Tuesday, 12 June 2012

London: Southwark and Bankside

The Shard

We recently bought an appealing book of "London's hidden walks" and today offered a good opportunity to try one of them. This walk through Southwark and Bankside - the latter an area that we had never heard of - begins at London Bridge station. You enter Borough High St and immediately turn into St Thomas St. At once you are confronted by the almost-complete Shard, which dominates the street as it does the area. It is not mentioned in the book - but then again, it is hardly hidden!

On the left is the red brick St Thomas' church, which surprisingly contains a 19th century operating theatre. Further on you turn right into Guy's Hospital where, just off the courtyard, there is a beautiful 18th century chapel.

In the next courtyard is the Lunatick Chair, now with a statue of John Keats. It is a relic of the old London Bridge, which was demolished in 1831. It acquired its name by becoming part of the the Lunatick House that once stood here.

You emerge into Borough High St and soon pass a yard containing the George Inn, the only surviving galleried coaching inn in London. (I saw a somewhat similar one in Gloucester recently, the New Inn.)

Right into Marshalsea Rd and left into Redcross St brought us to Redcross Cottages and Garden. This picturesque and surprising group was founded in the 1880s by the social housing pioneer, and National Trust founder, Octavia Hill.

A bit further along the street we came upon the wonderful Boot and Flogger, a spacious and characterful wine bar run by the last remaining "Free Vintner". The name refers to a device for inserting corks. We naturally paused for a glass of Sauvignon.

A short detour took us to the Hop Exchange in Southwark St, which dates from 1867.

Bearing right at the top of Redcross St brought us to Borough Market. The imposing Stoney St entrance was originally the portico of the Covent Garden Floral Hall.

And then to Southwark Cathedral. This began as priory church (St Mary Overy - St Mary over the water) and only became a cathedral in 1905. The building is very obviously of two periods. The tower, choir and transepts date from 1220-1440, making it the earliest Gothic church in London, while the nave (on the left in the photo) was rebuilt in the late 19th century to the designs of Arthur Blomfield. The interior however is much more of a unity.

The final section of the walk goes west parallel with the river passing the Golden Hind and then the remains of Winchester Palace, with its unusual 14th century Rose Window. It was the London residence of the Bishops of Winchester between 1126 and 1626. The bishopric apparently owned a lot of land in the area.

Finally, we reached the rebuilt Globe Theatre, having passed its original site on the way.

There is a fine view opposite of the Millenium Bridge and St Paul's.

Distance: nearly three miles, including walking back to London Bridge.

Conditions: cloudy but reasonably mild.

Rating: four stars. A very interesting walk, which fully delivered on its promise to reveal hidden treasures which it would be easy to pass by unaware. We can't wait to do another!

From: London's hidden walks vol 1by Stephen Millar (Metro Publications).

No comments: