The first complete history of Southwark, London’s stubbornly independent community over the Thames
Southwark’s fortunes have always been tied to those of the City of London across the river. But from its founding in Roman times through to flourishing in the medieval era, the Borough has always fiercely asserted its independence. A place of licence, largely free of the City’s jurisdiction, Southwark became a constant thorn in London’s side: an administrative anachronism, a commercial rival, and an asylum for undesirable industries and residents.
In this remarkable history of London’s liberty beyond the bridge, Margaret Willes narrates the life and times of the people of Southwark, capturing the Borough’s anarchic spirit of revelry. Populated by a potent mix of talented immigrants, religious dissenters, theatrical folk, brewers, and sex workers, Southwark often escaped urban jurisdiction—giving it an atmosphere of danger, misrule, and artistic freedom. Tracing Southwark’s history from its Roman foundation to its present popularity as a place to visit, through Chaucer, to Shakespeare, and on to Dickens, Willes offers an indispensable exploration of the City’s unacknowledged mirror image.
Margaret Willes is former publisher at the National Trust. She is the author of many books, including In the Shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral and The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn. She lives in London and is a liveryman of the Stationers’ Company.
“A fascinating journey into a part of London which has been unjustly and unaccountably neglected – until now. Entertaining, informative and full of surprises. I loved it.”—Adrian Tinniswood, author of Noble Ambitions
“A fascinating plunge into Southwark's past, ranging from Roman mosaics to the Tate Modern, bear-baiting to Borough Market. Essential reading for anyone interested in the evolution of modern London.”—Lee Jackson, author of Dickensland
“No part of London has a more fascinating history than the ancient Borough of Southwark, yet no part of London has been more unjustly neglected. Margaret Willes puts matters right in this immensely readable book. It deserves pride of place on every Londoner’s bookshelves.”—Jerry White, author of Mansions of Misery
“A compelling history of one of the most vibrant areas of London. A must-read for anyone who wants to find out about Southwark and its relationship with the City.”—Margarette Lincoln, author of London and the Seventeenth Century
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