The British & Foreign School & Southwark Literary Institute, Bradshaw (No.89)

posted in: Bradshaw in London, Home | 4

Bradshaw says ‘..In the Borough Road is the British and Foreign School, and the Southwark Literary Institute..’, and this time I am flummoxed!

Joseph Lancaster (1778-1838) was born into a Quaker family in Southwark where, in 1798, he opened an elementary school based on his method of peer teaching – the teacher taught a group of students who were rewarded for teaching younger students. The Society for promoting the Lancasterian method of educating the poor was set up in 1808 but there were problems – financial, and regarding the harsh discipline. Lancaster was ousted in London and the Society was renamed The British and Foreign School Society. However, his influence on education in the UK and abroad was substantial and in the 1870s the Society’s schools were integrated into the national school system and the Society concentrated on teacher training. I can’t find any evidence of the school.

Joseph Lancaster, c.1818, by John Hazlitt (NPG, Wikipedia)
Joseph Lancaster, c.1818, by John Hazlitt (NPG, Wikipedia)

British and Foreign School Society, 1832

The Borough Road Teacher Training College was set up in association with the school, but moved to Isleworth in 1889, merging with the West London Institute of Higher Education in 1976. This in turn became part of Brunel University in 1995. The College is now part of the South Bank University and appears to be on the same site as the Polytechnic, (Stanford’s Map of 1864) but the building looks different – any ideas?

Borough Polytechnic, 1890? (
Borough Polytechnic, 1890s? (
South Bank University, Borough Road
South Bank University, Borough Road

The Surrey Literary Institute (1808-22) offered a library and lectures, and was run on subscriptions which were set too low and finally led to the closure of the Institute. Various reading and other groups continued to meet and eventually formed The Southwark Literary Institution in 1832. The Institution met in apartments in Bridge House Place, and then it was decided to build, and the new Institute opened in 1841, in Borough Road. Again I could find no evidence of the original building – any advice?

The Surrey Institution, Blackfriars Road, Southwark, London (Wikipedia)
The Surrey Institution, Blackfriars Road, Southwark, London (Wikipedia)
Cary's Map of London, 1837 (Mapco)
Cary’s Map of London, 1837 (Mapco)
Stanford's Map of London, 1864 (Mapco)
Stanford’s Map of London, 1864 (Mapco)
The area of the Southwark Literary Institute, I think
The area of the Southwark Literary Institute in Borough Road, I think

‘Resuming our progress we arrive at the well-known tavern, called the Elephant and Castle, whence omnibuses are constantly arriving from, and departing to, all parts of the metropolis and its environs…’.

In 1641 John Flaxman got permission from the landowner to set up a blacksmithy on waste ground in the middle of the road (the current Elephant and Castle) provided he gave 4s annually to the poor.  The building was converted into a Tavern in 1760 from which time it was a busy coaching inn. The name of ‘Elephant and Castle’ is suggested to derive from the Worshipful Company of Cutlers who incorporated the image of an elephant with a castle on its back into their coat of arms in 1622, and who met in the Tavern.The building was demolished in 1959.

Walworth Road and Elephant and Castle Tavern
Walworth Road and Elephant and Castle Tavern at the end of the road
The Elephant and Castle
The Elephant and Castle today
The Elephant and Castle
The Elephant and Castle

This was a good place for a tavern because legislation was enacted between 1750-70 to create tollgates which could generate income for the maintenance of main roads.

Tollgates in South London (Cary, 1790, Mapco)
Tollgates in South London (Cary, 1790, Mapco)

And then Bradshaw teases us with new adventures: ‘..The New Kent Road leads to Deptford and Greenwich; the Wallworth Road to Camberwell and the south-westward of Kennington Common to Brixton and Clapham..’.


You may be interested in
British and Foreign School
The History of the British and Foreign School Society
The Christians Penny Magazine
Joseph Lancaster
Elephant and Castle Tavern
and excellent Post here
Proceedings of the Southwark Institute and here


4 Responses

  1. David Steele

    Are there any other sources where I might find information on Benjamin Wilmot Wheatland, who was librarian of the Southwark Literary Institute prior to his departure for Australia in 1854? I am a descendant of his.
    David Steele

  2. The Snail of Happiness

    Fascinating as always… I’m a bit behind with reading your posts, but this one is a gem. It’s so sad that such amazing old buildings were demolished to make way for such monstrosities as the current Elephant and Castle. And I wonder what became of your mystery buildings.

    • Candy Blackham

      Thank you – very kind. I wait to hear from a knowledgeable London Guide about the fate of the buildings! This part of London has the most extraordinary contrasts, and one can go from Victorian times to the future in one walk. More to come, including more mysteries.

I would love to hear from you!

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