Tudor & Stuart

When Mary came to the throne she gave the estate to the Archbishop of York to compensate for the land he had lost under her father Henry VIII but already the estate had fallen into disrepair and subdivided with new tenements built in its grounds. The Archbishop of York sold it within a year and in 1562 the once grand palace was demolished. Stow wrote in 1593 that many small cottages of great rents were built in its place that led to the increasing numbers of beggars and vagrants arriving in the area. Over the next three centuries this area was to become one of the most lawless, deprived and depraved areas in London.

In 1550 The City of London was able to further its aim of having jurisdiction over Southwark when it bought at a cost of 980 from the Crown lands and administration rights to a large area that included the Kings Manor (the area to the South of the Clink Liberty) and the Great Liberty (the area to the East of Borough High Street near to Bermondsey). The jurisdiction of the City of London did not extend into the Clink Liberty or Paris Garden and they already held lands and rights of administration for the area around the bridgehead known as the Guildable Manor. The purchase was made for the City of London through the Bridge House Estate, a charity whose only trustee was the City of London. The function of the Bridge House Estate was to maintain London Bridge (and today four other bridges) , but has also derived great wealth from bequests of lands, particularly in the City and South London. Today Bridge House Trust, now called the City Bridge Trust,gives grants to the value of around 15 million for the benefit of people in Greater London.

The development and ownership of the Liberty of the Clink was affected by the vicissitudes of the changing political and religious climate. The Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner, had played a prominent part during the Reformation and had managed to hold on to the Clink Liberty but when Edward VI came to the throne he was imprisoned in the Tower for five years and his lands confiscated due to doctrinal differences. When Mary succeeded her brother Edward VI, he was freed from the Tower and his lands restored but already tenements had been built on the land and existing buildings divided. In 1641, Winchester Palacewas turned into a prison and during the Commonwealth in 1649 the estate and manorial rights were sold by the Trustees of the Sale of Church Lands to Thomas Walker of Camberwell for 4380. When the monarchy was restored in 1660 the estate was returned to the Bishop but by then he had acquired a house in Chelsea and so much building had been carried out on his former lands that he did not return. An Act of Parliament was passed that allowed the Bishop to let out the land and the tenements already built. Lancelot Andrewes was the last Bishop of Winchester to live at Winchester Palace until his death in 1626.

Further west, inParis Garden, before the Hospitallers had relinquished their lands to the King, William Baseley had bought the lease to the manor house and grounds. He brought it into a state of good repair and introduced some limited drainage, and maintained his lease when the lands passed to the King. He turned the manor house into a gaming place with dice and cards and built skittle alleys in the gardens. Theatres were banned from the City of London in 1593, and the arrival of theatre managers, writers and actors, and the building of theatres on the south side of the river created what has been referred to as the Golden Age of Bankside as playhouseswere built and opened on the south side of the river next to existing bear and bull pits. Playwright Thomas Dekker described the whole of Bankside as "a continuous alehouse" and even allowing for exaggeration would certainly have contributed to the atmosphere of louche revelry associated with the area. The gaming house in Paris Garden had developed into an infamous brothel known as Hollands Leaguer, which is said to have been complete with moat, portcullis and drawbridge. Hollands Leaguer derived its name either from a one time madame, Bess Holland, or from the Dutch prostitutes who were resident there. The establishment is still marked today by Holland Street that runs between Tate Modern and the new NEO development. The Golden Age of Bankside was short-lived as Cromwell closed the playhouses in 1642, some say to contain an outbreak of plague, others for reasons of public morals, and when the theatres were allowed to reopen during the Restoration, they went to the more fashionable Covent Garden rather than return to Bankside.

This was a time of great property speculation throughout London. Leases and properties frequently changed hands in Southwark, new tenements erected, gardens built over and existing buildings divided and then divided again, profit the only motive. The detached houses of Bankside quickly disappeared as tenements were built between the houses. Stow, writing in 1593, reported there is now a continual building of tenements about half a mile in length. The tenements consisted of inns, taverns, shops, houses and brothels and there were now many dirty and muddy alleys leading between Bankside and Maiden Lane.

There was similar building development to the west of Borough High Street and in the Clink Liberty. Narrow courts and alleys developed as tenements were built at the sides of inn. It has though been pointed out that although the newly built tenements formed areas of dense and crowded living quarters, the built up areas were surrounded by open land. Winchester Park extended for 58 acres with fishponds and orchards and Paris Garden included large areas of pastures and meadows. Nevertheless, exorbitant rents were charged in these tenements for the smallest, cramped and most rudimentary accommodation. There was no shortage of tenants, demand was high as there was a population explosion. Its estimated the population of the whole of London grew from approximately 60,000 in 1530 to 500,000 in 1680 and the population of St Saviours Parish from approximately 3,000 in 1547 to over 12,000 in 1678, a fourfold increase. The increase in population was not accounted for by the rise in birthrate, in fact the reverse, but from immigration both from within England and Europe.


Brandon Palace


Swan Theatre (Paris Garden) and stretch of Bankside from Visscher map 1616

There had been an increase in the rural population which, combined with the possible effects of the change in land ownership after the reformation, had led to the land becoming unable to support the increased rural population. Many came to London in search of work, food and shelter and whilst many were absorbed into Londons economy, many were unable to find work and became vagrants, viewed by their contemporaries as people who avoided work and preferred a life of stealing and other crime. Many of these vagrants lived in Southwark and only managed to survive by begging, scavenging and stealing, and were prone to malnutrition and disease. Many became a nameless entry in the register of deaths recorded as having died in the streets.

The Reformation had also brought Protestant refugees from France and the Lowlands. Southwark had been home to refugees from the Lowlands since medieval times and, showing local prejudice, were referred to as whores and brewers. Many in fact had respectable occupations such as goldsmiths, haberdashers and tailors, and, despite the term of abuse, had introduced brewing into the area which become a major industry in Southwark. It has been estimated that by 1580 there were 1000+ Dutch families living in Southwark who included artisans, printers, craftsmen and traders. Dutch Protestants felt at home in an area that had a tradition of independence and led to a strong non-conformist presence in the 17th century. In 1672 there 7 non-conformist meeting houses including Quakers and Anabaptists. Immigrants from the lowlands also introduced the manufacture of Delftware to Southwark, every day cooking and eating utensils made from tin-glazed pottery. Southwark had cheap and plentiful land close to London which was outside of the City's prohibition for burning coal which made it an attractive location for the manufacture of glass. This industry thrived and became world famous from Tudor times until the middle of the nineteenth century.

While Bankside and The Borough undoubtedly had a large population made up of the poor and destitute and vagrants, in the seventeenth century they were out-numbered by the majority of the population who formed a stable and respectable core to the area and had formed ties through work, family and friendships. The most wealthy, about 30%, were assessed to pay Poor Tax into St Saviours parish funds. In 1622 11.4% of households received Poor Relief from the church. Many of these were widows living on their own but its probable that the vagrant, nomadic population of the Parish would have slipped through the net or not been helped, indeed, one of the duties of the parish was to seek out such undesirables and help the justices eject them from the area. The majority of the settled population were not paupers and did not call upon the parish, but neither were they assessed to pay Poor Relief. Stows Survey of London includes the view from an anonymous writer that the majority of Londoners be neither too rich nor too poor but do live in mediocrity. The most well off in the area were inn-keepers, goldsmiths and professionals, and most participated in the parish life of St Saviours through involvement in vestry matters, becoming church-wardens and overseers of the poor. Unusually the church wardens were the more dominant group rather than the vestry and, when accused of mal-administration by some members of the parish in the 17th century, were able to rebuff the accusations.

In 1676 the former church of St Margaret's, now a court-house with prison attached, burnt down in the Great Fire of Southwarkthat had started in an oil shop belonging to Mr Welsh near St Margaret Hill between the George and Talbot (Tabard) Inns. The streets were narrow and lined by timber buildings and the fire spread quickly. It was contained within 17 hours, partly by creating fire breaks by blowing up houses. Charles II and his brother James took part in the fire fighting as they had for the Great Fire of London ten years earlier. It's estimated that 20 people lost their lives in the fire and 500 buildings destroyed.

As the City of London and the Bridge House Committee had not pursued its authority to any great extent in medieval times when it acquired jurisdiction over the Guildable Manor, so again after it acquired a large part of Southwark in 1550 it was lax in administration. In 1618 the City relinquished control over the Bailiff who took care of the finances. Under a system that was wide open to mal-practice and corruption, in return for paying a sum of money to the City, the Bailiff was now able to receive an income from a range of sources within the area including court and prison fines and fair and market rates. Though an alderman was appointed by the City to live and preside over the Quarter Sessions and other matters of justice, he was often absent and court sessions not held. Indeed when one Alderman took his duties in Southwark seriously he was accused of neglecting his duties in the City and was discharged from the latter. To fill a gap and for expediency, Surrey justices more and more frequently stepped in to carry out those duties that the City of London was failing to do, such as closing unnecessary alehouses, dispatching vagrants to their home towns, apprenticing poor children and administering poor relief. Though only a half of St Saviour's Parish was under the official jurisdiction of the Surrey magistrates, the church wardens considered themselves totally answerable to Surrey rather than the City. The City though did not relinquish its duties entirely which led to some residents being summoned to appear at both the City Quarter Sessions and the Surrey Quarter Sessions for the same offence. Though Surrey attempted many times to regularize the situation and to be awarded jurisdiction over the area, the problem was to remain unresolved for a long time yet.

So to recap, those claiming often conflicting and certainly confusing jurisdictions, rights and privileges within Borough and Bankside at the end of the 17th century included:

The City of London and the Bridge House Committee
The Lieutenant of Surrey
The Bailiff
The Marshals of the King's Bench and Marshalsea Prisons
The freeholders who had acquired manorial rights of the Clink Liberty and Paris Garden Liberty
The Parishes
- St Saviours
- Christchurchwhich had been founded in 1671 to serve the Paris Gardencommunity
- St George the Martyr, a church founded in Norman times at the bottom of Borough High Street and served the King's Manor and a part of the East side of Borough High Street.

With such a jigsaw of administration and jurisdiction it was not surprising that the City who liked clear cut regulations and homegeneous institutions showed little interest in Southwark. It would be a couple of centuries before issues of rights, jurisdictions and privileges were clarified and resolved.

Jeremy Boulton, Neighbourhood and Society.(1987) Cambridge
Eric Burford, Bawds and Lodgings.(1976) London
Martha Carlin, Medieval Southwark. (1996) Hambledon Press
Grace Golden, Old Bankside. (1950) Williams and Northgate
Stephen Inwood,A History of London. (1998) MacMillan
David Johnson, Southwark and the City.(1969) OUP
Leonard Reilly and Geoff Marshall, The Story of Bankside.(2001), London Borough of Southwark
Leonard Reilly, Southwark: an illustrated history. (1998) London Borough of Southwark
Gillian Tindall, The House by the Thames. (2006)

Sir Howard Roberts and Walter H. Godfrey (eds), Survey of London, Vol 22 (1950), Accessed from British History Online (www.british-history.ac.uk) 05.06.2011
Ida Darlington (ed), Survey of London, Vol 25 (1955), Accessed from British History Online (www.british-history.ac.uk) 05.06.2011

http://cathedral.southwark.anglican.org/visit/history-and-architecture (accessed 11 June 2011)
London Metropolitan Archives (formerly Greater London Record Office)
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a/records.aspx?cat=074-p92sav&cid=0&kw=st saviours southwark#0
(Search result accessed 11 June 2011)


Delftware dish probably manufactured Southwark 1638. (V&A Museum, photo attribution: art_traveller at wikimedia.