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CHAPTER XII BELOW BRIDGE
'Below Bridge' covers Tooley Street and her lanes: Horselydown, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Deptford, Greenwich, and Woolwich. The railway has ruined one end of Tooley Street, which is a corruption of St. Olave's Street. Perhaps it was ruined before the railway appeared at all. Certainly no one would believe that this dark and narrow street was once a place of Palaces. The Prior of Lewes had here, opposite St. Olave's Church, his Inn or Town House: here the Abbot of St. Augustine had his Inn: and here, we have seen, was the house of Sir John Fastolf. Here was the Pilgrim's Way to Bermondsey Rood. Some came across the bridge; some by boat, which was far more convenient, to Tooley Stairs; some to Battlebridge Stairs; some to Pickle Herring Stairs. The way lay along Tooley Street and by 'Barmsie' Lane through the fields and gardens: a lovely rural lane. Beyond Tooley Street lies a quarter bounded on the North by the River, and on the East by St. Saviour's Dock: a quarter which is certainly the most industrious in the whole of London. It is called Horselydown, the derivation of which seems obvious, but derivations are not to be trusted, however obvious. We may take it for granted, because we can prove the fact by looking at Roques' map of 1745, that there were meadows where horses grazed as soon as the embankment was up, and the ground drained. There was some kind of common here at one time: here suicides and persons deprived of Christian rites were buried. There was also a Fair held at Horselydown. The{230} industries made their appearance in the eighteenth century, but they came gradually. It is now a place of most remarkable variety as regards occupations. All along the river and the bank of the Dock, formerly Savoy Dock, there are wharves: inland are bonded warehouses, granaries, leather warehouses, hide warehouses, hop warehouses, and wool warehouses. There are tanneries, currieries, fur and skin dyeing works, breweries, rice mills, mustard mills, pepper mills, dyeing works, dog's food manufactories, vinegar works, bottle works, iron foundries, wooden hoop manufactories, cooperages, roperies, smithies, biscuit manufactories, oil and colour works, pin manufactories, varnish works, and distilleries. All this in a district half a mile long and a quarter of a mile broad. Between the factories and the warehouses are houses for the workmen and the foremen. On the south side stands the Church, almost the ugliest Church in London: next to the Church is, or was, a few years ago, a street which has something of the look and feeling of a Close.

It is a great pity that in the whole of South London lying east of the High Street there is not a single beautiful, or even picturesque Church. Look at them! St. Olave's, St. John, Horselydown, St. Mary Magdalen, St. Mary, Rotherhithe, the four oldest churches in the quarter. It cannot be pretended that these structures inspire veneration or even respect. You may see drawings of them in Maitland. St. Olave's was rebuilt in 1737, St. John's, Horselydown, in 1735, St. Mary Magdalen in 1680, and St. Mary, Rotherhithe, in 1713 on the site of the older church. In 1738 the steeple was added. The four churches are therefore all examples of the church architecture of nearly the same period.
A FETE AT HORSELYDOWN IN 1590 A FETE AT HORSELYDOWN IN 1590
(From the Painting by G. Hoffnagel, at Hatfield)

Of all the quarters and parts of London that of Horselydown is the least known and the least visited, except by those whose business takes them there every day. There is, in fact, nothing to be seen: the wharves block out the river: the warehouses darken the streets, the places where people{231} live are not interesting: there is not an ancient memory or association, or any ancient fragment of a building, to make one desire to visit Horselydown. When we pass the Dock, we find ourselves in quite a different quarter: the wharves are arranged along the river wall, called the Bermondsey Wall, but behind the wharves there are fewer factories and more people. Alas! poor people! It is a grimy place to live in: of greenery or garden land there is none. There is not even any access to the river except by one or two narrow stairs: the 'works' are those whose near neighbourhood is not generally desired: places where they make leather and curry it: or where they make glue or vinegar. Fortunately, however, the good people of Bermondsey are spared the handling of tallow, bones, or soap. Things might therefore have been worse. This is the industrial centre of South London, and it occupies, including Horselydown, St. Olave's, Bermondsey, and Rotherhithe, something like a quarter of a million, which{232} is a good-sized city in itself. On the one side of St. Saviour's Dock we may step aside to look at two streets, which fifty years ago represented the lowest kind of vice and brutality, and the worse kind of human pigsties, Talbot Street and London Street. The former was taken over by Dickens to adorn his 'Oliver Twist'—lugged in, for indeed it does not belong there.

The condition of the latter is figured in Wilkinson's 'London Illustrated' in the year 1806.

The ugliness of the neighbourhood remains, but some of the dirt has been washed away.

It seems impossible to create a quarter of workmen's cottages or residences which shall be beautiful. First there is the slum with a row of two- or four-roomed cottages in a narrow court: the windows are broken: the banisters of the staircase are broken away to be burned: the sanitary appliances are terrible: the court is a laystall. Some of these delightful places still survive in Southwark. The next step is to build streets for working men in places where the ground is not too valuable. Thus the town of Bromley near Bow sprang into existence. It consists entirely of monotonous streets with monotonous houses, all small, all ugly, all built after the same pattern: the result being dreary and dispiriting. Then come the model dwelling-houses: the huge barrack, of which, Bermondsey way, there are enormous stacks, accommodating the working classes by the hundred thousand. There is not the smallest attempt at making these places beautiful: they are simple cubes of grey brick with rows and lines of windows. Outside they may be models of economy in space. Once within, they may be models of convenience; but there is another side. The moral effect of this piling up of family on family is reported to be injurious in ways not contemplated by the founders: the quiet folk are terrorised by the rowdy; the children are demoralised: there are dangers not expected, and temptations not considered: in a word, the model lodging-houses{233} of Southwark and Bermondsey are not, in every respect, adapted to a model population.

It is difficult between London Bridge and Rotherhithe to get at the river, except at two or three spots where the old stairs can be approached by a narrow passage. There is an embankment or terrace: the whole bank is occupied for commercial purposes: business men do not like strangers on these wharves: and for all practical purposes the dwellers below Bridge might just as well be a dozen miles inland. If, however, the resident of Bermondsey can sometimes—say, on Saturday afternoon—get down to the stairs and look out upon the river, he will see close at hand, not only the ships and barges that lie about the wharves, but the grand new Watergate of London, the most appropriate entrance that could be devised to the port—the new Tower Bridge.
THE OLD ELEPHANT AND CASTLE, 1814 THE OLD ELEPHANT AND CASTLE, 1814

Where Bermondsey Wall ended and Rotherhithe began the houses, until fifty years ago, rapidly grew thinner, until Rotherhithe itself consisted of little more than a single street,{234} with docks, and stairs, and taverns on the riverside, and on the other side lanes leading to cottages and cottage gardens. The Commercial Docks were opened in 1807, but the place still preserved something of its old character until quite recently. It consisted of a district round which the river flowed on the north and east. Like all the country about the Thames, it was low-lying, and originally a marsh. Even as late as 1830 it was imperfectly drained, and a good part of it remained still a marsh. Thus the road, now called Southwark Park Road—why could they not leave the old name, Blue Anchor Road?—even in 1830 wound through a marsh covered with ditches and ponds. On the east side, near the junction of Blue Anchor Road with Jamaica Row, there was a most remarkable collection of ponds and islands, ending with a broad stream or ditch running into the river at Rotherhithe stairs. Other ditches or streams lay or flowed at will over the levels, making islands which were approached by bridges. The character of the place was entirely that of a marsh: in fact, it was the last part of London where there lingered still the appearance of a marsh. The names show this. We have The Reed Bed; Providence Island; the Seven Islands; the West Pond; the East Pond; Broom Fields; Halfpenny Hatch, repeated more than once. The numerous Ropewalks scattered about show that the ground was cheap, and the factories where they make glue, soap, brimstone, turpentine, white lead, and paper are there, which require plenty of room and few people to enjoy the smell.
VIEW NEAR THE STORE-HOUSE, DEPTFORD VIEW NEAR THE STORE-HOUSE, DEPTFORD
(From an Engraving by John Boydell, 1750)

Leaving Rotherhithe, we arrive at a place much more interesting, namely, Deptford. They have done their best to spoil Deptford of late years: they have taken away the old Trinity Almshouses: they have built new streets: but a good deal of the old Deptford remains. I walked about it nearly every day for three months some twelve years ago, reconstructing the Deptford of 1750 from the Deptford of 1886. It is like reconstructing the face in youth from a{235} portrait in middle life. I succeeded at last, to my own satisfaction, and, I hope, to the satisfaction of my readers when the eighteenth-century Deptford appeared as the background of a novel. It was not a very big place: it consisted chiefly of an old church in the lower part of the town, and a new church in the upper part: there were two almshouses: there was the Hall where the Brethren of the Trinity House assembled every year before their service at St. Nicolas and{236} their feast at their house on Tower Hill. The town was full of sailors and naval officers: the latter were not remarkable for the finicking ways of the beaux their contemporaries: on the contrary, they despised such ways—'their fashions I hate, like a pig in a gate.' When they were young they made love all the time they were ashore, except when they were drinking and taking tobacco at the tavern—these occupations, truly, left the honest fellows less time for love than might have been expected. There were officers' taverns and seamen's taverns: rum, however, was the favourite drink at both. And, really, it would surprise you to hear the songs they sang, and to observe the cheerfulness with which they put up with everything: favouritism: long and hopeless service in the lower ranks: bad food on board: long years of foreign service: and for all the gallantry that these brave fellows showed in service not a word of thanks: not a hint at promotion.

The Town consisted mostly of a single street: there were shops, but poor things: there was a market: fruit and vegetables were brought in from the country round: within a few steps of the town one was in the loveliest country, with the Ravensbourne flowing between meadows and under the branches of willows and of alders.

The dockyard of Deptford was founded by Henry the Eighth, and continued till 1869. It was at Deptford that most of the ships were built for the Royal Navy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: it was here that Drake's ship, the Golden Hind, in which he had made his voyage round the world, was laid up, her cabin turned into a place of entertainment. She remained here, an object of pilgrimage for the Londoners, for many years. She was a good deal cut about, because everybody wanted to carry away a piece of her. At last she was suffered to fall to pieces. One pious arch?ologist got a chair made out of her timbers and presented it to the Bodleian Library.

Pepys was often at Deptford in his capacity of Secretary{237} of the Admiralty. 'Up and down the yard all the morning, and seeing the seamen exercise, which they do already very handsomely. Then to dinner.... After dinner and taking our leave of the officers of the yard, we walked to the waterside, and on our way walked into the ropeyard, where I had a look into the tarhouses and other places, and took great notice of all the several works belonging to the making of a cable.'

It was at Deptford that Pepys visited Lady Sandwich, 'where I stood with great pleasure an hour or two by her bedside, she lying prettily in bed.' During the plague year, when he and his wife were staying at Woolwich, he goes over to Deptford nearly every day, and was continually feasting with his friends and always 'very merry,' though the plague was slaying its thousands only a mile or two away.

Another visitor to Deptford who left a lasting memory was Peter the Great, who stayed here in 1698, studying ship architecture. The people of the town had the satisfaction of seeing the Czar of Muscovy—not quite so great a man then as he is now—smoking a pipe of tobacco and drinking brandy in their taverns every evening. By day they might see him working among the dockyard men at the various parts of a ship and its gear.

The most interesting person, however, who is connected with the annals of Deptford is certainly John Evelyn.

Evelyn was not a great writer, nor a great scholar, nor a great statesman: he was not great in anything that he did: yet his memory remains, and will remain long after that of much stronger men has been forgotten. He wrote a great deal, and since some of his writings survive after three hundred years it is manifest that he must have written well. He was a strong royalist who knew how to take care of his own skin. In order to avoid being dragged into the army and fighting for the cause which he loved, he went abroad and travelled in Europe for four years, during which time the{238} royal cause fell to pieces, and those who fought for it were ruined. In 1647 he came home again; in 1649 he went back to France, where he stayed till 1652. By this time he had made many discoveries and observations on art and antiquities. He also married a wife, the daughter of Charles's ambassador at Paris. Through his wife he obtained possession of Sayes Court, Deptford, where, with a few breaks, one of which was to allow Peter the Great to use the house, he lived till nearly the end of his life. He was one of the founders and first Fellows of the Royal Society: he was a member of many commissions: he was the first Treasurer of Queen Mary's new naval hospital, and held many other offices.

In quite a brief note Pepys sums up the character and the accomplishments of this estimable man:

'Nov. 5, 1665. By water to Deptford, and here made a visit to Mr. Evelyn, who among many other things showed me most excellent painting in little: in distemper; in Indian ink; water colours; graving: and above all, the whole secret of mezzotinto, and the manner of it, which is very pretty, and good things done with it. He read to me very much also of his discourse he hath been many years and now is about, about Gardening, which will be a most noble and pleasant piece. He read me part of a play or two of his making; very good, but not as he conceits them, I think, to be. He showed me his "Hortus Hyemalis," leaves laid up in a book of several plants kept dry, which preserve colour, however, and look very finely, better than a Herball. In fine, a most excellent person he is, and must be allowed a little for conceitedness; but he may well be so, being a man so much above others.'

His memory survives on account of the personal character of the man which is revealed in his works, and of the high opinion in which he was held. 'A typical instance,' says his latest biographer ('Dict, of Nat. Biog.'), 'of the accomplished and public-spirited country gentleman of the Restoration, a{239} pious and devoted member of the Church of England, and a staunch loyalist in spite of his grave disapproval of the manners of the court.' Above all things, it might be added, he was a gardener, and all gardeners are amiable and all gardeners are personally popular.
GEORGE HOTEL, BOROUGH GEORGE HOTEL, BOROUGH

Of Greenwich Palace I have already spoken. There is little else in Greenwich except the Palace or Hospital. The Almshouse known as Norfolk College must not be forgotten, however. It is on the east side of the Hospital, and stands behind a stone terrace, overlooking the river. The College consists of a quadrangle containing a chapel and a small hall or common room, with gardens at the back. This kind of almshouse is common, but it is difficult to build it so that it shall not be beautiful. Norfolk College is quite a beautiful place. Finer and larger is Morden College, up the hill, designed for decayed merchants.{240}

This is the end of London: a few yards beyond Norfolk College the houses stop suddenly: on the tongue of land projecting north formed by a loop of the river there are hardly any houses at all: the place is a dreary flat as far as Woolwich. The London County Council limits include Woolwich and Plumstead; but that broad area covered by continuous houses which begins at Battersea ends at Greenwich.


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