Bermondsey History Books
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Bermondsey, its Historic Memories and Associations, by Edward T. Clarke
This a republication of Edward T. Clarke’s 1900 original.
This book has much information on Bermondsey Abbey, Bermondsey House, Queen Elizabeth, and men of influence, but it must be said it has relatively little modern or social history. That said, it is a valuable introduction to the history of Bermondsey.
For most of its history Bermondsey lay in the county of Surrey. In 1889 it became part of the expanding County of London. In 1900, along with Rotherhithe and a small part of Deptford, it formed part of the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey. In 1965 the borough became part of the London Borough of Southwark, although the district of Bermondsey still exists.
There have been the inevitable changes to format and punctuation, especially regarding the many quotations, but the grammar and prose has been faithfully retained, other than changes to one or two typographical errors and the very few instances where clarity was required.
Extracts from Bermondsey, its Historic Memories and Associations:
The name of Bermondsey
In “Bermondsey, its Historic Memories and Associations,” Clarke attends to the origins of the name of Bermondsey:
The pedestrian passing down Tooley Street from London Bridge will speedily reach the entrance to a narrow and crowded thoroughfare, lined with warehouses and shops, once forming the main approach to the Manor of Bermondsey. As “Saint Olave’s” Street has, by the ignorant colloquialism of successive generations, been corrupted into “Tooley Street,” it is not surprising that the names both of this venerable suburb and its principal thoroughfare should have undergone many transformations: “Beormund’s Ey,” “Bermundeseye,” “Barmsey,” even “Barmese,” which latter style may possibly have originated with the French monks, to whom their Prior, known to the outer world of Southwark as the “Lord of Barmsey,” would have been “Le Seigneur de Barmese.” In ancient times Bermondsey Street was known as Barmsie or Barnabie Street, or, as some have said, “Lane,” and even in a map of the last century figures as “Barnaby Street.” With all its varied appellations, however, it remains one of the most ancient thoroughfares in London, once, no doubt, a mere rural lane leading from the neighbourhood of the river to the Saxon Palace. As in remote times Bermondsey was a portion of the great Southwark Marsh, it is possible that the “Lane” may have been originally a causeway parting the swampy levels on either hand, and providing means of access to the farms which had arisen on the reclaimed ground. Although it is in the pages of Domesday Book that Bermondsey first emerges into the light of history, the reclamation of the land took place in the Saxon times, and the name must have originated at the same period. Its derivation is variously accounted for. Tradition ascribes it to a mysterious Saxon named Beormund, supposed to have been the original proprietor; but this is by some considered mythical, and in a History of Bermondsey published in 1841 by Mr. Phillips, an old resident in the parish, another explanation is offered:
“In the Saxon language beor signifies a nobleman or prince, and mund, peace or security; and when to these is added the termination ea, water, the word ‘Bermondsey’ may signify the Prince’s defence by the river.”
This is ingenious, and might be defended on other grounds; but although the utter absence of all contemporary records renders it impossible to affirm positively that such a person as Beormund actually existed, we are inclined to believe that he was not a myth.
Below is Remains of Bermondsey Abbey:
Below is the Old Toll-house and bridge in Upper Grange Road, Bermondsey, 1820:
In “Bermondsey, its Historic Memories and Associations,” Clarke says:
The very peculiar and exceptional characteristics of Bermondsey, which until the second half of the present century rendered it unique among Metropolitan districts, no doubt commended it to the special attention of writers of fiction. In “Oliver Twist,” Charles Dickens drew the most graphic picture of the waterside region, making Jacob’s Island the scene of the pursuit and death of Sikes.
Below is a map of Jacob’s Island from the book:
Below is St Mary’s Church, Rotherhithe:
For most of its history Bermondsey lay in the county of Surrey. In 1889 it became part of the expanding County of London. In 1900, along with Rotherhithe and a small part of Deptford, it formed part of the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey. In 1965 the borough became part of the London Borough of Southwark, although the district of Bermondsey still exists. There have been the inevitable changes to format and punctuation, especially regarding the many quotations, but the grammar and prose has been faithfully retained, other than changes to one or two typographical errors and the very few instances where clarity was required.
Other Bermondsey History Books and Maps
We display various Bermondsey history books in our panel near the top of the page. We also include maps because they are a valuable source for making sense of the location and street names. Of particular interest are the Godfrey Edition maps, which are printed at a large scale, have street names included, and have the bonus of extracts from directories on the reverse, showing the names and proprietors of shops, doctors, etc.