Cuneiform tablet recording food supplies

Aigina Treasure pendant

White City


The Household Cavalry Musical Ride

Codex Zouche-Nuttall

A day in the life

Walthamstow Central

Welcome to Portobello

The Horse Guards Building

Hiroshige Utagawa (1797-1858), Suido Bridge and Surugadai

Seeing the Divine

Admonitions handscroll

Bow Road


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Southwark is the most ancient of all the London boroughs, older than both Westminster and the City of London. A fact often overlooked is that before the Roman army could build the first ever bridge over the Thames in AD43, they had to make camp on the islands of solid ground amid the marshes that made up the south shore; these were eventually to become Southwark. This southern settlement became the place for soldiers, engineers and builders to relax after a long day building Londinium.


When the Romans left in the 4th century, Londinium was abandoned and so were the much less reputable settlements south of the river. But 400 years later, in 886, Alfred the Great re-established London - and Southwark, and the relationship between respectable north and licentious south resumed. Southwark, the louder, ruder, wickeder and more vivacious neighbour, with different rules to The City, became the place where Londoners went for a good time and bad behaviour.

Southwark housed a multitude of sinners. Gambling on bull and bear bait¬ing pits, dog and cock fights were plentiful, as well as drinking, music, dancing and all kinds of scandalous behaviour . Bankside was lined with 22 bath houses, or stews, licensed by the Bishop himself, stretching as far as the site of Tate Modern. From 1587 play-houses added to the general lawlessness. In this party environment, with cheats and thieves out to fleece the foolish petty crime was rife and criminals faced stern correction.

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