No.2 Southwark: Blackfriars to Tower Bridge
In 1977 GLIAS produced this walks leaflet, compiled by David Perrett and Robert Vickers.
We have reproduced it here for historical interest. Links to entries in the GLIAS Database are given.
In 1843 Southwark was said to be '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'.
Traditionally, because it lay immediately south of the City of London, Southwark was the centre of the trades supplying the city as well as being the focus of the transport routes from the south to the river crossings. The smoke has now all but gone yet much of the industrial activity remains to be found along the route of this walk.
The total distance of this trail from Blackfriars to Tower Hill is about two miles and should take about two hours to walk.
Turn left outside Blackfriars Station (Underground or BR) towards the river
① The water-carrier statue (1861) (GTL00805) was cast by the most famous ironworks of the Industrial Revolution, the Coalbrookdale Company (mark near right foot) for the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountains Association. Blackfriars Bridge (1869), the second on this site, has five iron arches and was designed by Joseph Cubitt (GTL00440). Alexandra Bridge (1864) (GTL00068), the nearest rail bridge, possesses ornate cast-iron ends showing the London, Chatham and Dover Railway's insignia together with its opening date. The line ran via Ludgate Hill to join the Metropolitan Railway at Farringdon and from there to King's Cross and the north.
② On the South Bank, near the steps, are remains of the footings of Albion Mill: these are visible at low water. This mill, the first to grind corn using steam engines, opened in 1784 but seven years later was burnt down.
Follow Blackfriars Road to the large iron gates
These gates and the ramp opposite formed part of the original Blackfriars Station (GTL03365) which was closed in 1886 when the second rail bridge and present station, then called St Paul's, opened. Until 1960s the site was used as a goods depot (note 'Dover Shed' on viaduct).
Turn left and go under the railway bridge
③ Southwark Street (GTL00995), the first road with integrated services, (note central open gratings) was driven through in 1864 by the Metropolitan Board of Works at a cost of ₤2m. An inscribed horse-trough stands on the corner of Hopton Street, nr. the almshouses bequeathed by Charles Hopton in 1752.
99 Southwark Street: Kirkaldy's Testing Works (GTL03451). David Kirkaldy (1820-1897) established the world's first commercial mechanical testing works in The Grove, Southwark, in 1864 but moved to this building, designed by T R Smith, in 1873. Among much equipment the building still houses the massive Patent Testing Machine built to Kirkaldy's own design in 1864 by Greenwood and Batley of Leeds. This machine is capable of breaking 20ft iron beams using hydraulic pressures of up to 320 tons per sq. inch. Note Kirkaldy's motto over the door. GLIAS hope to preserve this unique machine in situ.
Continue along Southwark Street
89 Southwark Street: typefoundry of Stevens Shanks (GTL01583). Note the typical wall crane on this building. Continue along the road: a Peabody Estate is hidden behind Mecca House.
Turn left into Southwark Bridge Road
④ The plaque on Courage's Anchor Brewery commemorates Dr Johnson who once occupied a room near the gatehouse. Johnson's friend, Henry Thrale, owned the brewery.
A brewhouse has existed here since at least 1616 and after Thrale's death in 1781 the brewery became famous under Messrs Barclay and Perkins. In 1957 brewing ceased and the complex is now a bottling plant. The classical Anchor Terrace (1834) is the brewery offices.
Nearer the bridge, the empty lead works dated 1880 (Grey & Marten, established 1833) is a reminder of an important South Bank industry (remember the Waterloo Shot Tower).
Before the lead works go down the steps into Park Street and proceed round the rear of the brewery
On the left is an interesting group of warehouses, the first with massive Tuscan columns supporting the upper floors, then Ceylon Wharf which stretches through to Bankside. On the last block notice the rainwater head which indicates the early date of these blocks — 1827.
⑤ The Cromwell Flats (1864) (GTL00401) were the first development completed by the Improved Industrial Dwelling Co Ltd, and consist of 20 flats on five floors, plus two shops. Note the 'hygienic' construction principles of open cast-iron galleries and central rubbish chute. The I.I.D. Co. Ltd, a 'philanthropic' organisation, eventually built some 10,000 similar 'model homes' in London.
Turn left into Southwark Street
⑥ The proximity of many breweries plus good communications with Kent led many hop merchants to build their warehouses in Southwark. On the left, the imposing four-storey Central Buildings was designed by R H Moore (1866) as a hop and malt exchange (GTL00486). Originally two storeys higher, these were removed in 1920 following a fire. Hops are featured in the iron gates and the story of their production is shown on the pediment which is carried on Corinthian half-columns. On the south side of the road an assortment of buildings comprise Calvert's Buildings, variously inscribed Wigan & Co., Wigan, Richardson & Co., Hop Factors. From the end of Central Buildings a number of other hop factors may be seen in Borough High Street. Note in particular the narrow but ornate frontage of No. 67 — W H & H Le May (GTL01346).
Bearing left pass the entrance to Borough Market (GTL00277) (which has existed on this site since 1756)
⑦ The classical front above the Post Office is of a surgical ward belonging to the original St Thomas's Hospital. In 1864 the hospital moved to the Albert Embankment following the building of the South Eastern Railway's extension from London Bridge to Charing Cross. (Other remains of the hospital including a herb loft and 19th-century operating theatre (GTL00591), which may be visited, are in St Thomas's Street).
Immediately before the railway bridge, turn right into the station forecourt
⑧ Pass 4-6 London Bridge Street, another hop warehouse (1872) with hop decoration (GTL01433). London Bridge Station (GTL00008), now much rebuilt, was the capital's first main station — it was opened in 1836 as the terminus of the London and Greenwich Railway.
Cross the forecourt diagonally and go down the steps under the viaduct. Turn right at the bottom.
The land between Tooley Street and the Thames has, since the Middle Ages, been extensively developed as wharves and warehouses. Here London Bridge blocked the Thames to sea-going vessels and transhipment to smaller craft took place. Much of the warehousing belongs to the Hay's Wharf Co. whose Head Office, St Olaf's House, designed by H S Goodhart-Rendel (1931) is a good example of 'art deco' (GTL00085).
Continue along Tooley Street
⑨ Colonial House possesses some interesting window lettering. High on the east wall of No.33, Chapman Shipping, a plaque commemorates the great warehouse fire of 1861 which lasted four days, killing James Braidwood, chief of the Fire Engine Establishment, a joint insurance companies-financed brigade (GTL04042). The brigade's inability to cope with a fire of such magnitude led to the transfer of fire-fighting to the Metropolitan Board of Works and in 1866 to the formation of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. More massive tea warehouses (late 19th century), with hydraulic wall cranes and belonging to Hay's Wharf, surround an enclosed wet dock. The bricked-up windows and roof-top refrigeration plant on 47-49 indicate later use for perishable goods. No.84 is inscribed 'South Eastern Railway Offices' — a reminder of the pre-1923 ownership of London Bridge Station.
Turn left into Battle Bridge Lane
The end warehouse is dated 1856. A building on the right-hand side carries a small sign declaring 'English Grounds'. During the construction of the London and Greenwich Railway (1836), large numbers of Irish workers were employed and regular fights with English navvies took place. To prevent this the railway's contractor, McIntosh, segregated his workers' encampments into 'English' and 'Irish' grounds.
Return to Tooley Street
Note Nos. 71-73, dated 1870, with typical cast-iron window pillars.
The former Britannia Inn (1881) is adorned with Britannia heads and Union Jack tiles and adjacent is the works of Dring & Fage 'scientific instrument makers since 1725'.
(Up Vine Lane to visit HMS Belfast)
Continue along Tooley Street, pass Weavers Lane and Potters Fields reminders of earlier industries to St Olaf's Grammar School (1895), designed by the Old Bailey's architect, Mountford. In the centre of the road stands a statue of Bermondsey's first mayor, Samuel Bevington. The Bevingtons owned the nearby Neckinger Leather Mills (GTL00323), the largest in the area, Bermondsey then being the centre of London's leather trade.
Turn left into Tower Bridge Road
⑩ Look over the left-hand wall just before the bridge (GTL00001). The bridge was capable of doing all its own repairs and the narrow two-storey building houses the workshops (GTL00682). The upper floor, the machine shop, contains many old belt-driven machine tools while below are the blacksmiths' and carpenters' shops. In the arches below the roadway are the original boilers, steam engines and hydraulic pumps. The boiler chimney is on the east side of the road next to the hydraulic accumulator house. The power stored here could open the bridge's twin bascules (each weighing 1,040 tons) in 90 seconds. The bridge, built 1888-94 to the designs of Sir Horace Jones, architect, and Sir John Wolfe Barry, engineer, consists of two steel towers enclosed for effect in granite and Portland stone. The engines to raise the bascules are in the bases of the piers and the towers contain lifts leading to the overhead walk way. On the bridge notice the wood-block road surface used to reduce the static load. The SE control cabin is preserved with the original lever controls while the SW cabin contains modern electronic equipment. During 1976-77 electric lifting gear was installed and one steam engine and four hydraulic engines removed. It is hoped that there will eventually be ready access to this important industrial monument.
Continue to the north bank
On the right is Thomas Telford's St Katharine Dock (1824) (GTL00253) which now houses a small historic vessels collection.
Turn left to Tower Hill Station (District Line)
© GLIAS, 1977