diamond geezer

 Wednesday, April 23, 2014

For St George's Day, to St George's Fields SE1.

The south side of the Thames built up much more slowly than the north, being mostly marshland, and the largest part of this was St George's Fields. Originally Southwark Field, this medieval expanse lay inland from the Thames between what's now Waterloo station and Elephant and Castle. The land originally gained its saintly name from St George's Church on Borough High Street, in whose parish it sat, although no parishioners lived this far out. Only tracks and causeways crossed the fields, one of these leading eastward from the Horseferry at Lambeth in the general direction of Kent. Londoners used the common land to grow crops and to graze animals, until the development of two new river crossings in the mid 18th century brought greater importance to the area. One of these was Westminster Bridge, the other Blackfriars Bridge, and it was the latter that made the greatest mark.

The architect of Blackfriars Bridge, a certain Robert Mylne, built a grand Parisian-style boulevard due south into St George's Fields. This ran for almost a mile down to the junction with Borough Road, and here Mylne created a circus with a stone obelisk at its centre. New roads were built radiating out in all directions, with the intention of creating a well-to-do neighbourhood of Georgian terraces where previously there'd been only marshland and a pub. The Dog and Duck tavern was replaced by the relocated Bethlem Hospital, otherwise known as Bedlam, and now the home of the Imperial War Museum. The area built up swiftly after that, not always to Mylne's high standards, but the road pattern and especially the obelisk survive.

It's not been here all the time since 1771, having been relocated to nearby Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park in 1905 to make way for a Diamond Jubilee clocktower. Indeed it wasn't until 1998 that the now-listed obelisk was returned to its rightful place at the hub of St George's Circus. You'll most likely see it from the bus, because several routes pass this way, standing tall and lonely in the centre of a large paved piazza. This isn't the most pedestrian friendly of spaces, neither is the surrounding road a complete loop thanks to a one-way street on London Road. But you can get right up close to the inscription - in part tribute, in part grandiose milepost.
Around the edge of St George's Circus the buildings aren't quite so impressive - a tandoori restaurant, a Subway, a wall of 90s student flats and a stack of very 60s offices. The latter, and a considerable length of Blackfriars Road beyond, are under immediate threat of redevelopment from a joint project between Barratt Homes and Southwark Council. To be fair much of what's planned to disappear is ugly postwar commercial architecture, but after the urban cleansing debacle at the nearby Heygate Estate it's hard to view such schemes objectively. Barratt's plans are for a "residential-led, mixed-use scheme" and include what they describe as a "landmark" concave building facing the circus, although their artist's impression suggests mundane and bland to me. Instead the most interesting building hereabouts is concealed behind the brown fa├žade beside Subway - that's the subsurface depot for the Bakerloo Line.

And beyond that, never quite joining up with the circus, lies St George's Road. This broad street runs along the same alignment as that medieval track from Lambeth Palace, skirting the edge of long-vanished fields. It's now part of the one-way system hereabouts, and rather busy, leading up from Elephant and Castle towards Westminster Bridge Road. It's not a retail sort of road, more a mix of residential, religious and educational use. The E&C end's the bleakest, although with some fine turn-of-the-19th tenements at St George's Buildings. Various denominations of faith and non-denominational school get a look-in, plus a few surviving terraces of aspirational Georgian townhouses.

The IWM looks out towards St George's Road across Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park, the latter given to the LCC by Lord Rothermere in 1934 and named after his mother. The park's relatively quiet at the moment, what with the museum being closed for redevelopment, but arguably this creates a better setting for the Dalai Lama's Tibetan Peace Garden. I particularly like the Ice Age Tree Trail, a collection of 34 species that colonised these isles following glacial retreat, including all your well-known trees like oaks and willows but also a wild service tree and a wych elm.

And across the street is St George's Cathedral, which in 1848 became the first Roman Catholic cathedral to be built in England since the Reformation. Its architect was Augustus Pugin, more famous for the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster, although this is a far less gothic creation. Step inside to stand in the lofty arched nave, which alas isn't original but a postwar rebuild following heavy bombing. Look out for the restored remains of Pugin's high altar frontal in one of the chapels, and a more modern shrine dedicated to the Patron Saint of Migrants alongside the confessional booths. And where better to pay one's respects on St George's Day, than in the cathedral named after the fields named after the parish church named after the patron saint brought home from the Crusades?

» For a truly in-depth history of St George's Fields, Patrick tells all

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan24  Feb24  Mar24  Apr24  May24  Jun24  Jul24
Jan23  Feb23  Mar23  Apr23  May23  Jun23  Jul23  Aug23  Sep23  Oct23  Nov23  Dec23
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22  Jul22  Aug22  Sep22  Oct22  Nov22  Dec22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
our bow
ian visits
broken tv
blue witch
on london
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
the greenwich wire
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
round the rails we go
london reconnections
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
London's waymarked walks
Inner London toilet map
20 years of blog series
The DG Tour of Britain
London's most...

read the archive
Jul24  Jun24  May24
Apr24  Mar24  Feb24  Jan24
Dec23  Nov23  Oct23  Sep23
Aug23  Jul23  Jun23  May23
Apr23  Mar23  Feb23  Jan23
Dec22  Nov22  Oct22  Sep22
Aug22  Jul22  Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2023 2022
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards