A densely developed – and developing – district, occupying a broad swathe of inner south-east London between Tower
Bridge and the Old Kent Road (A2). Bermondsey’s Old English name meant ‘Beornmund’s island’ and points
to its genesis on habitable ground amid the marshes. Evidence has been found of Roman and Saxon occupation. The dominant institution
until the Reformation was St Saviour’s Monastery – Bermondsey Abbey – which was founded for the Cluniac
order by merchant Aylwin Child in 1089 on a site to the south of Tower Bridge. Nearby St Mary Magdalene’s was built
as a parochial church in the 14th century and rebuilt in 1680. Bermondsey’s plentiful supply of water and strong links
with the City of London favoured the growth of its leather industry, with tannery pits dotting the area. Thomas Keyse’s
discovery of a spa in 1770 created a fashionable resort but its popularity was short-lived, the spa closing in 1804. Another
side to the area was starkly embodied by Jacob’s Island, a riverside slum depicted by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist.
The island lay east of St Saviours Dock and south of Bermondsey Wall, where the now-hidden River Neckinger enters the Thames.
Bermondsey’s growth was encouraged by the opening of the capital’s first passenger railway, from Spa Road to Deptford,
in 1836; it was soon extended from London Bridge to Greenwich. The borough’s population grew rapidly from 27,465 in
1851 to 136,660 in 1891. Southwark Park Road developed into its main shopping street and Southwark Park its only significant
open space. The continuing importance of the leather trade was illustrated by the building of the Leather Market on Weston
Street in 1833 and the ornate Leather, Hide and Wool Exchange on the corner of Leathermarket Street in the late 1870s, when
St Crispin’s Church was dedicated to the patron saint of leather and shoes. The Bermondsey wharves brought food processing
as an industrial spin-off, and Hartley’s Jams established a factory on Rothsay Street. The living conditions of the
urban poor inspired the work of the philanthropist and MP Alfred Salter, whose wife Ada became mayor of Bermondsey in 1922.
She and her fellow councillors were active in replacing slums with ‘modern’ tenements, planting trees and turning
open spaces into playgrounds. The area suffered greatly in World War II and post-war rebuilding did not treat it kindly. Industries
such as leather died away but the Leather Market and the neighbouring Exchange were saved from demolition in 1993 and converted