“London has the trick of making its past, its long indelible past, always a part of its present. And for that reason it will always have meaning for the future, because of all it can teach about disaster, survival, and redemption. It is all there in the streets.”
― Anna Quindlen, Imagined London: A Tour of the World’s Greatest Fictional City
Ducklings and gentle-kittens, let me make you welcome to Bermondsey.
It’s on the south side of the Thames, a place that has been through the centuries a holy area, a posh area, and a slum area. A large abbey once stood here with royal ties back to the conquest. Apparently Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine held a Christmas court here (presumably more amiable than the one portrayed in The Lion in Winter…), and Elizabeth Woodville retired there along with Henry VII’s blessing after he married her daughter. As usually happened to these presumably impressive buildings, Henry VIII dissolved the Abbey and gave the land to his friend. The Stuarts poshed it up after the Great Fire, but it sank into decay. In the 19th century, the docks and industrialization made things a bit grim.
This church, built in the 17th century even though a church has been recorded on this sight for well over a thousand years, is the parish church of St. Mary Magdalen.
Charles Dickens described the area near here thusly, “… crazy wooden galleries common to the backs of half a dozen houses, with holes from which to look upon the slime beneath; windows, broken and patched, with poles thrust out, on which to dry the linen that is never there; rooms so small, so filthy, so confined, that the air would seem to be too tainted even for the dirt and squalor which they shelter; wooden chambers thrusting themselves out above the mud and threatening to fall into it — as some have done; dirt-besmeared walls and decaying foundations, every repulsive lineament of poverty, every loathsome indication of filth, rot, and garbage…”
Luckily these days Bermondsey is undergoing a nice little resurgence and we’re really enjoying living here. Huge masses of it was bombed and rebuilt after WWII so it’s relatively recent (compared to a surprising amount of London). Our plumbing is only from the last century instead of the one before – this is cause for rejoicing, trust me!
We’re in Southwark, one of the oldest parts of London – the area from which Chaucer’s pilgrims departed for Canterbury is just a Tube station away, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre is in the same direction. To the east lies the dock where the Mayflower departed for Southampton to meet up with its dour and disapproving paying passengers heading for the New World. The dock where they hanged pirates in the 18th century is nearby. There are excellent restaurants, Bermondsey’s famous antique market, and of course the river.
We also live a 15-20’s minute’s leisurely stroll from Tower Bridge.
I think you’ll excuse me, minions, if I say that I’m vastly contended and downright giddy about this in a lot of ways. Not too bad, huh!
*all images original to Small Dog Syndrome