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Wrong Side of the River: London's disreputable - page 2 / 25





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a great nomber of dissolute, loose and insolent people harboured and maintained in such and like noysom  and disorderly howses, as namely poor cottages and habitacions of beggars and people without trade,stables, ins, alehowses, tavernes, garden howses converted to dwellings, ordinaries, dicying howses, bowling allies and brothell howses. The most part of which pestering those parts of the citty with disorde and uncleannes are either apt to breed contagion and sicknes, or otherwize

serve for the resort and refuge of masterles men and other idle and evill dispozed persons, and are the cause of cozenages, thefts, and other dishonest conversacion and may also be used to cover dangerous practizes.

"How happy therefore were cities," echoed Thomas Dekker in 1608, "if they had no suburbs, sithence they serve but as caves, where monsters are bred up to devour the cities themselves!" 6

It is certainly within this context -- although with more or less of a pejorative slant, according to personal taste -- that Londoners looked across the river to the southern borough of Southwark. As a town, Southwark owed its importance to its position at the southern end of the only bridge across the Thames. It was part of a thoroughfare from Kent and Sussex to the Bridgehead, concentrating in its High Street three Roman roads. Through its streets passed visitors to London and kings returning from voluntary or involuntary sojourns on the Continent; Richard II, Henry V, Henry VI, Queen Margaret of

Anjou, Charles II and William III all passed in procession through Southwark. Its population was mainly subsidiary to the needs of London and, as a result, it grew parasitically, making its living by becoming the pleasure-ground for the more

closely regulated community to the north.7

The historical (as distinguished from the metropolitan) borough of Southwark would appear to have had an area coincident with the Guildable manor, the King's manor, the Great Liberty manor and the Clink Liberty. It thus extended eastward as far as Bermondsey, south to Camberwell and Newington, and to the liberty of Paris Garden and Lambeth in the west. A tongue of land which reached south-eastward between Bermondsey and Newington, in such a way as to enclose a long stretch of the Kent Road as far as St. Thomas Waterings, was included in Southwark. Paris Garden Liberty, now the parish

of Christchurch, was outside the jurisdiction of the borough, and neither it nor the Clink Liberty was within the parliamentary area. Both, however, were commonly regarded as liberties within Southwark. Christchurch was not entered as a parish of Southwark until the Population Returns of 1831, and they were both included in the borough by the Reform Act of 1832.8

In 1550 the City purchased the full rights of the crown in Southwark, including the King's manor, the Great Liberty manor, and the lands of the Duke of Suffolk and the Archbishop of Canterbury, for the sum of £647 2s . 1d ., but with the exclusion of Suffolk Place, the liberty of the Mint, the Clink Liberty and Paris Garden. Edward VI (1547-53) granted to the Corporation all waifs and strays, treasure trove, deodand,9 goods of felons and fugitives, and escheats and forfeitures in the town and borough. He gave, as his predecessors had done, the execution of writs, the power to arrest felons and other

malefactors and to take them to Newgate, and all liberties which the king or his heirs should or might have had if the borough had remained in their tenure. The inhabitants of the borough were subjected to the officers of the City as though themselves citizens, and in like manner were admitted to participation in civic rights and privileges.10 Yet although

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