Tooley Street

Tooley Street

Tooley Street is a road in South London connecting London Bridge to St Saviour's Dock; it runs past Tower Bridge on the Southwark side of the River Thames, and forms part of the A200 road. (gbmapping|TQ3380.)

St Olaf

It takes its name from the Norwegian King Olaf who attacked London in 1009. He became an ally of London and a saint. London Bridge was built in 1176 and St Olaf's church was built next to it. By degrees "St Olaf's Street" became Tooley Street. As you walk under the current London Bridge from Montague Close there is a line of glass bricks on the road marking where the medieval bridge stood, about 50 yards downstream. A few yards further on there is another line of glass bricks inscribed "St Olaf's Church". The church was destroyed about 1600. The site is now occupied by "St Olaf House" an office block built 1929-31 by Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel (1887–1959) in Art Deco style.

George Orwell

George Orwell lived as a tramp to gain a first-hand view of poverty. He befriended a man called Ginger in the hop-fields of Kent. They came to a "kip" (doss-house) in Tooley Street and stayed there from September 19 to October 8 1930. Orwell wrote rough notes in the kip then went further along Tooley Street to Bermondsey Library where he wrote them up into the book "Down and Out in Paris and London". The library building survives as part of a college.

Hay's Wharf

The first wharf on the Pool of London was Hay's Wharf, built 1651 to the east of St Olaf's church. For 300 years it grew, until Tooley Street and the surrounding industrial development was nicknamed "London's Larder". The warehouses burned down in a disastrous fire on 22 June 1861. It burned for two weeks and smouldered for 6 months. The chief of the fire brigade, James Braidwood died in the fire. He is commemorated in a plaque on Tooley Street, high up on the wall of London Bridge Hospital. The small dock in Hay's Wharf was where Ernest Shackleton's ship "The Quest" lay in 1921. The dock was filled in during extensive rebuilding in the 1980s and is now a shopping mall called "Hay's Galleria". The office block attached to it is called "Shackleton House".

Old and new horrors

A 1542 map of Southwark shows only three or four features on Tooley Street. One of them is a pillory, set up for punishing fraudulent traders. Next to it is a "cage". This was a place to keep drunken disorderly people who were arrested too late in the day to be imprisoned. They would sleep in the cage until sober. The site of those medieval punishments is occupied, quite appropriately, by London Dungeon, a popular tourist attraction. It opened in 1975 and is similar to the "Chamber of Horrors" in Madame Tussaud's Museum (it is owned by the Tussauds group). The next building is "Britain at War", another tourist attraction, a recreation of the Blitz. As if this were not enough, Stainer Street, off Tooley Street has a plaque commemorating the 68 people who died in 1940 as result of Nazi bombs. Popular legend says that there was so much rubble that bodies were simply left behind, and re-buried in the masonry under London Bridge Station.

John Keats

Next to Stainer Street, off Tooley Street is Weston Street. Both are among the gloomiest places in London. They are simply tunnels. In the early nineteenth century, before the station was built, John Keats lived in Weston Street, at that time called Dean Street. It was here that he wrote the poem "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer".

More London

In the period from 1999 to 2002, a new street was created, with the strange name More London. It is a pedestrian thoroughfare that connects Tooley Street with City Hall. From the Tooley Street end there is a spectacular vista converging on Tower Bridge. A children's theatre called The Unicorn Theatre, has been built here. There are three water features on More London: a channel called the Rill runs the length of the street; at the City Hall end there are 210 fountains; at the Tooley Street end there are three "Water Tables" continuously overflowing with water.'The Scoop' is an amphitheatre or stepped area of More London upon which regular events (plays, music, open air movies) are held throughout the summertime. Besides City Hall, a number of prominent London companies are also based here including Visit London, Ernst and Young's European Headquarters and a Hilton hotel.

Public houses

At the junction between Tooley Street and Bermondsey Street is a historic pub called "The Shipwright's Arms", recalling one of the local industries. It has a large wall of tiles showing ships being built.

There are also two wine bars — Skinkers and The Auberge. During reconstruction work another pub, The Antigallician, has been closed down. Its name celebrates the ancient enmity that existed between the English and the French.

Several streets that used to be on maps before 1999 have been swept away — Braidwood Street, Willson's Wharf, Vine Lane and Pickle Herring Street. The Bethell Estate that was built in the early 1930s between Tooley Street and the river was demolished in its entirety for redevelopement.This area used to house some of the poorest people in London, and fell victim to cholera in the 1840s.


Two recent additions to street are theatres, the Unicorn Theatre is in a custom built building that does shows exclusively for children whilst the Southwark Playhouse is in a railway arch's behind "The Shipwright's Arms"

Ernest Bevin

Just before Tower Bridge there is a fork in the road between Tooley Street and Elizabeth Street. A bust of dockworkers' trade unionist and Labour politician Ernest Bevin stands at the junction [ [ Public Monument and Sculpture Association National Recording Project - London] and [] ]

Tooley Street Conservation Area

A Conservation Area is defined under the "Civic Amenities Act 1967" as an "area of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance." Tooley Street falls within the London Borough of Southwark and was designated a Conservation Area in June 1988 (Tooley Street South) and February 1991 (Tooley Street South). [ [ Tooley Street Conservation Area Appraisal] ]

There are seventeen listed buildings in the conservation area, including: St. Olaf House (grade II*); Hay's Galleria (grade II), Denmark House (grade II), London Bridge Hospital (grade II), and The Shipwright's Arms public house (grade II). Southwark Council has also identified a number of buildings on Tooley Street that, whilst unlisted, make a "positive contribution" to the local area, including: The Antigallican public house, Devon Mansions, and Magdalen House. [ [ Tooley Street Conservation Area Appraisal] ]

See also

* London Bridge station


External links

* [ information]
* [ Restaurants, Pubs & Bars in Tooley Street, London SE1]

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