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Wrong Side of the River: London's disreputable - page 4 / 25





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census-type sources compiled at specific dates, however, we find that in 1600 Southwark contained 10% of the entire population of the City of London, and in the early seventeenth century 13.5% of all baptisms listed in the London bills of mortality occurred on the Surrey side. It has also been found that there were something like three times as many people living in Southwark in the 1630s as there had been 80 years earlier.16 The visual evidence of surviving maps and panoramas supports this view of intense urban growth, particularly in the build-up of housing to the east of High Street and of places of resort along the South Bank, west of the Bridgehead.17

The privileged status of the borough which stimulated population growth also accounts for the physical make-up of that population. From at least the early sixteenth century, there had been a tendency for domestic industry to establish itself in the suburbs, where apprenticeship regulations were laxer and where it was often possible to escape the powers and penalties of the Livery Companies. By 1600, nearly all the leatherworkers and feltmongers had left the City and were living south of the river, in Lambeth, Bermondsey, and Southwark.18 Poorer craftsmen who did not have the money to set up shop within the City also tended to settle in the eastern or southern parishes. In addition, the immunities of these precincts tended to make them centers for "foreign" and alien craftsmen and traders who were not qualified to work in the City, not having served an apprenticeship. John Strype notes in his list of areas beyond the jurisdiction of the City that they were places where "strangers" chiefly inhabited. A "Return of Aliens" made by the JPs at the request of the Privy Council in 1639 reported a total of 2,006 aliens outside the City: 838 in Westminster, 830 "near the City of London" in Middlesex, and 338 in Southwark.19 In Southwark itself, there is ample evidence to suggest the settlement of foreign craftsmen. Around 1500 several conveyances of land took place in "Burgoyne" in the parish of St. Olave, a name which is probably derived from a settlement of weavers from the Duke of Burgundy's dominions. The many breweries which supported the borough's flourishing victualling industry were often run by Dutch brewers who had settled there in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; and indeed, in 1622 the leatherdressers of Southwark petitioned for redress against the injury done to their trade by Dutchmen who employed their own countrymen as journeymen without their having served an apprenticeship.

There was also a Flemish burial ground in Southwark in St. Olave's parish.20 The result of all this native and foreign migration was a flourishing and reasonably respectable community of artisans and craftsmen, and, significantly, an extremely large apprentice population.

Naturally, however, the liberties of these precincts also attracted other, less respectable, types of immigrants. In a letter to the Council in 1594 the Lord Mayor, Sir John Spencer, asserted that Kent Street, Newington, and other places over the river were "very nurseries and breeding-places of the begging poor" who swarmed the streets of the City. He estimated the number of these beggars at 12,000, and requested a meeting of the justices of Sussex and Surrey to take measures to banish them from the City or prevent them

from crossing the Bridge.21 That Southwark was an area which was always poorer than most metropolitan parishes has been confirmed by investigations into London's social topography.22 Nor was the condition of the borough bettered by the dissolution of religious houses, for the inns of ecclesiastics and other great houses came for the most part to be divided into small dwellings or to give place to such. The inn of the Prior of St. Swithun, for example, which passed for a time into the tenure of the bishops of Rochester, and which appears on Anthony van den Wyngaerde's 1543 panorama of London as a

two-storied building of some pretension, was in ruins in Stow's time, and in 1649 had been divided into no less than thirty-seven tenements.23 The fear

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