Walking from Bermondsey to Southwark

It has been an absolutely mad couple of weeks but I am happy to say that I survived! I’ve completed the handover between my old and new positions and from tomorrow, I will no longer be working in Southwark but permanently in the centre of London near Charing Cross.  In the five years that I have been in Southwark, I have fallen in love with this historic, quirky little area which was the stomping ground of none other than Charles Dickens and the Bishops of Winchester.  It is home to Southwark Cathedral, Borough Market, Guy’s Hospital, the Cross Bones Cemetery, Red Cross Way, the St George the Martyr Church and, of course, the Shard. I spent some time exploring this area but for some reason, I never really ventured east and into Bermondsey.  That might have something to do with me getting hopelessly lost there one lunch time back in August 2007 but nevertheless, it is an equally historic area. 

Bermondsey was once a notorious slum and it is the area where my favourite of all Charles Dickens’s works, Oliver Twist, was set.  Bermondsey was famous for its tanneries and trade in leather, hides and wool.  There are parts of Bermondsey which are still not very nice today but overall, there is a great deal of regeneration and renewal going on and some areas are looking pretty trendy.

Aware that my days in Southwark were numbered, I recently took a walk through Bermondsey and Southwark to see what I could see.  All photos were taken on my iPhone 4GS.  Do click on the photos below for enlargements.

The Shard, May 2012 The Shard Fenning Street View Abandoned Warehouse, Vinegar Street Smashed windows in Vinegar Street

I started my walk underneath The Shard and for just a little way, that was the most interesting thing to see.  Instead of heading straight through Guy’s Hospital, I turned left into St Thomas Street and was soon pleased at my change of route.  It is the strangest thing, even when I don’t really feel like walking and exploring, I remind myself that I’ve never once regretted one of my adventures and I am walking more and more each day.

I soon noticed an abandoned warehouse on Vinegar Street which had a ghost of a ghost sign on the facing walls.  I wasn’t able to find out much about the history of this warehouse but did find out that locals are fighting against its demolition and the erection of three smaller Shard-like skyscrapers. The fight has been going on for almost 2 years so they must be putting up a good one!


Ghost of a ghost sign, Vinegar Street Temporary door n Bermondsey Street The Tanneries in Bermondsey Street The Tanneries, Bermondsey Street

I turned into Bermondsey Street and noticed the intriguing door above.  It says “temporary door” and I couldn’t quite figure that out!  Anyway, it is part of the headquarters for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust who specialize in educating people about wine and spirits and offer courses and wine tastings.  Hmmm, maybe an idea for a meet up?

Next door was The Tanneries on Bermondsey Street, a historic Victorian building that has been recently redeveloped.  It is currently home to Shiva Limited, a property investment company.

Wool Yard Bermondsey Street Thomson Bros Ltd paper, Bermondsey Leathermarket Gardens, Bermondsey Leathermarket Court

Across the road was the old Wool Yard, a development of offices and workspaces.  Everywhere you looked there were ghost signs and evidence of the history of the area but I soon decided to turn off the main road and head through Leathermarket Gardens and Guy Street Park.  I saw the ridiculously overpriced Leathermarket Court residential complex, which I presume are on the site of the old Leathermarket.  The gardens were actually quite peaceful and extremely well kept, although the Bermondsey Village Hall looked like it could do with a cash injection.

Tower Blocks in Bermondsey Bermondsey Village Hall Guy Street Car Park Guy Street Park, Southwark

I think it was when I crossed the road between the two parks that I crossed from Bermondsey into Southwark, although it is all vague anyway as Bermondsey and Southwark both fall under the London Borough of Southwark. 

Courages Fine Ale and Stout The Britannia, Southwark Plantain Place, Southwark Plantain Place in Southwark

Nevertheless, Southwark did feel different.  It was less trendy and commercial and more residential.  The Courages Fine Ale & Stout sign above left is actually a ghost sign because the pub below has long since been converted into flats.  The Britannia was just a couple of doors down and seemed to be doing a roaring trade.  There were photos of the Queen, Union Flags and bunting everywhere so I bet they are pretty excited for the upcoming Jubilee weekend!

My last stop was Plantain Place which has intrigued me for years.  I can’t find any history on this area but it is obvious from the signage and the street name that it is of significance .  I wonder if it isn’t an acknowledgement of the rich Caribbean history and culture in the area?  If any locals read this, please do shed some light on this tiny pocket of trendy apartments in the middle of Southwark. 

I'm not too sure yet how serious this is, but I cannot switch my PC on this morning. Le Husband thinks it might be the graphics card and I am trying not to worry but all of my music and photographs are on that PC. I also only have Photoshop on that PC and can’t run it on the laptop.  I last backed up the photos at the beginning of the year so I wouldn't have lost everything anyway but this is the reason for another iPhone / Instagram post! I refuse to worry about it just yet.

16 comments on "Walking from Bermondsey to Southwark"
  1. Let me start backwards. I read your tips in a hurry and will go back and reflect more thoroughly, Great advice is always welcome.
    I certainly hope your PC is ok ! I have lost some last september and have learned my lesson, am now constantly backing up..
    Conrgratulations on your new position !! The story on Southwark is fascinating but working in the center of London sounds wild to me ! Bonne chance !

  2. what a thorough tour you've given us! it would be a bit confusing for a tourist to read the signs thinking they might get an ale and bite to eat though. ;o)

    best of luck on your new job and have fun exploring its neighborhood!

  3. love this walk, fantastic post emm. love the pics too

  4. I have only managed a couple of brief visits to Bermondsey for events, and it looks like an area worth exploring... even though I think it would have been even more interesting before it became quite so trendy!

    I'm wee bit partial to fried Plantain...

  5. This is a great post and pics - really captures the feel of the area

  6. when I read your posts I always have this impression that London is such a vivid place, always something interesting in the surroundings!

    Blog about life and travelling
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  7. Great illustrated walking tour. Good luck with the PC, hopefully, if it is completely shot you can pull out the hard disk and offload your pictures.

  8. When I can finally take a trip to London, I'll be looking back on this blog for inspiration on what to do there. It truly sounds like a beautiful city.

  9. This is really, really interesting, Emm. I know the area quite well (or thought i did) but so much of this was new to me. I'll have to take another walk and take another look, I don't usually go exactly the route you did and I suppose it proves that I've been a bit hidebound.

    I hope that your computer is okay. That kind of thing is scary but they ARE getting more reliable these days, I feel. So I have my fingers crossed for you.

  10. New place to work! How exciting! Keep more pictures coming :)

  11. Super cool..as always!! Emm you are a fab tour guide!Gorgeous! Hope your computer is sparkling real soon!

  12. I really enjoyed this blog post!! A lovely part of town, and lovely photographs too. I like that abandoned warehouse and the Britannia pub

  13. @ This Is Belgium: My PC is finally up and running again. It is such a relief that I didn't lose anything!

    @ BonBon: Ha ha. You need to get used to ghost signs in England - they are everywhere.

    @ Sy: thank you! It was a fun walk!

    @ William: I don't mind areas getting more trendy and less grubby.

    @ David: Thank you!

    @ Ola: that is exactly it. There is something new on every corner.

    @ Clueless: Thank you! Luckily my husband was able to save it for me with no loss.

    @ Stephanie: Thank you! London is an incredible city to visit!

    @ Jenny: Yeah, I sometimes find it quite haunting to walk around my old neighbourhoods and see how much has changed!

    @ Ivanhoe: I will try! It makes me realise how long since I posted about London!

    @ Victoria: Thank you!! I do like the idea of being a tour guide!

    @ Dominic: Thanks! I'm glad you liked it.

  14. Did you figure out your PC problem?

    I've never exactly known what the woolbuilding was - thanks for clarifying! Did oyu know that there is a restaurant on Bermondsey Street (Delphinos) that keeps bees?

  15. @ Within Ireland: My awesome husband figured it out (after an initial diagnosis from my awesome brother). It is all fixed now!

    And yes, I did know about the bee restaurant but I'm scared of bees!

  16. the temporary door is the meeting place for the local community group www.bvag.net who are fighting for the Vinegar Yard warehouse and other heritage buildings in the area. It belongs to The Tanneries / Shiva Ltd on Bermondsey St and not the Wine guys. BVAG members were the forefront of getting the railway arches along St Thomas St to be listed. Shiva Ltd is also predominantly a property restoration company rather than investment. All the buildings of the tanneries and the globe house were restored by them. There is a yoga place in the tanneries with entrance on crucifix lane


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