Walk 93: London Southwark & Bankside Linear

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 2 miles (3.22km)

Time to walk: It should be less than an hour, but this is hidden London & we’re going to explore lots of nooks & crannies we never knew were there. With a stop, it took us about 2.5 hours

Difficulty: Easy, flat & all on hard surfaces so ideal for all weathers

Parking: Central London so take public transport

Public toilets: Many cafes, bars etc en route

Map of the route:

This is an area of London we thought we knew quite well. It’s just south of the river & covers such places as the delightful, & popular, Borough Market & Southwark Cathedral. However it also takes us down small side streets & straight through the middle of Guy’s Hospital! Indeed this area has long been associated with medicine. As always, we’re going to come across places we never knew were there because no-one pointed them out before

This is a superb stroll amongst interesting history so…

Let’s Walk!

1. Our walk starts under the railway bridge outside London Bridge Station on Borough High Street. Look down the side street to see one of London’s newest landmarks…The Shard

The Shard can pretty much be seen from all over this walk. Also referred to as the Shard of Glass, the building is a 95 storey skyscraper standing 1016 ft high. It’s the tallest building in the UK, the 4th tallest building in Europe & the 111th tallest building in the world

The Shard’s construction began in March 2009 & it was topped out on 30 March 2012 & inaugurated on 6 July 2012. The View from The Shard observation level, was opened to the public on 1 February 2013. The glass-clad tower has 72 habitable floors, with a viewing gallery & open air observation deck on the 72nd floor

2. Turn left along busy Borough High Street…

Looking around at the people going about their business it seems incredible that only a few weeks ago this was the scene of a horrific terrorist attack. It’s good to see that life goes on as normal

3. Take the first left turn down St Thomas Street which is a reference to the fact that St Thomas’ Hospital was once located here…

On the left’s St Thomas’ Church which contains the amazing Old Operating Theatre & Herb Garret Museum. The property is owned by the National Trust

The garret was where the hospital stored its medicinal herbs, however the operating theatre has a more interesting history. The church that contains the Old Operating Theatre Museum was built at the end of the 17th century, when the hospital & church were largely rebuilt by Sir Robert Clayton, president of the hospital & a former Lord Mayor of the City of London

In 1822 part of the herb garret was converted into a purpose built operating theatre for the female surgical ward of St Thomas’. Previously operations took place on the ward, but here they were still undertaken without anaesthetic. Surgeons relied on swift technique & could perform an amputation in a minute or less

In 1859, Florence Nightingale became involved with St Thomas’s, setting up on this site her famous nursing school. It was on her advice that the hospital agreed to move to a new site when the Charing Cross Railway Company offered to buy the hospital’s land. In 1862, the hospital began the move to its present site at Lambeth & the operating theatre was closed. It lay undiscovered until 1957

4. Across the road we spied a Blue Plaque…


The plaque shows that the poet John Keats lived here between 1815-16 whilst a student at St Thomas’ & Guy’s Hospitals. Keats was able to experience the expertise of the hospitals first hand after catching something nasty from a local prostitute. He subsequently gave up any aspirations for a life in medicine to concentrate on poetry

5. Continue along the road. The Shard’s looming over us once more…

Look for the large gates of Guy’s Hospital on the right – be daring & walk straight through them into the courtyard. It feels that we shouldn’t be doing this but it’s fine

The hospital was founded in 1721 by Thomas Guy, a publisher of unlicensed Bibles who had made a fortune in the South Sea Bubble. It was originally established as a hospital to treat “incurables” discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital. Guy had been a Governor & benefactor of St Thomas’ & his fellow Governors supported his intention by granting the south side of St Thomas’ Street for a peppercorn rent for 999 years. Guy is interred in the crypt of the Chapel of his foundation

Guy’s has expanded over the centuries. The original buildings formed a courtyard facing St Thomas Street where we’re standing now, comprising the hall on the east side & the Chapel, Matron’s House & Surgeon’s House on the west side

If it’s open the Chapel is apparently well worth a visit. Despite substantial bomb damage during World War II, the original 18th century chapel remains intact including the tomb of Thomas Guy with a marble sculpture by John Bacon

6. Walk straight ahead through the pillars into the cloister containing two inner quadrangles. The east side comprised the care wards & the ‘counting house’ with the governors ‘Burfoot Court Room’

The garden also contains a stone alcove known as the ‘Lunatick Chair’…

This structure was once part of the original London Bridge that crossed the Thames for 600 years until it was replaced in 1831. There were originally 14 alcoves – another survives in Victoria Park in Hackney. The one here was bought by the hospital for 10 guineas & put into the wall of the ‘Lunatick House’ as somewhere that recovering patients could sit

The north side quadrangle is dominated by a statue of Lord Nuffield who was the chairman of governors for many years & also a major benefactor. These original parts of the hospital are now administrative offices & social accommodation

7. Walk through the other side & cross the lane into the square that contains King’s College campus, which is an extremely serene place on a hot evening like today…

King’s College London is a public research university & was established in 1829 by King George IV & the Duke of Wellington & received its royal charter in the same year. In 1836 King’s became one of the two founding colleges of the University of London

It’s regarded as one of the top multidisciplinary research universities in the world & is usually considered part of the “golden triangle” along with the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, University College London, Imperial College London, & the London School of Economics

The courtyard also has a superb “Bee Hotel”…

King’s has five campuses & is home to six Medical Research Council centres. It’s the largest European centre for graduate & post graduate medical teaching & biomedical research, by number of students, including the world’s first nursing school, the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing & Midwifery

It also appears to have a great ‘beach bar’…

8. Come back out of the campus & turn left & then right looking for the arch that will lead us into King’s Head Yard…

King’s Head Yard’s one of those hidden London treasures. It’s a charming little street & easy to see why Dickens wrote about it in some of his novels. There was once a pub here called The White Hart which features in Pickwick Papers

The area was also famous for its hop houses. Today the alley still has one pub called the Olde King’s Head which was established in 1881

Walk through the alley at the end of the Yard to arrive back in Borough High Street

9. Turn left & follow the High Street …

Want to find another hidden gem? Then look out for a sign leading into another small yard which contains The George Inn

The George Inn is owned by The National Trust & leased back to the brewery Greene King. It’s famous now as the only surviving galleried coaching inn in London &…it’s beautiful

The first map of Southwark shows it marked as ‘Gorge’ & it was formerly known as the George & Dragon, named after the legend. There were many such inns in this part of London, probably the most famous being The Tabard where, in 1388, Chaucer began The Canterbury Tales. In 1677 the George was rebuilt after a serious fire that destroyed most of medieval Southwark. The Tabard was also rebuilt after the same fire, but was demolished in the late nineteenth century

It’s known that galleried inns were used for Elizabethan theatrical productions. It’s thought that the Players were on a dais in the courtyard with the standing audience next to them & that those paying a premium would be in the galleries with a better view

It was originally galleried on three sides, but the Great Northern Railway used the George as a depot & pulled down two of its fronts to build warehousing. Now just the south face remains. The George was one of the many famous coaching inns in the days of Charles Dickens. Dickens in fact visited the George & referred to it in Little Dorrit

10. A few yards further on down Borough High Street is Talbot Yard, the site of the famous Tabard Inn

In the Prologue of The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer writes…

“In Southwark, at The Tabard, as I lay
Read to go on pilgrimage and start
To Canterbury, full devout at heart,
There came as nightfall to that hostelry
Some nine and twenty in a company
Of sundry persons who had chanced to fall
In fellowship, and pilgrims were they all
That toward Canterbury town would ride.

11. Carry on down the High Street. Low down on the wall of an office building is a rather interesting plaque…

The plaque states that this was once the site of the Queen’s Head Tavern & also the birthplace of one of the area’s most influential people…John Harvard

Harvard was the fourth of nine children of Robert Harvard (1562–1625), a butcher & tavern owner. His father-in-law was an associate of Shakespeare’s father (both served on the borough corporation’s council). In 1625, bubonic plague reduced the immediate family to only John, his brother Thomas, & their mother. Shortly after he left to settle in Massachusetts where he died of TB aged 30

In his will he left a bequest of £750 & 400 books to a local college which was named in his honour & became Havard University, the eldest & most famous institution of its kind in the US. Today the University controls a fund in excess of $35 billion

12. Continue south passing more yards which once contained some of Southwark’s many prisons. We also loved the blue people climbing up the building opposite

The church of St George the Martyr now lies ahead of us…

This is the third church on this site & is often referred to as “Little Dorrit’s Church” as Dickens’ heroine was christened here & later spent a night in the church after being locked out of the prison. She can be seen in the eastern window of the church

13. Walk to the left of the church where there’s a small garden. Be careful as there were a few “undesirable” characters in the gardens. This is the site of Southwark’s most famous prison, The Marshalsea. Although it housed a variety of prisoners, including men accused of crimes at sea & political figures charged with sedition, it became known, in particular, for its incarceration of the poorest of London’s debtors. Over half the population of England’s prisons in the 18th century were in jail because of debt

Run privately for profit, as were all English prisons until the 19th century, the Marshalsea looked like an Oxbridge college & functioned as an extortion racket. Debtors in the 18th century who could afford the prison fees had access to a bar, shop & restaurant, & retained the crucial privilege of being allowed out during the day, which gave them a chance to earn money for their creditors. Everyone else was crammed into one of nine small rooms with dozens of others, possibly for years for the most modest of debts, which increased as unpaid prison fees accumulated. The poorest faced starvation &, if they crossed the jailers, torture with skullcaps & thumbscrews

The prison became known around the world in the 19th century through the writing of Charles Dickens, whose father was sent there in 1824, when Dickens was 12, for a debt to a baker. Forced as a result to leave school to work in a factory, Dickens based several of his characters on his experience, most notably Amy Dorrit, whose father is in the Marshalsea for debts so complex no one can fathom how to get him out

Much of the prison was demolished in the 1870s, though parts of it were used as shops & rooms into the 20th century

14. Walk back round to the front of the church & cross over by the station & walk down Marshalsea Road…

…turning right into Redcross Way

The buildings of The City can be seen ahead

15. Walk into the small, but beautiful & hidden Red Cross Garden on the left. On a warm day this is a lovely place to rest for a while near the pond

The cottages & garden were founded by Octavia Hill, a Victorian social reformer, whose mission was to help London’s poor find housing. The first tenants moved in in the 1880s & they had to mind their behaviour or risk eviction!

16. Exit the garden & continue to the crossroads with Union Street where you’ll find the property that once housed The Mint & Gospel Lighthouse Mission Shaftesbury Society. Henry VIII set up a Mint in this area & money was produced around here until 1557

17. Cross over & walk up Redcross Way. On the right is another of those places that you never knew existed & makes you stop in awe…Crossbones Graveyard

Crossbones was closed in 1853 because it was “completely overcharged with dead”, & further burials were deemed “inconsistent with a due regard for the public health & public decency”

For centuries this area was one of London’s poorest & most violent slums. It was once the graveyard for the ‘Winchester Geese’ who were prostitutes licensed to work in the many brothels by the Bishop of Winchester. The prostitutes had to pay a part of their earning to the Bishop, however when they died they were denied a proper burial & their bodies were put here on unconsecrated ground

They’re known as the ‘Outcast Dead’ & are celebrated by the number of ribbons attached to the railings to remember them. Every so often a group of volunteers open the graveyard to visitors & it’s a very somber place to walk around…

It’s estimated that 15,000 people are buried in this small space…a somewhat sobering thought

18. The Boot & Flogger directly opposite also has an interesting story to tell. It’s the only property in the whole country that’s allowed to sell wine without a licence

The name of the pub relates to a device that was used for putting a cork in a bottle called a “flogger”

19. Continue under the railway bridge & cross the road…

On the wall was some very impressive artwork by Nathan Bowen who “is a street artist that creates & inspires, delivering imagination to the streets, his style is fast, dynamic, sharp & experimental. He finds old derelict run down spaces which may be shop shutters, building sites & vandalized walls. Nathan transform these old spaces into works of art using pens & acrylic paints. This is a movement of his own called ‘After Lives’ reincarnating tatty looking streets & giving them an artistic after life”

It was really impressive & eye-catching

20. Just under the bridge on the left’s another reminder of a time gone by…

The ‘Courage’ sign’s a reminder of one of the old breweries that once were based in this area

21. At the junction turn right & pass under the bridge into one of the area’s most well known & photographed spots

Some of the buildings in this street were used in the film ‘Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels’. Continue to the end to arrive at the fantastic Borough Market

Borough is our favourite London market as there’s always something different going on, plus it has some excellent street food – try the salt beef stand. The present market is a successor to one that originally adjoined the end of London Bridge. It was first mentioned in 1276, although the market itself claims to have existed since 1014. During the 19th century, it became one of London’s most important food markets due to its strategic position near the riverside wharves of the Pool of London

The retail market operates on Wednesdays & Thursdays from 10 am to 5 pm, Fridays from 10 am to 6 pm, & Saturdays from 8 am to 5 pm. The wholesale market operates on all weekday mornings from 2 am to 8 am

22. It was late evening when we visited so the market was closed. Walk away from the Borough High Street end & under the railway bridge down Stoney Street…

…& then turn immediately right along Winchester Walk. Ahead of us is the magnificent Southwark Cathedral which is our next stop

23. Walk straight across & step outside the front of the Cathedral. The earliest reference to the site was in the Domesday Book survey of 1086, when the “minster” of Southwark seems to have been under the control of William the Conqueror‘s half-brother, Bishop Odo of Bayeux. In 1106, during the reign of Henry I it became an Augustinian priory, under the patronage of the Bishops of Winchester, who established their London seat Winchester Palace immediately to the west in 1149. The church in its present form, however, dates to between 1220 & 1420, making it the first Gothic church in London

The Cathedral contains a memorial to William Shakespeare & also to his brother, Edmund who is buried here. If the Cathedral’s open go inside & have a look. We’ve been in before, but tonight there was a service going on

24. Walk round the corner to arrive at St Mary Overie Dock where sits a full size replica of the Golden Hinde which Sir Francis Drake sailed around the world between 1577 – 1580

Golden Hinde was originally known as Pelican, but was renamed by Drake mid voyage in honour of his patron, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose crest was a golden ‘hind’ (a female red deer). Hatton was one of the principal sponsors of Drake’s world voyage.

In 1577, Queen Elizabeth partly sponsored Sir Francis Drake as the leader of an expedition intended to pass around South America through the Strait of Magellan & to explore the coast that lay beyond. The Queen’s support was advantageous; Drake had official approval to benefit himself & the Queen as well as to cause the maximum damage to the Spaniards. This would eventually culminate in the Anglo–Spanish War

He set sail in December 1577 with five small ships, manned by 164 men & reached the Brazilian coast in early 1578. On 1 March 1579, now in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Ecuador, Golden Hinde challenged & captured the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de la Concepción. This galleon had the largest treasure captured to that date, over 360,000 pesos (equivalent to around £480m in 2017). The six tons of treasure took six days to move ships & included 26 tons of silver, half a ton of gold, porcelain, jewellery, coins & jewels

On 26 September 1580, Francis Drake sailed his ship into Plymouth Harbour with only 56 of the original crew of 80 left aboard, the ship was unloaded at Saltash Castle nearby where the treasure offloading was supervised by the Queens guards

Over half of the proceeds went to the Queen & country & were used to pay off the annual debt in its entirety, Queen Elizabeth I herself went aboard Golden Hinde, which was then permanently at Deptford on the Thames Estuary, where she had requested it be placed on permanent display as the first ‘museum ship’

25. Walk along narrow Pickfords Wharf where, on the left, are the remnants of Winchester Palace. The Bishop of Winchester was a major landowner in the area & traditionally served as the King’s Royal Treasurer, performing the function of the modern Chancellor of the Exchequer. He frequently needed to attend the King both at his court in Westminster, at the Tower of London & also was required to attend Parliament with other Bishops & major Abbots. Henry of Blois built the palace as his comfortable & high status London residence

The palace remained in use until the 17th century, when it was divided into tenements & warehouses, but was mostly destroyed by fire in 1814. All that remains now is the wall with the large window

Associated with the Palace was the Liberty of the Clink which also lay on the south bank of the Thames, an area free from the jurisdiction of the City of London. It therefore became an area where activities, which were suppressed in the City, could flourish openly. Thus gaming houses, bowling alleys, theatres & brothels abounded. It took its name from the notorious Clink prison, which we’ll see shortly, which lay within the Liberty & gave rise to the slang expression “in the clink”

26. Pickfords Wharf turns into the aforementioned Clink Street where we pass the old Clink prison which is now the Clink Museum

The origins of the name “The Clink” are possibly derived from the sound of striking metal as the prison’s doors were bolted, or the rattling of the chains the prisoners wore. The Clink burnt down in riots in 1780 & was never rebuilt. The museum has apparently recreated the conditions extremely well

27. Pass through the tunnel, which is a great place for entertainers &, in London, you never know what you’ll find (Click on the play button)…

to arrive at one of London’s most famous (& popular!) riverside pubs…The Anchor

A tavern has been here for over 800 years. Behind the pub are buildings that were operated by the Anchor Brewery

The pub is the sole survivor of the riverside inns that existed here in Shakespeare’s time when this district was at the heart of theatreland & the Thames was London’s principal highway. It was frequented by many actors from the neighbouring playhouses, including the Globe, the Swan & the Rose

It’s from where diarist Samuel Pepys saw the Great Fire of London in 1666. He wrote that he took refuge in “a little alehouse on bankside … & there watched the fire grow”. Another fire devastated the pub whose interior was mainly constructed of oak. It was rebuilt in 1676 & has since had additions over the centuries. The Anchor tavern became a favourite place for river pirates & smugglers. During the course of repairs carried out in the early 19th century the removal of a massive oak beam revealed ingeniously contrived hiding places which were probably used for the storage of stolen goods & contraband

Today the riverside terrace offers great views across the city

28. Walk behind the pub & turn right down Park Street…

Look out for several plaques on the walls along this street, most of them referring to when this area had numerous breweries including Barclay Perkins. By 1809 the brewery had an annual output of 260,000 barrels, making it the largest brewery in the world. Between 1809 – 1853 it had the largest output of any brewery in London. The brewery produced exclusively porter until 1834, when it began to brew pale ale

In 1955, Barclay Perkins merged with rival London brewer Courage. Brewing continued at the site until the early 1970s. In 1981 the brewery buildings were demolished however the Russian Imperial Stout continued to be brewed by Courage & later Scottish & Newcastle until 1993

29. Slightly further along on the left’s the site of the original Globe Theatre – we’ll see the modern day replica shortly

The Globe was built in 1599 using timber from an earlier theatre, The Theatre, which had been built in Shoreditch in 1576. It was probably completed by the summer of 1599, possibly in time for the opening production of Henry V & its famous reference to the performance crammed within a “wooden O”. The first performance for which a firm record remains was Jonson’s Every Man out of His Humour, with its first scene welcoming the “gracious & kind spectators”

On 29 June 1613 the Globe Theatre went up in flames during a performance of Henry VIII. A theatrical cannon, set off during the performance, misfired, igniting the wooden beams & thatching. According to one of the few surviving documents of the event, no one was hurt except a man whose burning breeches were put out with a bottle of ale. It was rebuilt in the following year

Like all the other theatres in London, the Globe was closed down by the Puritans in 1642 & was pulled down in 1644–45

30. Across the road, just under the bridge’s another Elizabethan theatre…The Rose

The original Rose was built in 1587, but the small size of the theatre led to it being demolished around 1606. Excavations in the late 1980s revealed the original foundations of the theatre next to the one here today

31. Turn right back towards the river down Bear Gardens…

This is thought to be where Shakespeare lived whilst working at The Globe & is also the site of another Elizabethan theatre…The Hope

The Hope was built in 1613–14 on the site of the old Beargarden (the ring used for bear baiting & similar “animal sports”). The Corporation of London outlawed both play acting & bear baiting at the start of the English Civil War in 1642. The last seven surviving bears were shot to death by a company of soldiers & the dogs & the cocks were also killed

32. At the end, in the wall on the right, is another little “hidden treasure”…the Ferryman’s Seat

Give it a brush & sit down for a moment

No-one knows quite how old the seat is, but what we do know is that it was used as a resting place for the Ferryman who once operated a water taxi service across to the north side of the Thames & back. This was once a thriving trade, especially up until 1750 when London Bridge was the only other means of carrying passengers & goods across the river

33. There’s magnificent views across the Thames all along here…

…& on this side of the river’s the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The modern Globe Theatre reconstruction is an approximation based on available evidence of the 1599 & 1614 buildings. It’s considered quite realistic, although contemporary safety requirements mean that it accommodates only 1400 spectators compared to the original theatre’s 3000

Shakespeare’s Globe was founded by the actor & director Sam Wanamaker & opened to the public in 1997, with a production of Henry V. The site also includes the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, an indoor theatre which opened in January 2014. This is a smaller, candle-lit space based on the indoor playhouses of Jacobean London. There’s also an exhibition about Shakespeare’s life & work

34. Continue along the South Bank to the Millennium Bridge

On the left’s the imposing Tate Modern Gallery

Tate Modern is Britain’s national gallery of international modern art & forms part of the Tate group, together with Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool, Tate St Ives & Tate Online. It’s based in the former Bankside Power Station & holds the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day & international modern & contemporary art

Tate Modern is one of the largest museums of modern & contemporary art in the world. As with the UK’s other national galleries & museums, there is no admission charge for access to the collection displays, which take up the majority of the gallery space, while tickets must be purchased for the major temporary exhibitions

35. Walk up onto the Millennium Bridge…

The Millennium Bridge is a steel suspension bridge for pedestrians linking Bankside with the City of London. Construction began in 1998 & it initially opened in June 2000

Londoners nicknamed it the “Wobbly Bridge” after pedestrians felt unexpected swaying motion. The bridge was closed later on the opening day &, after two days of limited access, it was closed for almost two years while modifications were made to eliminate the motion. It reopened in 2002

Even today the “ferrymen” still carry their wares up & down the river

So where better to end this walk than right in the middle of the river Thames itself, with the Tate Modern at one end & the magnificent dome of St Paul’s Cathedral at the other…

So that’s the end of another superb walk where we come across places we’ve never seen before such as the Cross Bones Graveyard, Guy’s Hospital & the Ferryman’s Seat, together with streets & markets where there’s always something different & unexpected going on

It’s another excellent way to see another part of London so…

Go Walk!