HISTORY OF BERMONDSEY
Much has happened over the past 10 years since we opened on 9 April 2009 – you only have to look at the London skyline.
In celebration of our anniversary we thought we would share with you some insider facts about Bermondsey.
Building.co.uk 29 May 2009
“Bermondsey Square, the centrepiece of a £60m regeneration project in south-east London, is intended to seduce the young and trendy with its take on inner-city living…. a new public space and mixed-use scheme in south-east London that has aspirations of serious cool. It wears its trendiness on its sleeve, from the bespoke bike shed in the corner of the square to the lighting scheme and landscaped street furniture in its central plaza. … If you stand on the roof of architect Munkenbeck + Marshall’s eight-storey building, you can see City skyscrapers in one direction, and the low-lying boroughs of south-east London in the other. The aim is for the square to become the heart of Bermondsey. … The building envelope of the hotel is more or less the same as the residential and commercial buildings, save for a roof terrace at first-floor level above the hotel lobby and restaurant. Inside, the hotel has been decorated in a typical boutique style. The main point of interest of the hotel is that it exists. “If you’d told me eight years ago that this area of Bermondsey would have a four-star hotel, I’d have laughed in your face,” says David Roberts, Igloo’s deputy managing director. “It shows how far we’ve come”… You only have to spend a bit of time in the square to realise that it is already being populated by the skinny jeans set who trip out of the galleries and shops of Bermondsey Street.”
Robin Sheppard FIH MI Chairman Bespoke Hotels
“When we first cast our eye over the site for the hotel it was a hole in the ground and Bermondsey Street was all about the future with a hit and miss present. Our vision was to create a quirky hotel to appeal to young at heart neighbours in an area which over time would become ‘mainstream’. A bedroom with a hot tub on the roof in Millwall needed either a bold imagination or naivety at the time. It was probably a bit of both as we opened in the eye of the last recession. Thankfully the revitalised Square triumphed and B2, as it soon became known, took off like a rocket. We haven’t looked back and thanks to the Shards arrival are delighted to be on the right side of the river.”
Emma Castaldo, General Manager
“We opened at the start of the recession in 2009 and have successfully become one of the key businesses in the area. At the time there were no flourishing businesses close by, now Bermondsey is bustling and one of the foodie centres of the capital. I think the most impressive memory for me is the regeneration of the buildings and warehouses. The consideration given to upholding the heritage and ethnicity of the beautiful buildings and architecture that we have inherited is a credit to the residents and developers.”
Emma’s top 10 interesting facts about Bermondsey. Did you know…..
1. The Shared
Within sight of The Shard, now stands on the Tyers Estate in cobbled Carmarthen Place off Bermondsey Street. The tall stone structure is the work of Bermondsey-based sculptor Austin Emery who has brought together carving by residents who in 2012 took part in on-site sculpting workshops. The finished work reflects the architecture of Westminster’s Abbey and Palace and incorporates Victorian brick from nearby London Bridge Station. There are deliberate nesting places in the nooks of the Portland, Bath and Limestone material. Courtesy London-se1
2. Bermondsey Street
Bermondsey Street is one of the oldest streets in London with a history going back over 1,000 years. It runs diagonally south west from Tooley Street down to Tower Bridge Road and has had many lives, from a route of pilgrimage to Bermondsey Abbey and an area of market gardens and fields, then an urban industrial area through to the gentrified street of today with its restaurants, coffee houses, artisan food producers, and design and tech studios working from converted warehouses, factories and Victorian terraced houses. The peak time for people is a weekday lunchtime with about 1,500 per hour walking in the street as compared with about 1,000 on a weekday in the morning rush hour.
3. Bermondsey Street Bees
The story began began when Dale Gibson realised that the roof of his Victorian sugar warehouse overlooking The Shard would be a perfect place to keep bees in the heart of London. Surrounded by parks and rooftop gardens, Bermondsey Street provides a surprisingly green environment. The first hives were installed in 2007, beginning a passion for bee welfare and raw, unprocessed artisan honey production. Bermondsey Street Bees vigorously promotes planting and green spaces, working with local government, businesses and community groups to sponsor, maintain and educate sustainable planting initiatives. Judged ‘Best Honey in London’ at both the 2017 and the 2011 National Honey Shows, and the 2016 Great Taste Awards at which they were named ‘Small Artisan Producer of The Year’ – following a Three Star Great Taste Award and listing in the UK’s ‘Top 50 Foods.’ bermondseystreetbees.co.uk
4. Bermondsey Antiques Market – also known as New Caledonian Market and Bermondsey Square Antiques Market
The Caledonian Market moved to its current location in 1950 after the old Caledonian Market site in Islington was designated for redevelopment in the late 1940s.This historic London antique market has a wide range of antiques and is perfect to wonderous discoveries. Traders sell everything from cutlery to furniture and china to jewellery and the unexpected. A treat to explore, the antique market is popular with antique traders, tourists and bargain hunters alike. You will find great expertise amongst the antique traders, many of whom have been coming to Bermondsey Square for years. bermondseysquare.net
5. Bermondsey Abbey
Bermondsey Square’s location was formerly the site of the 11th century Bermondsey Abbey. Bermondsey Square was formerly called the Court Yard and was originally the main quadrangle of Bermondsey Abbey. Archaeological excavations were undertaken in 2005–6. The earliest medieval remains found were a Norman church from around 1080, which was recorded in the Domesday Book. The area has subsequently undergone redevelopment and Bermondsey Square now contains apartments, offices, a boutique hotel, restaurants and an independent cinema. One of the restaurants in Bermondsey Square has glass panels on the floor through which it is possible to see the footings of part of the abbey walls. bermondseysquare.net
6. London’s Lost Rivers – River Neckinger
The Neckinger joins the Thames via St Saviour’s Dock & continued via Bermondsey Abbey (which was in the land now covered by Bermondsey Square), through the Elephant & Castle area and finishing up behind what is now the Imperial War Museum. The river’s name is believed to derive from the term ‘Devil’s neckcloth’ – a slang term for the hangman’s noose. A neckercher is an old word for a cravat or other covering of the neck. Until the 18th century, Thames pirates were executed near the mouth of the inlet. The corpses were placed on display as a deterrent further downstream on the Thames. Image courtesy of Christine Matthews Content courtesy londonslostrivers.com
7. Bermondsey Spa Town
In 1770, a man named Thomas Keyse discovered a natural spring on land he owned by what is now known as Spa Road. As a result of his discovery Bermondsey became a spa town. In the 18th century people believed that drinking mineral water was good for your health and many doctors prescribed water from the Bermondsey Spa to their patents. As a result, Bermondsey boomed and in the late 18th century many large houses were built in the area. However, the boom was short lived and the spa closed in 1804. Today Bermondsey Spa Gardens is not far from the site of the 18th century Bermondsey Spa Pleasure Gardens originally developed in 1784 to rival the popular Vauxhall Gardens at a cost of £4,000. Picture courtesy of exploringsouthwark.co.uk
8. The Bermondsey Bad Egg Boom
In 1915 Bermondsey was flooded with millions of rotten eggs in an incident that became known as the Bermondsey Bad Egg Boom. After war broke out the council faced the enormous task of getting rid of more than 25 million of them. How bad was the smell? The locals described it quite graphically: “I have stood by dead bodies that have been in the water for seven or eight weeks. But I could not stand those eggs.” Another visitor to the area remarked that the smell was “bad enough to knock a dog down.” Destroying the eggs presented big problems for the council, which had been using a machine known as a Destructor without success. The liquid from the eggs kept putting the fires out and they proved very resistant to efforts to smash them with shovels and forks and force them down drains. Courtesy of pottersfield.co.uk
9. ‘Bermondsey’s Own VC’
On 26th August 2014 Fred Holmes was honoured with a commemorative paving stone marking his birth place on Abbey Street, Bermondsey outside what is now the Bermondsey Square Hotel. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for two acts of bravery on 26 August 1914 during the Battle of Le Cateau just weeks after the start of the war. Whilst under heavy fire, L Cpl Holmes carried a badly wounded soldier, Norman Woodcock, out of the trenches on his back for two miles until he reached some stretcher bearers. Holmes then returned to his battalion to find many of them killed or wounded and a gun in danger of being captured by German forces. He placed a wounded man on one of the horses of an artillery gun team and attempted to take him to safety. Unfortunately, the man fell off and was lost in the dark, but Holmes reached safety with the gun. One of the earliest recipients of the Victoria Cross in the First World War, the ceremony took place 100 years to the day of the acts of bravery for which Lance Corporal Holmes was recognised. Courtesy of bermondseysq.net
10. The Watch House
Facing Bermondsey Square in Bermondsey Street is The Watch House. The adaption to a café was designed by Aquarium Architecture and completed in 2014. The building was erected in 1810 – 1812 for men to guard the graves of St Mary Magdalene Church graveyard at night at a time when bodies were illegally exhumed and sold to Doctors and Scientists and the local hospitals of St Thomas’s and Guy’s for the purpose of dissection and teaching anatomy. In the 20th century it was the office of Mrs Ashford’s laundry. Occupying no more than 25 square feet, today its former role as a sanctuary is upheld providing shelter to local residents, commuters, families and dogs alike, the opening hours are slightly different, and the quality of the sandwiches greatly improved. Image courtesy of The Watchhouse.