Tooley Street: Wikis


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Tooley Street is a road in South London connecting London Bridge to St Saviour's Dock; it runs past Tower Bridge on the Southwark side of the River Thames, and forms part of the A200 road. (grid reference TQ3380.)

Former South Eastern Railway Offices at No. 84
The Shipwrights Arms at No. 88


St Olave

The earliest name for the street recorded in the Rolls is the neutral regio vicio ie 'royal street' meaning a public highway. In the Agas map of ca 1560 it is shown as 'Barms Street', ie street to Bermondsey; in the Stuart period it was referred to as 'Short Southwark' to differentiate it from 'Long Southwark' (the present Borough High Street). The later 'Tooley' designation is a corruption of the original parish church of 'St Olave' (St Olave's, Southwark) and the transformation can be seen on maps of the area from that of 'Ralph Agas', through 'Braun and Hozenburg' and John Roque and later which are labelling the church of that name; 'Synt Toulus', 'Toulas', 'Toolis', 'Toolies'. The church takes its name from the Norwegian King Olaf who was an ally of Athelred the Unready and attacked Cnut's forces occupying London Bridge in 1013. The earliest reference to the church is in the Southwark entry in Domesday Book of 1086[1]. The church was a little to the east of London Bridge of the period. The church was demolished in 1926 for the headquarters of the Hay's Wharf Company, "St Olaf House", an office block built 1929-31 by Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel (1887–1959) in Art Deco style. This has a legend and mural depiction of the Saint. The termination of the street is not actually at the junction with Borough High Street, as assumed, for that part of the highway is actually Duke Street Hill. Tooley Street actually joins Montague Close under the arch of London Bridge a little to the north of this.

George Orwell

George Orwell lived as a tramp to gain a first-hand view of poverty. He befriended a man called Ginger in the hop-fields of Kent. They came to a "kip" (doss-house) in Tooley Street and stayed there from September 19 to October 8 1930. Orwell wrote rough notes in the kip then went further along Tooley Street to Bermondsey Library where he wrote them up into the book "Down and Out in Paris and London". The library building was demolished in the 1980s and the site is now part of the open space called Potter's Fields'[2].

Hay's Wharf

The most famous wharf of the south side of the Pool of London was Hay's Wharf, first mentioned in 1651 to the east of St Olave's church. For 300 years it grew, until Tooley Street and the surrounding industrial development was nicknamed "London's Larder". The warehouses burned down in a disastrous fire on 22 June 1861. It burned for two weeks and smouldered for 6 months. The chief of the fire brigade, James Braidwood died in the fire. Hay's Wharf was where Ernest Shackleton's ship "The Quest" lay in 1921. This dock was filled in during extensive rebuilding in the 1980s and is now a shopping mall called "Hay's Galleria". The office block attached to it is called "Shackleton House".

Old and new horrors

A 1542 map[3] of Southwark shows only three or four features on Tooley Street, although it is not given a name on this. One of them is a pillory, set up for punishing fraudulent traders. Next to it is a "cage". This was a place to keep drunken disorderly people who were arrested too late in the day to be imprisoned. They would sleep in the cage until sober. The site of those medieval punishments is occupied, quite appropriately, by London Dungeon, a popular tourist attraction. It opened in 1975 and is similar to the "Chamber of Horrors" in Madame Tussaud's Museum (it is owned by Merlin Entertainments). The next building is "Britain at War", another tourist attraction, a recreation of the Blitz. More poignantly in nearby, Stainer Street, off Tooley Street running under the mainline station, there is a 'Blue Plaque' commemorating the 68 people who were killed in the 1941 bombing raid. Popular legend says that there was so much rubble that bodies were simply left behind, and re-buried in the masonry under London Bridge Station. Another museum and tourist attraction has been created under the Bridge at number 2- 4 called 'The London Bridge Experience and London Tombs', the first part of the display is an exhibition of the history of the Bridge and the other part is more of a popular entertainment similar to the 'Dungeon'.

John Keats

Next to Stainer Street, off Tooley Street is Weston Street. Both are among the gloomiest places in London. At this part of their route they became road tunnels under the mainline station as it expanded over the years. In the early nineteenth century, before the station was built, John Keats lived in Weston Street, at that time called Dean Street, when a medical student at Guy's Hospital. It was here that he wrote the poem "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer".

London Bridge City and More London

From 1987 into the early 1990s and again in the period from 1999 to 2009, new developments between the street and the river have been created. In 1987, with the increasing urban regeneration of the Thames Corridor and nearby London Docklands, the area was acquired by the 'St Martins Property Group' as part of their 'London Bridge City' development, stretching from London Bridge easterly to English Grounds where it is terminated by the Southwark Crown Court site and this has caused a remarkable recovery in the area. In the later campaign of urban renewal More London has been created, bounded by the Hay's Galleria site and Tower Bridge Road, it is a pedestrian area connecting Tooley Street with London City Hall . From the Tooley Street end there are a spectacular vistas converging on Tower Bridge, The Tower of London and City Hall. A children's theatre called The Unicorn Theatre, has been built here. 'The Scoop' is an amphitheatre or stepped area of More London upon which regular events (plays, music, open air movies) are held throughout the summertime. Besides City Hall, a number of prominent London companies are also based here including Visit London, Ernst and Young's European Headquarters, Norton Rose's main building and a Hilton hotel.

Public Buildings

The GLA's City Hall was opened here in 2000. In 2009 Southwark Council will open its new civic centre in a modern office block on Tooley Street, replacing some other facilities within the Borough.

Public houses

At the junction between Tooley Street and Bermondsey Street is a historic pub called "The Shipwright's Arms", recalling one of the local industries. It has a large wall of tiles showing ships being built.

There are also three wine bars — The Mug House, which occupies a vault under London Bridge at 1 Tooley Street, Skinkers under the Railway Viaduct at the corner of Joiner Street and The Auberge within the London Bridge City development. During reconstruction work another pub, The Antigallican, has been closed down. Its name celebrates a man o' war wooden battleship named after the ancient enmity that existed between the English and the French.

Several streets that used to be on maps before 1999 have been swept away — Willson's Wharf, Unicorn Passage, Morgan's Lane and Pickle Herring Street. The Bethell Estate that was built in the early 1930s between Tooley Street and the river was demolished in its entirety for redevelopement.This area used to house some of the poorest people in London, and fell victim to cholera in the 1840s.


Two recent additions to street are theatres, the Unicorn Theatre is in a custom built building that does shows exclusively for children whilst the Southwark Playhouse is in a railway arch behind "The Shipwright's Arms"

Public Art, Memorials and Statues

On the corner of Braidwood Street on a building that is part of the London Bridge Hospital is the memorial to James Braidwood who died in the fire of 1861. In the foyer of the Cottons Centre, an office block next to the river, is a modern work of art. Likewise, within Hay's Galleria is the sculpture / fountain 'The Navigators'. There are three water features on More London: a channel called the Rill runs the length of the street; at the City Hall end there are 210 fountains; at the Tooley Street end there are three "Water Tables" continuously overflowing with water and above these is a statue, almost like a waxwork, of an ordinary member of the public.

At the fork in the road between Tooley Street and Elizabeth Street and Tower Bridge Road there are two statues. One is a bust of dockworkers' trade unionist, founder of the Transport & General Workers Union, Churchill's Minister of Labour during WWII and Attlee's Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin[4]. This is somewhat overshadowed by the full size monument to local worthy Samuel Bourne Bevington, a member of a Bermondsey leather manufacturing dynasty and philanthropist. He is represented as the first Mayor of the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey, which incorporated this street, and was erected shortly after his death in 1908.[5]

Anecdotal Culture

'The Three Tailors of Tooley Street' is a remark made in regard to any small group pretending to greater representative authority than they have in reality. It is based on the tale that the eponymous characters wanted to have some exemption from a local rate and were informed they would have to petition the Privy Council; accordingly they drafted their appeal, which began with the phrase "We, The People of England ...". It is notable that by far the largest trade occupation in the Street on the Bridge House Rent Roll prepared for the Poll Tax of 1381 was that of the tailors.[6]

Tooley Street Conservation Area

A Conservation Area is defined under the Civic Amenities Act 1967 as an "area of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance." Tooley Street falls within the London Borough of Southwark and was designated a Conservation Area in June 1988 (Tooley Street South) and February 1991 (Tooley Street South).[7]

There are seventeen listed buildings in the conservation area, including: St Olave's Grammar School (exterior and parts interior Grade II*), St. Olaf House (grade II*); Hay's Galleria (grade II), Denmark House (grade II), London Bridge Hospital (grade II), and The Shipwright's Arms public house (grade II).

Southwark Council has also identified a number of buildings on Tooley Street that, whilst unlisted, make a "positive contribution" to the local area, including: The Antigallican public house, Devon Mansions, and Magdalen House.[7]

See also


  1. ^ The Ancient Parishes and Manors of Southwark by Tony Sharp 2005 Guildable Manor
  2. ^ Southwark Local Studies Library 'Tooley Street' exhibition file.
  3. ^ 'Plan view of Southwark' ca 1542, Duchy of Lancaster
  4. ^ Public Monument and Sculpture Association National Recording Project - London and photgraph
  5. ^ Bermondsey Annual Year Book 1910
  6. ^ Medieval Southwark Martha Carlin 1999 Hambledon Press
  7. ^ a b Tooley Street Conservation Area Appraisal

External links

Coordinates: 51°30′16.76″N 0°5′0.98″W / 51.5046556°N 0.0836056°W / 51.5046556; -0.0836056



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