1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bermondsey

BERMONDSEY, a south-eastern metropolitan borough of London, England, bounded N. and E. by the Thames, S.E. by Deptford, S.W. by Camberwell, and W. by Southwark. Pop. (1901) 130,760. It is a district of poor streets, inhabited by a labouring population employed in leather and other factories, and in the Surrey Commercial Docks and the wharves bordering the river. The parish of Rotherhithe or Redriff has long been associated with a seafaring population. A tunnel connecting it with the opposite shore of the river was opened in June 1908. The neighbouring Thames Tunnel was opened in 1843, but, as the tolls were insufficient to maintain it, was sold to the East London Railway Company in 1865. The Herold Institute, a branch of the Borough Polytechnic, Southwark, is devoted to instruction in connexion with the leather trade. Southwark Park in the centre of the borough is 63 acres in extent. Bermondsey is in the parliamentary borough of Southwark, including the whole of Rotherhithe and part of the Bermondsey division. The borough council consists of a mayor, 9 aldermen, and 54 councillors. Area 1499·6 acres.

The name appears in Domesday, the suffix designating the former insular, marshy character of the district; while the prefix is generally taken to indicate the name of a Saxon overlord, Beormund. Bermondsey was in favour with the Norman kings as a place of residence, and there was a palace here, perhaps from pre-Norman times. A Cluniac monastery was founded in 1082, and Bermondsey Cross became a favoured place of pilgrimage. The foundation was erected into an abbey in 1399, and Abbey Road recalls its site. Similarly, Spa Road points to the existence of a popular spring and pleasure grounds, maintained for some years at the close of the 18th century. Jacob Street marks Jacob’s Island, the scene of the death of Bill Sikes in Dickens’s Oliver Twist. Tooley Street, leading east from Southwark by London Bridge railway station, is well known in connexion with the story of three tailors of Tooley Street, who addressed a petition to parliament opening with the comprehensive expression “We, the people of England.” The name is a corruption of St Olave, or Olaf, the Christian king of Norway, who in 994 attacked London by way of the river, and broke down London Bridge.

See E. T. Clarke, Bermondsey, its Historic Memories (1901).