashionable at the time, but despite much elaboration of detail, some essays in polychrome treatment in brick, stone, terra-cotta and tiles, and a sprinkling of classical motifs, the general effect of the street is disjointed and dull.
No. 24 Central Buildings, of six storeys, formerly the Hop and Malt Exchange, completed in 1866 was the most imposing block to be built. It was designed by R. H. Moore. As with other buildings which escaped destruction in this street, it has been badly damaged by enemy action, but even in its present state it still impresses by its sheer bulk and repetition of detail.