The Borough or Southwark (pronounced "suthuk" or "suthark") is the area of London immediately south of London Bridge and part of the larger London Borough of Southwark. It has been called The Borough since the 1550s, to contrast it with the neighbouring City, but now mainly to distinguish it from the larger area.

The name is currently under some threat of redefinition as the London Borough of Southwark's policy is to rebrand the area - thus the area around the Tate Modern and the Globe is now referred to by the historic name of Bankside, while the area to the east of Borough High Street is part of the so-called Pool of London area. The name Southwark they wish to reserve to the larger area of the London Borough of Southwark. Therefore what was once known simply as Southwark now needs further clarification as in 'Historic Southwark' or The Borough. The placement of a new Jubilee Line Underground station called Southwark near Blackfriars will complicate the matter even more!

Table of contents
1 Places in Southwark
2 History
3 Post-1500
4 External Links

Places in Southwark


Early History

Southwark is on a traditionally marshy area south of the River Thames. Recent excavation has revealed prehistoric activity including evidence of early ploughing, burial mounds and ritual activity. The area was originally a series of islands in the River Thames. This formed the best place to bridge the Thames and the area became an important part of Londinium owing its importance to its position as the endpoint of the Roman London Bridge.

At some point the Bridge fell or was pulled down. Southwark and the city seem to have become largely deserted during the so-called Dark Ages. Archaeologically, evidence of settlement is replaced by a largely featureless soil called the Dark Earth which probably (although this is contested0 represents an urban area abandoned.

Southwark appears to recover only during the time of King Alfred and his successors. Sometime in and around 886 AD the Bridge was rebuilt and the City and Southwark restored. Southwark was called 'Suddringa Geworc' which means the 'defensive works of the men of Surrey. It was probably a defended borough to defend the bridge and hence the reemerging City of London. This defensive role is highlighted by the use of the Bridge as a defense against King Swein, his son King Cnut and in 1066, against King William the Conqueror. He failed to force the Bridge during the Norman conquest of England, but Southwark was devastated.

Much of Southwark was originally owned by the church - the greatest reminder of monastic London is Southwark Cathedral, originally the priory of St Mary Overy.

During the middle ages it remained outside of the control of the City, and was a haven for criminals and free traders, who would sell goods and conduct trades outside the regulation of the City Livery Companies.


After many decades petitioning, in 1550, Southwark was incorporated into the City of London as 'The Ward of Bridge Without'. It became the entertainment district for London, and it was also the red-light area. In 1599, William Shakespeare's Globe Theatre was built on the South Bank in Southwark, though it burned down in 1613. A modern replica, also called the Globe, has been built near the original site. Southwark was also a favorite area for entertainment like bull and bear-baiting. There was also a famous fair in Southwark which took place near the Church of St. George the Martyr. William Hogarth depicted this fair in his painting of Southwark Fair (1733). In 1844 the railway reached Southwark with the opening of London Bridge station.

In 1899 Southwark was incorporated along with Newington and Walworth into the Metropolitan Borough of Southwark, and in 1965 this was incorporated with the Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell and Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey into the London Borough of Southwark.

External Links