Review: Southbank walk

It’s amazing how a well-informed guide can transform a simple stroll into a walk through history. On 26th January, SELHuG Secretary Tony Brewer led us along the stretch of riverside from London Bridge to the National Theatre – an area we thought we already knew.

First off was the beautiful art deco St Olaf’s House, now part of London Bridge Hospital but once HQ of Hay’s Wharf Company until the docks moved down to Tilbury in the 1960s. Who knew, though, that Hay’s Wharf got its name right back in 1651 when Alexander Hay acquired the wharfage rights to the riverbank between London Bridge and what is now Tower Bridge.

We were so lucky – the day was one of those cold, clear, crisp days which is fine as long as you are wrapped up, and allows good views across the river. Much of the pleasure of such a walk is chatting to the person you find yourself walking beside at any given point, conversations which get truncated when the guide has something to say and overtaken by a new companion with new things to say.

Other historical snippets:

  • Southwark Cathedral only became a cathedral in 1905. Before that it was St Saviour’s parish church.
  • The Bishops of Winchester derived much of their income from the brothels located in the Clink Liberty, an area around their palace, just to the west of Southwark Cathedral.
  • The Globe Theatre is as faithful a reconstruction of the original theatre as traditional craftsmanship and modern scholarship can achieve, but it is never-the-less a ‘best guess’.
  • Doggett’s Coat and Badge, named after Thomas Doggett, the 18th century Irish actor and manager of Drury Lane theatre, is the oldest rowing race in the world and has been raced every year since 1715. Today you pass a pub of the same name, bearing the gilded ‘badge’.
  • Known as ‘1 Blackfriars’, the new skyscraper at the south end of Blackfriars Bridge is known informally as ‘the Vase’ and irreverently as ‘the Tummy’.

Thank you Tony for an excellent walk!