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Southwark

SOUTHWARK, a central metropolitan borough of London, England, bounded N. by the river Thames, E. by Bermondsey, S.E. by Camberwell and W. by Lambeth. Pop. (1901), 206,180. It is a poor and crowded district, and a large industrial population is employed in the riverside wharves and in potteries, glassworks and other manufactures. There are also large breweries, and the Hop Exchange is a centre of the hop trade. The borough is connected with the City of London by Blackfriars, South wark and London bridges; the thoroughfares leading from these and the other road-bridges as far up as Lambeth converge at St George's Circus; another important junction is the " Elephant and Castle." Southwark is a bishopric of the Church of England created by act of 1904 (previously a suffragan bishopric in the diocese of Rochester), and also of the Roman Catholic Church. The cathedral of St Saviour belonged to the Augustinian priory of St Mary Overy, or Overies (i.e. St Mary over the river), receiving its present name after the suppression of the monasteries. It is cruciform, with a central tower, and has been so restored as to preserve its ancient beauty. Its style is mainly Early English, and among those buried here are Gower, Fletcher and Massinger, the poets, and Edmund, brother of William Shakespeare. The Roman Catholic cathedral of St George is a Gothic building by A. W. Pugin, in St George's Road. Near the " Elephant and Castle " is the Metropolitan Tabernacle, the original building of which, burnt down in 1898, became famous under the Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon. The principal benevolent institutions are Guy's Hospital, St Thomas's Street, founded in 1721 by Thomas Guy, with an important medical school; and Bethlehem Royal Hospital for the Insane, commonly corrupted to Bedlam, the origin of which is found in a priory of the 13th century founded within the City, beside the modern Liverpool Street. Other institutions are the Evelina Children's Hospital, the Royal Eye Hospital and the Borough Polytechnic Institute. In Newington Causeway is the Sessions House for the county of London (south of the Thames). The Robert Browning Settlement was founded in York Street, Walworth Road, in 1895 and incorporated in 1903, and in Nelson Square is the Women's University Settlement. The municipal borough includes the western and part of the Bermondsey divisions of the parliamentary borough of Southwark, and the borough of Newington, divided into the western and Walworth divisions; each division returning one member. The borough council consists of a mayor, 10 aldermen and 60 councillors. Area, 1131-5 acres.

The history of Southwark is intimately connected with that of the City of London. At an early date it was incorporated, and its familiar title of " The Borough " still survives. It came, at least in part, under the jurisdiction of the City in 1327. The citizens of London having suffered from the depredations of thieves and felons who escaped into Southwark, petitioned parliament for protection. Accordingly, Edward III., by letters patent, granted them for ever the town and borough, a privilege confirmed by Edward IV. In this connexion was constituted the Bridge Ward Without, the alderman of which is elected not by the borough, but by the other aldermen from among themselves. The authority of the City over the borough is now merely nominal.

The junction in Southwark of the great roads from the south of England for the passage of the Thames sufficiently accounted for the early origin of Southwark. The name is taken from the southward works or fortifications of London. Numerous Roman remains have been found. Southwark witnessed various episodes during the invasions of the Norsemen, and was fortified by the Danes against the City in the reign of Ethelred the Unready. Besides the priory of St Mary Overy, there was the hospital of St Thomas, founded in 1213 from the neighbouring priory of Bermondsey, and forming the origin of the great modern hospital of the same name in Lambeth (q.v.) . The many historical associations of Southwark, contemporary memorials of which are almost wholly swept away, centre upon the district bordering the river, and formerly known as Bankside. In this locality was Winchester House, a seat of the bishops of Winchester for five centuries from 1107. At Bankside were the Bear and the Paris Gardens, used for the popular sport of bear and bull baiting; and the Globe theatre, the scene of the production of many of Shakespeare's plays for fifteen years after its erection in 1599. Southwark was further noted for its inns and its prisons. Among the first, the name of the" Tabard " is well known from its mention by Chaucer in detailing the company of pilgrims for Canterbury. Charles Dickens had an early acquaintance with Southwark, as his father was confined in the Marshalsea, one of several prisons here. The prison, no longer extant, and the church of St George the Martyr, where many prisoners, including Bishop Bonner (d. 1561), were buried, figure in the novel Little Dorrit. The existing church dates from 1736.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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