The area of Tower Bridge lies across the river from the City of London, in the Borough of Southwark, one of the oldest parts of London, with a rich and diverse history. Outside the formal regulation of the City on the north bank, Southwark developed as an area of entertainment and although prostitution and bear-baiting have long gone, the exciting and dynamic spirit of the area lives on through the Theatres and galleries that line the South Bank, including the Hayward Gallery, the National Theatre, the Royal Festival Hall and Tate Modern.
To the east of Tower Bridge is Shad Thames, with its faithfully restored warehouses and wharfs on charming cobbled streets, criss-crossed by the overhead walkways – a thriving community of shops and riverside restaurants and bars, as well as home to a number of architects and design agencies.
Many South Bank and Shad Thames residents walk to work in the City or to More London, both of which are within easy reach. Canary Wharf is just 6 minutes on the Jubilee Line from London Bridge and City Airport provides easy access to international travel links.
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History of Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is arguably London’s most famous landmark, but it is only a little over 100 years old. The area immediately south of the bridge was mainly marshlands until the 18th century, when it rapidly became the centre of the world’s biggest industrial port. Vast warehouses were built to load and offload the huge cargoes of tea, coffee and spices arriving from all corners of the globe, leading to the area being affectionately known as ‘London’s Larder’. As the population of east London grew, so too did the demand for a new Thames crossing and eventually in 1894, Tower Bridge was opened.
The docks’ heyday was short lived though as the advent of containerised shipping caused the relocation of the docks further up the river and the last warehouses in Shad Thames closed in 1972. Mass regeneration in the 1980s and 90s, however, breathed life back into the area as the many warehouses were converted into flats, many with restaurants, bars and shops on the ground floor.
The converted warehouses retain their original characteristic features of exposed brickwork, winches, large sign-writing and overhead goods gantries spanning the cobbled streets below. So too have the names lived on, with most conversions named after the commodities that were originally stored in them — Vanilla & Sesame Court, Cayenne Court, Wheat Wharf and Tea Trade Wharf, to name but a few.
A little further south, in Bermondsey, there is evidence of Roman and Saxon occupation. From medieval times until the 19th century, Bermondsey was home to a thriving leather industry, at one time being responsible for a third of all leather produced in the UK.
The butchers of London provided fresh hides, freshwater tidal streams were ideal for the tanners and Bermondsey’s close proximity to the London markets and excellent transport links made it ideal for trade. The arrival of imported hides into the northern docks, however, saw the firms move across the river. Only names such as Tanner Street, Leathermarket Street and The Tanneries remain as reminders of the industry.
Southwark also boasts London's first passenger railway, which opened in 1836 between Spa Road, Bermondsey and Deptford and soon after extended to London Bridge and Greenwich.
Places of interest
- Tower Bridge
- The Tower of London
- Butlers Wharf
- Southbank Centre
- Borough Market
- Shakespeare’s Globe
Getting to Tower Bridge
The A100 crosses Tower Bridge and links the A13 and A11 in the east to the A2 and A3 for routes south east and south west, respectively.
Rail and Underground
- London Bridge (Jubilee and Northern Line, National Rail)
- Tower Hill (District and Circle Line)
- Tower Gateway (DLR)
- Southwark (Jubilee Line)
- Bermondsey (Jubilee Line)
- Borough (Northern Line)
- 47 Bus to the City
- 381 Bus to Waterloo
- River buses from London Bridge City Pier
- London City Airport (7 miles)
- Heathrow Airport (30 miles)
- City of London School
Queen Victoria Street
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