The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 35 Southwark


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A subway on the left, 100 yards from the bridge, leads under Blackfriars Goods Station direct to Bankside. A little farther on Stamford Street diverges to the right (west) for Waterloo Station, and Southwark Street to the left for the Borough High St. and St. Saviour's. John Rennie (1761-1821) died at 18 Stamford St., and John Leech (1817-64), the artist, was born at 28 Bennett St., the first turning on the right from Stamford Street, but both houses have been demolished. Christ Church, a modern church with a Byzantine interior, in Blackfriars Road, occupies the site of the manorhouse of Robert de Paris. The manor, being a 'liberty,' like the adjoining Bankside quarter, was outside the jurisdiction of the City Corporation, and soon became the haunt of lawless elements. As Paris Garden, it was in the 16-17th century one of the amusement centres of London, patronized by gay society and even by the court. Here stood also the Swan Theatre (1595-1633), leased by Henslowe and Alleyn, and two or more bear-gardens. The subway mentioned above, or Holland St. (with its quaint old almshouses), the first turning on the left in Southwark St., leads to Bankside, which skirts the river almost to Cannon St. railway bridge. Now occupied entirely by wharves and factories, this district is of historic interest as the site of the early theatres where Elizabethan drama first saw the light and Shakespeare's genius found expression. Here, too, in the Liberty of the Clink, were the 'stews,' largely inhabited by Dutch or Flemish women, and numerous bear-gardens, used also for prize-fights. 'After dinner, with my wife and Mercer to the Bear Garden, where... I saw some good sport of the bull's tossing of the dogs, one into the very boxes. But it is a rude and nasty pleasure' (Pepys's Diary, Aug. 14th, 1666). Bankside commands a view of St. Paul's, especially fine at sunset; an inscription at the beginning of the street, on the left, marks the site of a house whence Wren used to watch the building of his cathedral. The adjoining Falcon Dock preserves the name of the Falcon Tavern, frequented, according to erroneous tradition, by Shakespeare and his fellows. Bear Gardens, on the right, near Southwark Bridge, marks the site of several bear-pits and of the Hope Theatre, a bear-garden with a movable stage, opened by Henslowe in 1613 and pulled down in 1656. The Rose Theatre, opened by Henslowe in 1592, stood at the north end of Rose Alley, the next turning, which leads into Park Street, the Maid Lane of Shakespeare's day. A tablet on the wall of Barclay and Perkins's Brewery (on the right), in Park St., purports to mark the site of the famous Globe Theatre, erected by the Burbages in 1598, which most authorities are now agreed stood on the south side of Maid Lane. Here Shakespeare acted for many years and here fifteen of his plays were produced. The theatre, burned down in 1613, was a small but lofty thatched building, octagonal without and circular ('this wooden O') within. The second Globe Theatre was demolished in 1644. Peele, Beaumont, John Fletcher, Edmund Shakespeare, Massinger, and Greene are among the other well-known names connected with the Bankside theatres. Oliver Goldsmith set up as a doctor in Bankside in 1756, and John Bunyan preached in a chapel in Zoar St., a turning off Sumner Street. Barclay and Perkins's Brewery, in Park St., may be visited on application being made to the secretary (previous notice necessary for Saturday afternoon; gratuity optional). The large brewery covers an area of about 8 acres, and normally 20 million gallons of beer are brewed here annually. An artesian well on the premises supplies the water. The brewery dates back for probably over 300 years. On the death of Henry Thrale, a former owner, in 1781 it was bought by Robert Barclay, who took John Perkins (Mr. Thrale's manager) in to partnership; since that date the firm has always included a Barclay and a Perkins. At the sale, Dr. Johnson, as an executor, uttered the well-known words: 'We are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice.' Johnson's chair and a portrait of Thrale are shown in the board-room.