Slums in Southwark, Bradshaw’s Hand Book to London (No.85)

posted in: Bradshaw in London, Home | 2

Bradshaw says the Palace of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, ‘..was converted by Henry VIII into a Royal Mint, subsequently taken down and replaced by a number of mean and irregular dwellings…. Here were the cheap lodging houses of the Borough… No stranger should trust himself in this locality without an efficient protection, the utmost vigilance of the police being found insufficient to repress the acts of violence and robbery still perpetrated occasionally within it’s precincts..’.

The Mint, Southwark, 1825 (British History Online)
The Mint, Southwark, 1825 (British History Online)

The area of the Palace of Suffolk was retained by the Crown until Mary I gave it to the Archbishop of York as his London residence. The Church quickly sold the land on for ‘development’ which took the form of poor, crowded, tenement housing. The area was a ‘liberty’, outside the jurisdiction of the City and so a particular refuge for debtors, and other criminals. The protected status was removed in 1723 but the area’s appalling slum conditions continued through most of the 19C. Southwark Bridge Road ran along the western side of the slums, which were brought to public attention by two publications by the Rev Mearns (his appalling account is here) and George Sims, leading to a Royal Commission. The slums were mainly cleared between 1881-89. (More information on the excellent site.)

Redcross Street was in the Liberty of The Clink, also known as the Liberty of Winchester and under the control of the Diocese of Winchester. The Church licensed prostitution in the area (illegal in the City) and so it was rife, with the women referred to as ‘Winchester Geese’, ‘Single women’, or the ‘Outcast Dead’ and buried in a pauper’s grave, in unconsecrated ground in Redcross Street – Cross Bones Burial Ground. 

Redcross Street, Southwark
Redcross Street, Southwark
Crossbones Graveyard, Redcross Street
Crossbones Graveyard, Redcross Street


You may be interested in
The Liberty of the Mint
Suffolk Place and the Mint
Moll Flanders in the Mint
The Mint
Crossbones Burial Ground
A Walk which includes Crossbones Burial Ground


2 Responses

  1. anne54

    I am sure that I have seen the Redcross St bridge in a number of TV shows! And why are the ribbons attached to the fence in the last photo? An interesting wander, as always!

    • Candy Blackham

      There is a vigil at the burial ground on the 23rd of each month and momentos are attached to the fencing in memory of the past, and in memory of friends or relatives who have died in current times.

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