John Strype in his Survey of London 1720 notes that the inhabitants of Bankside were Woodmongers, Timbermerchants, Shipwrights, Bargemen, Watermen, and such whose Livings depended upon the River. Over a hundred years later, entries in the Post Office directory listing for Bankside reflect the effect of the industrial revolution. It was now busy, bustling and highly commercial but the businesses which fronted on to the river on Bankside were still mostly dependent upon the River. There were merchants selling such goods such as heavy metals, timber and corn transported from other parts of the country and world, and unloaded and stored in warehouses on Bankside. By far the greatest commodity dealt with by Bankside river traders at this time was coal, the fuel for the industry and factories of Southwark and the rest of the London. The full listing for the thoroughfare of Bankside in the Post Office Directory for 1841 can be found here.

Walking around the area of Bankside and the Borough today its hard to imagine that the area was a centre of manufacture and heavy industry with the associated noise, dirt and noxious fumes . The streets are now transformed with few reminders remaining of its industrial past and it is difficult to recognize the area as the same place that was described in 1843:

St Saviour's Docks

Those dwellers in and visitors to the Great Metropolis who cross Southwark Bridge from the City to the Borough can scarcely fail to have observed the array of tall chimneys which meets the eye on either side of its southern extremity; each one serving as a kind of beacon or guide-post to some large manufacturing establishment beneath here a brewery, there a saw-mill, farther on a hat factory, a distillery, a vinegar factory, and numerous others. Indeed Southwark is as distinguishable at a distance for its numerous tall chimneys and the clouds of smoke emitted by them, as London is for its thickly-congregated church-spires.
George Dodd, Days in the Factories

The oldest industries of the Bankside area included brewing,glass-making and hat-making, became the centre of the hop trade, and at one time it was claimed it contained the largest number of iron foundries within London. The River played a large part in the development of Southwarks industry as its proximity facilitated the ease of transportation of raw materials and fuel from other places. In the case of brewing, it actually constituted a major raw ingredient, as, hard to believe now, the water was of such purity that it provided the habitat for large numbers of fish. Brewing was one of the oldest industries in Southwark and went back since before the time of Chaucer who praised its goodness, whilst others called it a headstrong ale [that] kept many a gossip from the kirk. Immigrants who arrived from Flanders in the 16th Century brought their brewing skills and expertise and greatly improved the process. In 1530, to ensure unimpeded supplies of water from the Thames, a group of brewers took a lease on what is now St Mary Overie Dock and the passage way between St Mary Priory and Winchester Palace to enable the waters carriage in their carts. Anchor Brewery, later known as the Barclay Perkins Brewery, for a while was the greatest brewery in the world and the greatest industrial enterprise in Southwark. As it grew it bought out other breweries that were close by including the Red Lion Brewery, the Vine Brewery and Cordwainers Brewery. In 1795, other breweries within the area, that were not a part of the Anchor Brewery, were the Peacock Brewery in Gravel Lane, Joseph Huxleys Brewery in Bandy Leg Walk (Great Guildford Street), and George Davis and Cowell & Coles Brewery, both situated in Maid Lane.

A similar process to brewing beer was used in the production of vinegar. Of five vinegar works in London, four were located on the south side of the river. In 1795 Concanen and Morgan described the vinegar factory which was situated to the east of what was to become Southwark Bridge Road:

At the end of Castle Street are the very extensive and improved premises, formerly of Mr Rush, now of Messrs. Robert, Arthur and William Pott, employed as a Vinegar Yard. We have an account of this place from so early a period as the year 1641, but long previous to which time was part of it was a gardeners ground, and the remainder used for the keeping of hogs, and it was then considered a very great nuisance; this, however, must have been at a very early period, for in this year we find it first appropriated to its present purpose, by a Mr Rush, from whom the family and late possessors of that name are descended; in this family it remained a considerable and improving manufactory until the year 1790, when it came into the possession of the present proprietors, whose family had carried on a manufactory of the same nature in Mansel Street upwards of seventy years. The alterations made by these gentlemen can hardly come under the denomination of an improvement only, a total change having taken place by entire new erections and apparatus for the purposes of manufactory, which is now deemed to be the most extensive and most convenient of the kind in England. The dwelling house is the only part which seems to be remaining in its original state. The entrance from Castle Street, which was formerly but mean, being incumbered with low buildings, ill in repair, and worse inhabited, is now open and spacious. In the place of such houses as we have described, are two new dwellings, and the various buildings will, when compleat, form nearly a square, and cover between five and six acres of ground, raised many feet above its original level.

Potts Vinegar Factory

The vinegar factory remained in the hands of the Pott family until the early 20th century when it amalgamated with Beaufoy & Co in Lambeth.

Concanen and Morgan also mention three dye houses in the parish of St Saviour at that time, a white lead factory in the Loman Street area, and two iron foundries. One of these was called the Bear Garden Foundry, owned by Mr Bradley which during the present war has been employed in casting very considerable quantities of shot and shells for government service. (Britain was at war with France.) The other, the Falcon Iron Foundry owned by Messrs. Prickett and Handyside was also reported to be conducting very extensive business. Lingard and Sadler was a mustard factory in Clink Street where a steam engine was used in the grinding of mustard and others seeds, and sieves, pressing machines for the extraction of oil and making oil cake were all worked by engine.

The introduction of steam engines in factories was not welcomed by everyone. The opening of Albion Flour Mills in premises next to Blackfriars Bridge on the river was hailed as a great industrial achievement by some and attracted curious sightseers, whilst traditional millers looked on fearful for the future of their livelihoods. This extensive concern was set on foot by a company of spirited and opulent individuals, with a view to counteract the impositions but too frequently practiced in the grinding of corn. It was furnished with a steam engine, contrived by Messrs Boulton and Watt of Birmingham, which turned ten pair of stones, each grinding nine bushels of corn in an hour without intermission, day or night; besides which it gave motion to the various apparatus for hoisting and lowering the corn and flour into and out of the barges, for fanning the corn to keep it free from impurities, and for sifting and dressing the meal, from its first state, till perfectly cleared for the use of the baker. On 3rd March 1791, the whole building, with the exception of the corner wing, occupied as the house and offices of the superintendant, was reduced to ashes, together with 4,000 sacks of flour which it contained. (Allen)

It was said that part of St James Park was covered with half burnt grain. At first arson was suspected and the sight of the Mill burning down was certainly looked on with enjoyment and indeed celebrated by many as they watched from Blackfriars Bridge but the owner and the engineer, Samuel Wyat and John Rennie, believed the fire was started by friction. The building had cost 1000, and the loss in corn and flour was calculated to be 40,000.

A report prepared in about 1858 regarding the Bishop of Winchesters estate in Southwark reported there was a large number of Manufactories and Warehouses " The Grove and its vicinity situate towards the centre of the Estate is the principal centre of the Iron foundry trade in London. There were a large number of factories located not just in Winchester Park but throughout Bankside and Borough. Looking through the Ordnance Survey map of 1872/1873 and the Post Office Directory of 1882, there were (this is just a snapshot and not to be regarded as a definitive list!):

2 soap manufacturers
6 white lead manufacturers
1 candle factory
1 tallow works
1 sealskin works
1 cocoa nut fibre works
7 colour manufacturers
1 pickle factory
2 black lead manufacturers
2 blacking manufacturers
6 boiler makers
6 sanitary engineers
14 iron foundries
26 mechanical engineers

A few companies were classified under both iron founders and mechanical engineers. One of these was Bailey Pegg & Co at 81 Bankside, a company that began in 1812 in Wapping. They later opened a foundry in Stourbridge. They describe their business in the directory as iron founders, iron merchants and cannon founders, manufacturers of socket and flanch pipes for gas and water, also hot and rainwater pipes. Their cannons are now collectors items.

- Joseph Stannah had engineering works at 20 Southwark Bridge Road. Their company is described as patentee and manufacturer of cranes and lifts, by steam, gas, hand or hydraulic power and the patent pendulum pump for feeding boilers and pumping purposes generally; the Southwark 2 HP steam engine price 15. Today the Stannah Group is still a family run business with factories at Andover and Norwich.

- Henry Coles at 9 Sumner Street describes his compressors, hydraulic presses, pumps and cranes, compound, high pressure and condensing engines, steam cranes, direct acting hoisting engines, donkey pumps. He had taken over the premises in 1879 and started to build cranes: in 1898 he moved the company to Derby where he started the London Crane Company.

John Rennie and his son Sir John Rennie are probably the most reknown engineers to have premises in Bankside. John Rennie Snr moved to London from Scotland in 1791 when he set up his own civil engineering business in Holland Street. His output was vast, and he designed canals, docks and bridges including the original Southwark and Waterloo Bridges. He died in 1821 and his son John, later Sir John, completed the new London Bridge to his fathers design that opened in 1831. He was one of the first to become involved in railway engineering but became better known for his marine engineering.

Founders Arms

Modern sign for the Founder's Arms, a pub located on Bankside very close to the site of the Falcon Iron Foundry.

A 1959 stained glass window in Christchurch, Blackfriars Road, paid for by Marshall's Charity, representing the construction industry of the area

christchurch Industry
Stannah lifts

The Kirkaldy Testing Works, founded by David Kirkaldy, opened at 99 Southwark Street in 1874. He set up a load testing machine, 48 foot long, and powerful enough to deal with the largest specimens for testing. The Kirkaldy Testing Museum now caretakes and preserves the machine, and to quote from their publicity: "On his big machine, Kirkaldy could test pieces 20ft (6 m) long and 3 inches (75mm) diameter. He tested materials and artefacts in tension, compression, impact, bending, buckling, twisting, shearing ... he tested cast iron, wrought iron, steel ... timber, concrete, cement paste, tiles, leather, paving slabs, drain pipes, beams, girders, columns, railway, wheels, ship plates, chains ..." The Testing Works closed in 1965 and the Museum is open the third Sunday of the month at 99 Southwark Street.

The largest reminder of Bankside's industrial past is of course Bankside Power Station, now the marvellous Tate Modern. A very informative article regarding the generating station and its predecessors can be found on and information regarding the Phoenix Gas Works, and loads more information regarding early manufacture of gas, can be found on


Thomas Allen,The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark and Parts Adjacent Vol 4 (1839)
Matthew Concanen and Aaron Morgan,The History and Antiquities of the Parish of St Saviour's, Southwark (1795)
George Dodd, Days in the Factories (1843)
Leonard Reilly and Geoff Marshall,The Story of Bankside(2001)
Sir Howard Roberts and Walter H. Godfrey (eds), Survey of London, Vol 22(1950)
John Strype, Survey of London, 1740
Edward Walford,Old and New London: Volume 6(1878)

Post Offices Directories 1841 & 1882, courtesy of