‘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..’..
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.
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.
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 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.
William Shakespeare is remembered in a carving by Henry McCarthy (1912).
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.)
Alderman Richard Humble (d.1616) and his wives Elizabeth and Isabel.
And many others – do visit.