Bradshaw’s Hand Book to London, The South, Southwark Cathedral (no.77)

‘Crossing London Bridge we now enter the Borough of Southwark, one of the most animated parts of the metropolis, from the extent of the business carried on in this extensive locality, and one of the most interesting from its antiquity..’.

‘..The Church of St Saviour was erected on the site of the ancient priory of St Mary Overy and first made the parochial church in 1540..’. Today the full title of the church is The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie, and according to Pevsner it is ‘..the most important mediaeval monument in South London..’.. 

Southwark Cathedral from the east

Southwark Cathedral from the east

The early history of the church is somewhat unclear, as the church’s site explains – possibly a convent as early as the 7C, then a college of priests in the 9C. In 1106 the Augustinian Priory of St Mary was founded, later becoming known as St Mary Overie (‘over the river’). The church was under the control of the Bishops of Winchester whose town house was Winchester Palace, round the corner from the Cathedral. The Priory established a hospital nearby, the predecessor of today’s St Thomas’s Hospital.

London Bridge (1616) with Southwark Church in the foreground (Wikipedia)

London Bridge (1616) with Southwark Church in the foreground (Wikipedia)

IMG_0569

With the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538 the Priory became the parish church of St Saviour in 1540. Bradshaw says I should note ‘..the beautiful Ladye Chapel, renovated in 1832;[and] a monument to [John] Gower the poet and contemporary of Chaucer…’. In 1905, with the creation of the Diocese of Southwark, the church became a Cathedral.

The Nave, towards the West Door

The Nave of 1890-97, looking towards the West Door

A fire in c.1212 destroyed the church, leaving few signs today. It is the 13C Choir and the Retrochoir which are perhaps most remarkable.

The retrochoir, Southwark Cathedral

The retrochoir, Southwark Cathedral, which includes the Ladye Chapel

The saints screen in the Choir

The Great Screen in the Choir

The Choir

The Choir

The transcept, Southwark Cathedral

The transcept, Southwark Cathedral

The Nave, Southwark Cathedral

The Nave, Southwark Cathedral

The tombs and memorials in the Cathedral are remarkable. John Gower (1330-1408) was a friend of Chaucer and an influential early English poet. He lived in the Priory and was buried here. His three major works are his pillow on the tomb.

The tomb of John Gower

The tomb of John Gower

The tomb of John Gower

William Shakespeare is remembered in a carving by Henry McCarthy (1912).

Wiliam Shakespeare Monument

Wiliam Shakespeare Monument

Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) was an extraordinary man. A passionate preacher and linguist, he was a Bishop and scholar and part of the team which produced the St James Bible. (His sermons were ‘difficult’, to say the least.)

Edward Talbot was the first Bishop of the Cathedral (1905-11), but is actually buried in Winchester. (In the context of WWI heightened awareness I note that his youngest son died at Ypres in 1915.)

Bishop in Talbot

Bishop in Talbot

Alderman Richard Humble (d.1616) and his wives Elizabeth and Isabel.

IMG_0632

William Pearson Memorial

William Pearson Memorial

 And many others – do visit.

 You may be interested in
Southwark Cathedral – a description based on Pevsner
The John Gower Society
Lancelot Andrewes