AskDefine | Define Southwark

User Contributed Dictionary


Proper noun

  1. A borough of London, to the south of the River Thames, consisting of the historic borough plus the Pool of London and Bankside.


Extensive Definition

Southwark or The Borough is an area of south-east London in the London Borough of Southwark, situated 1.5 miles (2.4 km) east of Charing Cross.


Southwark (, locally also [ˈsʌvək]) is the area of London immediately south of London Bridge.
It has been called The Borough (pronounced [bʌɹə]) since the 1550s, to contrast it with the neighbouring City, in later years to distinguish it from the larger Metropolitan Borough of Southwark and now to distinguish it from the much larger London Borough of Southwark. The core area of the Borough is virtually coterminous with the Guildable Manor.
The Cathedral precinct and the Borough Market are often misleadingly described as being in Bankside and the Tooley Street area up to the St Saviour's Dockhead is also mistakenly described as part of Bermondsey , whereas they have always been part of Borough.

Manors, Vestries

From the Norman period manorial organisation obtained through major lay and ecclesiastic magnates. Southwark still has vestiges of this because of the connection with the City of London. In 1327 the City acquired from Edward III the original ' vill of Southwark' and this was also described as "the borough". However, even at that period the term "Southwark" was used to describe much else on the Surrey bank of the Thames. References are made to both Bermondsey and Lambeth as being "in Southwark". It seems that the informal name for the original settlement arose to avoid confusion, the earliest reference to it as 'Guildable Manor' is in 1377.
The neighbours to this were then:
(West of High Street)
Bishop of Winchester's 'Liberty of the Clink'
The Hospitaller's 'Wyldes' (later 'Paris(h) Garden')
Bermondsey Priory's (later an Abbey) 'west socne' (from taq 1550 'The King's Manor')
(East of High Street)
Archbishop of Canterbury's (from taq 1550 ' The Great Liberty ')
Bermondsey Manor
and two sub manors St Thomas (Hospital precinct); Earl de Warenne's (defunct from 1399)
In 1536 Henry VIII acquired the Bermondsey Priory properties and in 1538 that of the Archbishop. In 1550 these were sold to the City. From 1550 to 1899 it formed part of the City of London as the Ward of Bridge Without but was not included in the representative system at Guildhall.
However, Elizabethan Poor Laws placed statutory burdens onto Parishes and this created a civic authority which at first ran alongside and eventually displaced manorial authority which was essentially tenurial. In Southwark these parishes did not exactly coincide with the Manors:
Southwark Parishes from mediaeval period:-
St Margaret's (merged into St Saviour's 1539)
St Mary Magdalen, Southwark (merged into St Saviour's 1539)
St Olave
St George the Martyr
St Thomas (Hospital precinct)
St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey

Civil Parishes and District Boards of Works

The process of local authority development was that secular administration in the parishes were placed into 'vestries' i.e. a lay council originally meeting not in the church but in a robing room. The arrangement then became formalised when the Metropolis Management Act 1855 divided civil administration from religious (i.e. Church of England) observance and franchises. The Act created a Metropolitan Board of Works as a local government federation for what then was regarded as greater London out of parts of Middlesex, Surrey and Kent. Their previous parochial authorities were then given the status of 'Civil Parishes' out of the preceding organisations. Where the previous vestry parish was considered too small these were grouped together as 'District Boards of Works '. These sent representatives to the Metropolitan Board.
For Southwark these bodies were as follows:-
St Saviour DBW - St Saviour's and its daughter parish of Christchurch (previously ' Parish Garden) with part of St Thomas. The St Saviour's parish included ' the Clink '.
St Olave DBW - St Olave's and its daughter parish of St John, Horsleydown with part of St Thomas (Hospital precinct). In 1899 this was given the status of a 'Civil Parish'.
St George the Martyr
The neighbours to these Southwark parishes were now:- St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey; Lambeth; St Mary, Newington (Walworth).
These and other parishes in Kent, Surrey, Middlesex and Essex were put into the new London County Council created in 1889. In 1900 the London Government Act was to merge the various Civil Parishes and DBWs into ' Metropolitan Boroughs of London ' effectively giving to the metropolitan area municipal corporations on a par with those in the provinces and the City.
The three Southwark districts and the neighbouring St Mary, Newington (Walworth) became the ' Metropolitan Borough of Southwark.
Much of the area around the Tate Modern gallery and the Globe Theatre is now referred to by the historic name of Bankside, which was part of the Liberty of the Clink, rather than 'the Borough' but was part of Southwark because within the parish of St Saviour.


In common with much of the south bank of the Thames, The Borough has seen extensive regeneration in the last decade. Declining light industry and factories have given way to residential development, shops, restaurants, galleries and bars. The area is in easy walking distance of the City and the West End. As such it has become a major business centre with many national and international corporations, professional practices and publishers locating to the area. These include London Bridge City, More London and the Pilar Piano Tower to be erected over London Bridge Station.
To the north is the River Thames, London Bridge station and Southwark Cathedral. Borough Market is a well-developed visitor attraction and has grown in size. The adjacent units have been converted and form a gastronomic focus for London. Borough High Street runs roughly north to south from London Bridge towards Elephant and Castle.
The Borough is generally an area of mixed development, with council estates, major office developments, social housing and high value residential gated communities side by side with each other.


Early history

Southwark is on a previously marshy area south of the River Thames. Recent excavation has revealed prehistoric activity including evidence of early ploughing, burial mounds and ritual activity. The area was originally a series of islands in the River Thames. This formed the best place to bridge the Thames and the area became an important part of Londinium owing its importance to its position as the endpoint of the Roman London Bridge. Two Roman roads, Stane Street and Watling Street, met at Southwark in what is now Borough High Street. Archaeological work at Tabard Street in 2004 discovered a plaque with the earliest reference to 'London' from the Roman period on it.
Londinium was abandoned at the end of the Roman occupation in the early fifth century and both the city and its bridge collapsed in decay. Archaeologically, evidence of settlement is replaced by a largely featureless soil called the Dark Earth which probably (although this is contested) represents an urban area abandoned.
Southwark appears to recover only during the time of King Alfred and his successors. Sometime in and around 886 AD the 'burh' of Southwark was created and the Roman City area reoccupied. Southwark was referred to as 'Suthringa Geweorc' in the Burghal Hidage, meaning the 'defensive works of the men of Surrey'. It was probably fortified to defend the bridge and hence the re-emerging City of London to the north. This defensive role is highlighted by the use of the Bridge as a defence against King Swein, his son King Cnut in 1016 by Ethelred the Unready and in 1066, against King William the Conqueror. He failed to force the Bridge during the Norman conquest of England, but Southwark was devastated.
Southwark appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Sudwerc(h) and Sudwerche. It was held by several Surrey manors. Its domesday assets were: the defensive outpost and suburb of London on the south bank. The Bishop Odo of Bayeux held the monastery and the waterway, the St Mary Overy dock which still exists. Southwark's value to the King was £16.
Much of Southwark was originally owned by the church—the greatest reminder of monastic London is Southwark Cathedral, originally the priory of St Mary Overy.
During the early Middle Ages, Southwark developed and was one of the four Surrey towns which returned Members of Parliament for the first commons assembly in 1295. Southwark remained outside of the control of the City and was a haven for criminals and free traders, who would sell goods and conduct trades outside the regulation of the City Livery Companies. In 1327 the City obtained control from Edward III, of the manor next to the south-side of London Bridge (called latterly 'Guildable Manor', i.e. the place of taxes and tolls). The Livery Companies also ensured that they had jurisdiction over the area. An important market occupied the High Street, which was controlled by the City's officers—it was later removed in order to improve traffic to the Bridge, under a separate Trust by Act of Parliament of 1756 as the Borough Market on the present site. The high street market was established there some time in the 13th century. The area was renowned for its inns, especially The Tabard, from which Chaucer's pilgrims set off on their journey in The Canterbury Tales.

Post 1500

After many decades' petitioning, in 1550, Southwark was incorporated into the City of London as 'The Ward of Bridge Without'. However, the Alderman was appointed by the Court of Aldermen and no Common Councilmen were ever elected. This 'Ward' was constituted of the original 'Guildable Manor' and the properties previously held by the church, under a charter of Edward VI, latterly called the 'King's Manor' and 'Great Liberty' manor. These manors are still constituted by the City under a Bailiff and Steward with their Courts Leet and View of Frankpledge Juries and Officers which still meet - their annual assembly being held in November under the present High Steward (the Recorder of London). The Ward and Aldermanry were effectively abolished in 1978, by merging it with the Ward of Bridge. These manorial courts were preserved under the Administration of Justice Act 1977. Just west of the Bridge was the 'Clink Liberty' manor, which was never controlled by the City, technically held under the Bishopric of Winchester's nominal authority. This area therefore became the entertainment district for London, and it was also the red-light area. In 1584 Southwark was given its first playhouse theatre, The Rose. The Rose was set up by a famous local businessman, Philip Henslowe, and it soon became a very popular place of entertainment for all classes of Londoners. Both Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare, two of the finest writers of the Elizabethan age, worked at the Rose. In 1838 the first railway for the London area was created, planned to run from Southwark at London Bridge station to Greenwich only.
In 1861, another Great Fire of Southwark destroyed a large number of buildings between Tooley Street and the Thames, including those around Hays Wharf, where Hays Galleria was later built, and blocks to the west almost as far as St Olave's Church.
The first deep level London 'tube' underground line was 'The City and South London Railway', now the City Branch of the Northern Line, opened in 1890, running from King William Street through Borough to Kennington. Southwark, since 1999, is also now serviced by Southwark and London Bridge stations on the Jubilee Line.
Having been part of Surrey, Southwark became part of the County of London in 1889. In 1900 it was incorporated along with St Mary, Newington alias Walworth into the Metropolitan Borough of Southwark, and in 1965 this was in turn incorporated with the Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell and Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey into the London Borough of Southwark.


External links

Town Crier Borough of Southwark
Southwark in Hindi: सदक
Southwark in Dutch: Southwark
Southwark in Norwegian: Southwark
Southwark in Polish: Southwark
Southwark in Turkish: Southwark
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