The Streets of Southwark


The Streets of Southwark


Medieval Southwark


During the medieval period, the situation in the Borough became so bad and lawless that in a Charter of 1327 King Edward III granted "The Bailiwick of Southwark" to the Citizens of London, meaning that City law would from then on apply to Southwark. The reasons for doing it are made clear in the Charter, which reads as follows:


Edward, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitain; to all to whom these present letters shall come, greeting.


Know ye, that whereas our well-beloved, the citizens of the city of London, by their petition exhibited before us and our council, in our present parliament at Westminster assembled, have givenus to understand, that felons, thieves, and other malefactors, and disturbers of the peace, who, in the said city and elsewhere, have committed manslaughters, robberies, and divers other felonies, privily departing from the said city, after those felonies committed, into the village of Southwark, wherethey cannot be attached by the ministers of the said city, and there are openly received: and so for default of due punishment are more bold to commit such felonies: and they have beseeched us, that, forthe confirmation of our peace within the said city, bridling the naughtiness of the said malefactors,we would grant unto them the said village, to have to them, their heirs and successors, for ever, forthe farm and rent therefore yearly due to us, to be yearly paid at our exchequer:


We, having consideration to the premises, with the assent of the prelates, earls, barons, and commonalty, being in ourpresent parliament aforesaid, have granted, for us and our heirs, to the said citizens, the said villageof Southwark, with the appurtenances, to have and to hold, to them and their heirs and successors,citizens of the same city, of us and our heirs for ever, to pay to us by the year, at the exchequer ofus and our heirs for ever, at the accustomed times, the farms therefore due and accustomed: In witness whereof, we have caused these our letters to be made patents. Witness myself at Westminster,the sixth day of March, in the first year of our reign.


From: 'Appendix: Charter (Edward I to Edward IV)', A New History of London: Including Westminster and Southwark (1773), pp. 784-799. URL:


This "Village of Southwark" appears to derive its name from the Anglo-Saxon Suthriganaweorc, meaning "fort of the men of Surrey",. In the Domesday Book of 1086 it is recorded as Sudweca, meaning "southern fort or southern defensive work", a name that is formed from the Old English words sūth and weorc, for south and work.


Once handed over to the City of London, It became known as the "Guildable Manor", meaning it was a place now liable to City taxes and laws. The problem of vulgar, dissolute and criminal activity in the area appeared to have been solved by putting it under the control of the City of London. But this was only a partial solution because just outside the Guildable Manor, which, although called the "Village of Southwark", was little more than the small area around the approach to London Bridge, was an enormous expanse of land that remained beyond the law of the City, a fact that was to be significant for the future development of the area.


Southwark as a whole became divided into several manors, with shifting ownership over time. In addition to the Guildable Manor, owned by the City of London, there was the Liberty of the Clink, which came under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Winchester. Situated just to the west of the Guildable Manor, it was the location of Winchester House, the residence of the Bishop of Winchester, and Clink prison, which was run by the Bishop. West of the Clink was a manor called the Liberty of Paris Garden (Paris being a corruption of Parish), later known as the Parish of Southwark Christchurch. These were the manors that stretched along the area we now call Bankside.


Map of the Manors of Southwark


Map showing the Manors of Southwark.