Southwark – An interesting Borough

Posted on October 20th, 2015

History of Southwark

Southwark coat of arms

Southwark is one of London’s most historic and fascinating districts and has had a unique identity all its own for over a thousand years. It started out the place chosen for a footbridge over the Thames to ‘Londinium’, a crossing point which became the forerunner of London Bridge today.

Southwark – home of ‘disreputable’ entertainments

Every city has its well-known area of disrepute, and for a long time Southwark was London’s. The area was considered outside the London city boundaries in Tudor times and so became a place where a host of scandalous activities were permissible. These included bear-baiting, bull-baiting, prostitution and ‘unlicensed acting’! Royalty had mixed feelings about Southwark’s offerings. Henry VII closed the area’s brothels in 1503 and Henry VIII demanded that Cardinal Wolsey ‘purge’ London of the brothels in 1546. Both their wishes were later overturned by Edward VI.

Southwark was also home to the ‘Clink’, the King’s Bench and the Marshalsea, a debtors prison made famous by Dickens in this novel Little Dorrit. Much later its reputation for crime was sealed in the celebrated BBC TV show Only Fools and Horses which was based in Peckham – its main characters including Del Trotter living a life of petty crime.


Centre of the acting fraternity

The first purpose-built playhouse, known simply as ‘The Theatre’ was built in Southwark by James Burbage in 1576 and during Elizabeth I’s reign another four opened up here. The famous Globe was established here in 1599 cementing Southwark’s status as London’s theatrical centre.

The Mayor of Southwark

The current Mayor is Cllr Flora Dixon-Fyle, elected officially to office on May 16th at Southwark Cathedral 2015. The Mayor of Southwark and The Civic Office ‘are the council’s chief custodians of civic pride and its champions of community cohesion’ which Southwark say is in keeping with this historic borough.

Multinational Southwark

The district has welcomed many immigrants over the years, a tradition dating right back as far as the 16th and 17th centuries with an influx of Dutch and Flemish arrivals. Many Germans and Irish set up home in the district in the 19th century, and Cypriot, Caribbean, African and South Asian peoples have been more recent arrivals.

Southwark – home of the pie and mash

Southwark is the traditional home of pie and mash, a staple that’s been enjoyed by the local community for well over a hundred years. And it’s a trend that’s withstood the test of time, something that’s illustrated by the ever popular Arment’s Pie and Mash Shop, based in East London. Arment’s has been serving traditional, high quality foods to Londoners since 1914, to the same secret recipe.


‘Del Boy’ and Roy at Arments Centenary

Why not grab yourself a piece of history by treating yourself to some authentic Arment’s London pie and mash or try a dish of jellied or stewed eels served with a delicious savoury liquor. Eat in or have your delicious meals delivered to your home or workplace by ordering online here.

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