Paris Garden

Paris Garden, situated to the west of St Saviours and the Clink area, was less developed than its neighbour until the nineteenth century. The land was granted to the Knights Templar by Bermondsey Abbey in the early middle ages and when the Templars were disbanded in 1324 the land passed to the Hospitallers, the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. The manor lay mostly below water level and despite drainage ditches the area remained marshy for several centuries. The manors early name was Wideflete or the Wiles which means willows, a tree that likes a damp habitat. By 1420 the manor had become known as Parish Garden which in turn became Paris Garden. Due to the marshy nature of the manor it remained largely uninhabited but the Hospitallers exercised a right that had been granted to them by Pope Innocent III to offer sanctuary to felons. In 1420 John, Duke of Bedford, who held the farm in the manor, drew up regulations that those seeking sanctuary had to abide by. These regulations included the need to register, to swear an oath not to cause harm to the sanctuary, to keep the statutes and not to leave without licence. The entry fine was 4d and anybody committing a crime would be committed to the Kings Bench Prison. There is no record describing how the system of sanctuary worked before these regulations,

Other than these pleasure palaces, the area was largely given over to agriculture or to tenter grounds where cloth was stretched on frames to dry and keep its shape. Paris Garden had formerly been a part of St Saviour's parish until the parish of Christchurch was formed. The first church built in 1671, paid for by a legacy of John Marshall, a local businessman, but the whole area was marshy and slowly the church collapsed and had to be demolished. A new church was built and opened in 1741 and survived until it was destroyed in the Blitz 200 years later. The present church was opened in 1958, paid for by the Marshall Charity.

Christchurch Charity School opened in 1707, founded on a bequest by pin-maker Thomas Johnson, and just under 200 years later, a Mr C Greenwood wrote A Report upon the Property and Income of the Christchurch Southwark Parochial School Trustand in this he gave a brief history of the area.

"Christchurch was then [1707] only in its infancy, shaking off the leaven of unrighteousness inherited from its none-too-reputable parent, the Manor of Old Paris Garden, who contiguity to, and connection with, the theatres, prisons, stews, and slums of the adjoining Parish of St Saviour, and whose reputation as a pleasure resort, of no very high order, were still facts wihin the memory of man.

"The Parish itself was, in fact, nothing more than a country village, with a population of about 600, and a total rateable value of about 2,000. It boasted, however, about 20 public houses, and 100 private houses, shops, and cottages, some standing in fields and gardens. A few yards from its north-eastern extremity was the celebrated Falcon Tavern, which we are told was a constant resort of Shakespeare and his companions, and which was, no doubt, patronised between the years 1720 and 1765 by the convivial Dr Johnson on some of his many journeys to or from the residence of his friend, Thrale, of the Brewery (now Barclay and Perkins), in Park Street, St Saviour.

"Of the six streets in the Parish, the names of three are still retained, the Upper Ground, the Broadwall, and Bennett Street.

"The Upper Ground was the principal street or highway, and then extended from the Mill Pond at the north end of Gravel Lane and the Green Walk, along the riverside, about 120 feet from the river bank, to the north end of the Broadwall, the western boundary of the Parish. The site of the Mill Pond is now covered by part of Messr. Eps' Cocoa Factory.

"The Green Walk (a part of which is now called Holland Street) ran from the east end of Upper Ground southwards, and almost parallel with Gravel Lane (the eastern boundary of the Parish) and turned westward at the east end of the present Burrell Street (formerly Church Street), taking the same course as that street across what is now known as Blackfriars Road, past the chrch and churchyard to the south end of Broadwalk.

"Comparitively little change has taken place in the outward aspect of the parish - or rather of the manor - since the days of Queen Elizabeth, when the good Queen herself and the Lords and Ladies of her Court were wont to make use of it as an agreeable promenade, or to pass through it (landing on Paris Garden stairs) en route for the theatres, or the bull and bear baiting exhibitions on the Bankside.

"Most of the old familiar landmarks of those festive times still remained, such as old Paris Garden Lane, Paris Garden stairs, Marygold Stairs, Bull Stairs, Holland's Leger, the Manor House, the Pudding Mill Stream and Pond, Gravel, or "Gravile" Lane, Upper Ground, the Green Walk, the Broad Wall, and many of the old public houses, not forgetting the Falcon Tavern.

"The first church in the Manor, consecrated on the 17th Dec., 1671, occupied the same site as the present one; and such places as Scrub's Square, Leggett's Walk, Jackson's Court, Lady Clark's Court, and Price's Court had sprung up within the 150 years preceding the establishment of these schools.

"It is needless to say that as old Blackfriars Bridge was not opened until the year 1769, there was no means of communication with the Metropolis except by ferry or by way of old London Bridge. Great Surrey Street - or, as it is now called, Blackfriars Road - was, of course, not made, and its site was covered by gardens and fields, the above mentioned Manor House (built on an island surrounded by a moat) standing at about the spot whence the present bridge springs.

"So far as the inhabitants themselves are concerned, it may be conjectured that the majority consisted, as it does now, of the poorer class, earning a livelihood as watermen, gardeners, and artisans, whilst the minority or more wealthy inhabitants were publicans, proprietors of the market gardens (including Mr Bovey, the owner of the Asparagas Garden), and a few manufacturers including the charitable pinmaker and the owner of the glassworks at the corner of the Green Walk and Upper Ground, the Rector of the Parish was the Rev. Thomas Felsted, elected by the patrons of the living, the Trustees of the will of Mr John Marshall, in 1689, on the death of the first "Minister or Rector," the Rev. William Gearing.

"It may be noted, in passing, that there were then probably a few of the older inhabitants living who witnessed the triumphant entry of General Fairfax, at the head of the Roundhead army, into the City over old London Bridge in 1647, and many who recollected the plague of London in 1665, and were spectator of the great fire "over the water" the following year, whilst the preaching of John Bunyan at his meeting-house in Zoar Street - within a stone's throw of the site of the schools - as recently as 1688, to the thousands who flocked from all parts to hear him, must have been fresh in the memories of the majority.


"It is probable that very little change was effected in the outward aspect of the parish until the building of old Blackfriars Bridge in 1769, when Great Surrey Street was made, and a double row of large houses (many of which still stand) gradually covered the fields and gardens, and were inhabited by wealthy merchants and others, who wished to escape from the noise and turmoil of the great metropolis after business hours, and enjoy the serene seclusion of the Surrey side. For upwards of fifty years after this the condition of affairs in the parish may be regarded as extremely prosperous: carriages and pairs and liveried servants were seen at most of the houses in Great Surrey Street, and many gifts and bequests were made to these schools and to the Churchwardens for the poor of the Parish. The houses in Stamford Street (built about this time), were also tenanted by wealthy parishioners, and Nelson Square (built on the site of the late Mr Burkett's garden and orchard), was a favourite residence and resort of literarary and theatrical celebrities, amongst whom "The Thunderer of The Times," who lived there for some years, was, perhaps the most famous.


"As the buildings increased in number, the wealthy inhabitants removed to "fresh fields and pastures new," and the large houses were converted into shops and business premises. For many years past, the wealthy manufacturers and others carrying on business in the Parish in the daytime, have left for their suburban residences at night, where they doubtless have a local church and local charities to support, and although there are a few brilliant exceptions, the majority know very little of the social and moral condition of the poor of Christchurch, and quite forget the claims which might justly be made upon them for assistance and support in the working of our Parochial Institutions.

"The population of the parish is now about 12,000 and its rateable value exceeds 100,000 whilst the schools accommodate about 370 boys, girls and infants as before mentioned.

"It boasts a Working Men's Club and Baths and Wash-houses at the new Albert Institute ... two political clubs, one of each colour; three Almshouses, two Board Schools, Artizans' Dwellings, Home and Clubs for Working Boys and Girls, and the subject of my report, the Parochial Schools; not to mention that house we all hope to avoid as long as possible - a Workhouse."

Parys Garden 1560

Parys Garden 1560.
Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum

Paris Garden

Christchurch 1817

An interview with the vicar of Christchurch conducted in 1899 in connection with the compilation of the Charles Booth Poverty Maps discussed the changes that were taking place in Paris Garden at the end of the century, many as a result of slum clearance. "The poor are being evicted, the demolition of houses (small) and the substitution of warehouses etc taking place at great rate ... Rents are tending upwards ... The demand for houses is very keen" Many of those who had been evicted had no choice but to move out of the area to places further out like Clapham.

Interview with Revd AH Fontaine, Christchurch Parish, Charles Booth NotebookB269, 1899
C Greenwood, A Report upon the Property and Income of the Christchurch Southwark Parochial School Trust (1888),_Southwark