Guided tour of Southwark, 25 July 2017

Written by: Roger Jeal  |  Posted on: August 26th, 2017

Southwark – The Tudor Pleasure Playground

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Our guide, Sue, at the site of the original Globe Theatre

London south of the Thames often seems rather different from areas to the north and that was certainly true nearly 500 years ago. A dozen British Korean Society explorers covered a lot of ground between Southwark Underground and London Bridge Station on an ‘evening stroll’ led by BKS member and Blue Badge Guide Sue King in late July.

16th century Londoners crossed the river in search of their 3 pleasures – pubs, plays and pretty women. Plays were banned in the City of London due to fears of the spread of diseases. A theatre was dismantled in Shoreditch, north of the river, and used to build the Globe Theatre in Southwark, then largely countryside. Much of the rowdier side of life was corralled south of the Thames.

Passing The Mad Hatter pub hotel, we learned about hat making in the area, especially iconic bowler hats. For 300 years, long before the 2012 Olympics or the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, there has been an annual race on the Thames between apprentice watermen. It is commemorated in the name of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge pub, which we also passed. Pubs and theatres featured strongly on our walk.

Bridges were also prominent. There was only one across the river around this area, London Bridge, until Westminster Bridge in 1750. Watermen liked to preserve their jobs. Our riverside stroll took us past the Tate Modern gallery, housed in the former Bankside Power Station, and the modern-day recreation of Shakespeare’s Globe. We learned that Shakespeare went to one of the ‘new’ grammar schools as the Church’s monopoly of education ended.

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The George Inn – time for some refreshment

We passed the site of the Rose Theatre, the first in this Bankside area in 1587, whose foundations are preserved under water under a modern development, and the original venue for the Globe, a short walk from today’s recreation.

Interesting places followed rapidly, including Southwark Cathedral (partly medieval), London’s first train station at London Bridge and the popular Borough Market (thankfully peaceful since the June 3 terror attack). We learned about a Harry Potter film venue and using urine and dog poo in local leather production (not now).

Finally a pub we did not pass — The George Inn, dating from 1677, the last galleried inn in London and mentioned by Dickens. Thank you, Sue, for another lively and informative walk.

Roger Jeal

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