Lost Industries of Southwark Walk


Start the Walk at London Bridge Underground Station

Stickman iconTube or train to London Bridge Underground Station. Take Borough High Street Entrance, East Side.

Borough High Street was the main road from Dover and Canterbury to London Bridge and dates back to the Roman Period. Walk North to St Thomas St, and turn right until you come to St Thomas Church and the Old Operating Theatre Museum.

Remains of Old St Thomas Hospital

Old St Thomas Church

This row of red Brick Queen Anne Buildings is very special. They are all that remains of Old St Thomas Hospital - London's second oldest hospital (now in Lambeth). The Church and hospital were rebuilt in 1703. St Thomas Parish was essentially the Hospital. The House next door with the beautiful porch was the Treasurer's House, and the house next door was the Apothecary's.


the Old Operating Theatre in Black and white

The Old Operating Theatre Museum

In the Roof of the Church is Europe's oldest surviving Operating Theatre. This was built in 1822 and is now a Museum.

For further information

For conditions in the Theatre

plague of Keats

Keats Student Digs

Across the road from the Museum is a plaque on the site of the house that Keats shared while an apprentice to surgeon Billy Lucas.



Stickman iconContinue along St Thomas St, cross the Road and walk into Guys Hospital

Statue of Thomas Guy

Thomas Guy

Thomas Guy was a governor of St Thomas Hospital. He used his huge profits from the South Sea Company in setting up a hospital, in 1724, for the 'Incurably Ill and the Hopelessly insane' as these categories of patients were not accepted at other London Charitable hospitals.

The Hospital soon became a general hospital and worked in conjunction with St Thomas.

Photo courtesy of John Garod

For more information including a walk through Guys

For Map of Guys

Guys Chapel sculpture

Thomas Guy's Chapel

The Chapel is to the right of the Statue of Guy. It was finished in 1780 and is a beautiful space. There are memorials to various people including Thomas Guy and the famous surgeon Astley Cooper.

For more information including a walk through Guys

Guys Colonade to the Coaching Inns of Southwark

Stickman iconContinue walking through the Colonade (for more information including a walk through Guys ). Walk down the steps and turn right, take the route to the left through the arch. This will take you out of the hospital and into the alleyways leading back to Borough Market and the Coaching Inns of Southwark.

the Tabard

Talbot Yard - the Tabard

This is where Chaucer's Canterbury Tales began. As the main road to Canterbury this was the place where pilgrims stayed before going to pay their respects to the remains of Thomas Becket.

The George Inn

Stickman iconWalk to Borough High Street and turn right, then right again into the George.

the George Inn

The George Inn

The George is the only surviving example of 'some half‑dozen old inns' which were here in Dickens' time. The Inn appears briefly in Little Dorrit where Dickens has Maggy speaking of young Tip that he should go into the George to write a begging letter.Hostelry was one of the main industries of Southwark.

For more information - medieval Southwark, Coaching Inns

The White Hart

Stickman iconCome out of the George and turn right, then right again into the White Hart Yard

the white hard yard

The White Hart

The site of the White Hart Inn where, in Pickwick Papers, Sam Weller was found 'burnishing a pair of painted tops (boots), the personal property of a farmer who was refreshing himself with a slight lunch of two or three pounds of beef and a pot or two of porter, after the fatigues of the Borough Market'.

The 'large coaching inn' which had 'a double tier of bedroom galleries with old clumsy balustrades' was demolished in 1889.

For more information - medieval Southwark, Coaching Inns

Note the red brick structure with the inscription W H May Hop Factors

The Hop Exchange & Southwark Street

Stickman iconCross Borough High Street and turn left into Southwark Street

the hop exchange

Hop Exchange

Southwark Street - this was considered the most modern Street in Britain when it was built in the early 1860's. Iit had a tunnel underneath for the services so according to a newspaper cutting it need never be dug up again !! Ha Ha!

The Victorian buildings along it are all built at the same time. One of the most lovely is the Hop Exchange where hop factors dealt in Hops. For more information the Hop Industry

Redcross Way

Stickman iconWalk along Southwark Street turning left into Redcross Street - walk about 100 yards past Union Street and on the right is a very unusual group of houses.

Cottages in redcross St

Redcross Way

These are charitable housing built at the instigation of Octavia Hill, founder of the National Trust. Housing in Southwark for the working class was of a very poor quality and philanthropists tried to show private landlords what was possible.

Right at the end of Redcross way, in the distance you will be able to see buildings built by the Peabody Trust in Mint Street.

workhouse kids

Union Street

The group of buildings around the cross roads with Union Street belonged to the Parish Union. This was the Ragged School..

For further information on the Work house union

Redcross Way

Stickman iconWalk back up redcross Way - crossing Southwark Street, a few yards into Redcross Way you will see a block of flats on the left


Cromwell Buildings

These were built by the Industrial Dwellings Society and provided each family with their own tap - a revolution in hygiene.

Park Street

Stickman iconContinue up Redcross Way until you get to Park Street

barclays brewery

Courage Brewery

At the junction of Redcross Way and Park Street on your left was the house belonging to the Manager of the Brewery. Note the sign on the top of the building. Barclays, later the Anchor Brewery and then the Courage Brewery was one of the largest breweries in the world.

The entire section of modern buildings to the left shows the size of the Brewery.

roman workshop recon

Roman Excavations

A few yards further on there is a sign describing the roman excavations that took place here. To the right was the River Thames - much wider then, to the left was a group of houses that were jewelry workshops and a warehouse

For further information

Borough Market

Stickman iconIf you continue along Park Street you will be approaching the Globe and the River Thames, but turn back again and continue back past Redcross Way until you come to Borough Market

Borough Market From 1859 work began on extending the new railway line from its terminus at London Bridge to Charing cross. This involved constructing a bridge across Borough High Street and the market. In 18634 alterations were made to the market building to accomodate the railway, and the building is now the oldest fruit and vegetable market in London. In Pickwick Papers, after a riotous party at the home of Bob Sawyer (a trainee surgeon) in Lant Street (see G24), Ben Allen 'knocked double knocks at the door of the Borough Market Office and took short naps on the step alternately, until daybreak, under the firm impression that he lived there and had forgotten his key'

Borough Market

A street market existed at the south end of London Bridge as early as the 12th century. It is likely that this was in continuous use up until it was granted a charter in the 16th century. By the 18th century it was causing considerable traffic congestion, but it was not until 1851 that a new site was found here in what was previously Rochester Yard.

Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral

The Church was founded as an Augustinian Monastery in 1105, although there are traditions of an older establishment. In became a parish Church in the Reformation. Throughout the Victorian period the church was subject to major alterations. In 1831 the roof of the nave was taken down and the building was left open to the elements; seven years later most of the walls were demolished.

In the middle of the century Dickens produced a short essay on London's churches which later appeared in the collection known as 'The Uncommercial Traveller'; although he confessed to being unaware of the names of many of the churches he knew 'the church of old Gower's tomb (he lies in effigy with his head upon his books) to be the church of St Saviour's, Southwark'. In Oliver Twist he recalled the importance of the church at the south end of London Bridge: 'The tower of old Saint Saviour's church, and the spire of Saint Magnus so long the giant warders of the ancient bridge...'.

River Thames

Stickman iconAs you approach the Cathedral turn left and walk right around the Cathedral until you see a gap where you can see the River.

Criukshank river thames

Our Mutual Friend

At the beginning of Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, Gaffer Hexham and Daughter Lizzie are making a living from finding corpses floating in the Thames


Chapter 1


In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark bridge which is of iron, and London Bridge which is of stone, as an autumn evening was closing in.

The figures in this boat were those of a strong man with ragged grizzled hair and a sun-browned face, and a dark girl of nineteen or twenty, sufficiently like him to be recognizable as his daughter. The girl rowed, pulling a pair of sculls very easily; the man, with the rudder-lines slack in his hands, and his hands loose in his waistband, kept an eager look out. He had no net, hook, or line, and he could not be a fisherman; his boat had no cushion for a sitter, no paint, no inscription, no appliance beyond a rusty boathook and a coil of rope, and he could not be a waterman; his boat was too crazy and too small to take in cargo for delivery, and he could not be a lighterman or river-carrier; there was no clue to what he looked for, but he looked for something, with a most intent and searching gaze. The tide, which had turned an hour before, was running down, and his eyes watched every little race and eddy in its broad sweep, as the boat made slight head-way against it, or drove stern foremost before it, according as he directed his daughter by a movement of his head. She watched his face as earnestly as he watched the river. But, in the intensity of her look there was a touch of dread or horror.

Allied to the bottom of the river rather than the surface, by reason of the slime and ooze with which it was covered, and its sodden state, this boat and the two figures in it obviously were doing something that they often did, and were seeking what they often sought. Half savage as the man showed, with no covering on his matted head, with his brown arms bare to between the elbow and the shoulder, with the loose knot of a looser kerchief lying low on his bare breast in a wilderness of beard and whisker, with such dress as he wore seeming to be made out of the mud that begrimed his boat, still there was a business-like usage in his steady gaze. So with every lithe action of the girl, with every turn of her wrist, perhaps most of all with her look of dread or horror; they were things of usage.

Nancy Steps

Stickman iconContinue along the Road towards the Bridge.

London Bridge When Dickens was writing Oliver Twist in 1837 the bridge was as modern to him as the present one is to us. It was, however, almost completely removed in 1973, and now stands in Lake Havasu, USA. Most of the fateful steps were lost in the process, but these, which are still popularly known as 'Nancy's Steps', remain. The arch supporting the approach to the bridge also still survives.


The London smog hanging over the busy Pool of London provided the dramatic backdrop for a famous, but fatal, meeting in Dickens' Oliver Twist. Nancy, the companion of Bill Sykes, was warning Rose Maylie about poor Oliver: '"Not here," said Nancy hurriedly; "I am afraid to speak to you here. Come away ‑ out of the public road ‑ down the steps yonder!".'These stairs are a part of the bridge; they consist of three flights. Just below the end of the second, going down, the stone wall on the left terminates in an ornamental pilaster facing towards the Thames. At this point the lower steps widen: so that a person turning that angle of the wall is necessarily unseen by any others on the stairs who chance to be above him, if only a step'. It was here that Noah Claypole concealed himself to overhear Nancy telling of her fears for Oliver: "Horrible thoughts of death, and shrouds with blood on them, and a fear that has made me burn as if I was on fire".


London Bridge Station

Stickman iconContinue along the Road towards Tooley Street.

London Bridge Station The revolutionary line bore no resemblance to its later humdrum image, and was built as a classical masterpiece. It was completely supported on 878 doric arches, one carriage resembled a Roman Galley, and the staircase at Deptford Station was modelled on part of the acropolis. The age of the train arrived in style.

London Bridge Railway

First railway line in London 1836

Along the south side of Tooley Street to the west can be seen the arches built to carry the first railway line to London, terminating at London Bridge Station. The line originally opened in 1836 with the London terminus at Bermondsey, but this was extended to London Bridge in 1840‑4. The line ran four miles from Greenwich, and began a new era of expansion in Victorian London, as the wealthy moved further out into the suburbs.


Cotton's Wharf

Stickman iconContinue along Tooley Street.

Plague to James Braidwood

Cotton's Wharf

Here you will see a mixture of modern buildings and Victorian wharehouses. On the wall of one of the buildings is a plaque on wall commemorating the death in 1861 of Fire Chief James Braidwood in one of the greatest fires in London's history.


Hays Galleria

Stickman iconContinue along Tooley Street to Hays Galleria

hays gallerie Tooley Street was, before the Victorian period, lined with the large London homes of wealthy and important citizens; Battle Bridge Lane is named after the home of the Abbots of Battle Abbey. Throughout the Victorian period this was completely rebuilt with warehouses for the importation of food, particularly for London's consumption; for this reason it became known as 'London's Larder'. Directly opposite runs Bermondsey Street, originally the main road from London Bridge to the village of Bermondsey

The warehousing along the length of Victorian Tooley Street was under the control of Hay's Wharf, which has now been converted to Hays Galleria. This wharf was begun in 1651 by Alexander Hay and is the oldest in the port of London. In the 1860's it pioneered the use of cold storage, enabling it to store food including New Zealand butter and cheese. This is one of the most succesful conversions in recent years





" The slaughterhouse was very dirty, containing old blood, and the contents of the entrails of sheep were tying around. A large cess-pool existed under the slaughterhouse and when the cess-pool was full of Water it oozed up through the floorboards of the bakehouse, being some inches lower. The sickening smells are sufficient to cause illness. The total number of slaughterhouses in the borough at this time was 41: 8 in St. Olave's (SouthWark), 12 in Rotherhithe and 21 in Bermondsey." -from the report of Dr. Vinen. 1880's

Fresh Air

The need for fresh air, reported in the Manchester Guardian, July 31 1844

'What is the reason that three out of every hundred of the inhabitants of Manchester, for instance, perish every year, while, in healthy country districts, two only die out of the same number in the same period? Our fellow-townsmen are not worse fed, worse clothed, or worse lodged, than the generality of their countrymen, nor are their occupations more unhealthy; and yet three die where only two would in healthier districts!

The great differences between a country and a town life, as regards health, are that in the latter we breathe a less pure air, and enjoy fewer opportunities of healthful out-door exercise.The purity of the air is quite as important to our well-being as the wholesome-ness of our food; indeed it is doubtful if it is not more so. All decomposing animal and vegetable matter gives out emanations which are absolutely poisonous, when concentrated; and always injurious, unless existing in exceeding small quantity.

We can easily perceive how it happens that one set of streets, which are narrow, built up at their ends, undrained, unpaved, and filthy, may have a rate of mortality twice as high as other streets, open, airy, clean, and dry, though they are in the very same neighbour-hood, and are inhabited b very same classes of peopl with similar employments, an« rates of wages. The one set of people are living in the midst v foul air and filth-for dirty streets imply dirty houses, dirty clothes, and dirty personal habits; the other are breathing an air comparatively pure. We need not then be surprised at the different results as to the health of their respective inhabitants.

In 1885 a Dr. Bistowe did not think there was much wrong: "Mere dirt does not necessarily mean bad health. Holes in ceilings, holes in Malts, holes in floors, rickety staircases and rotten banisters may and do all exist without causing the slightest danger to health. My experience of the houses of the working classes in this district leads me to believe that little poverty exists and that they are comfortably housed."



Page updated 16th July 2006
Ind. Rev.

The Lost Industry of Southwark Project is supported by:

the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs

Project Director- Kevin Flude

Email Kevin Flude. Cultural Heritage Resources

To find out more on Southwark visit the SOUTHWARK LOCAL STUDIES LIBRARY
& buy the excellent book by Leonard Riley entitled 'Southwark - an illustrated guide.'

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