London Wiki

Bermondsey was one of twenty eight metropolitan boroughs of the County of London from 1900-1965. Its area now forms part of the London Borough of Southwark.

Creation and name[]

The borough was created by the London Government Act 1899 which came into effect in the following year. The act replaced the various incorporated Vestries and District Boards of Works that had governed the area at a local level since their creation by the Metropolis Management Act 1855 with Metropolitan Boroughs each governed by a Borough Council.

The first schedule of the 1899 legislation gave the areas of the new boroughs by reference to the old authorities, but did not give any names. These were to be decided by Boundary Commissioners who would take into account representations by local bodies and also make minor adjustments to boundaries to provide more efficient areas of administration. One of the boroughs was defined as:

"The area consisting of the parishes of Rotherhithe, Bermondsey, Horsleydown, and St. Olave and St. Thomas, Southwark."

The borough replaced the parish vestries of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, and the St Olave District Board of Works (consisting of the two parishes of St John Horsleydown and Southwark St Olave and St Thomas).

At a meeting of the commissioners appointed under the 1899 act on 24 November 1899 at the Town Hall of the Bermondsey Vestry, the name for the new borough was discussed. Bermondsey Vestry strongly urged that the name "Bermondsey" be adopted, as the parish was the "predominating element in population, rateable value and acreage". They also pointed out the Bermondsey Abbey, although no longer extant, exceeded Westminster Abbey in antiquity. There was some discussion on whether "Southwark" could be included in the name: this was supported the City of London, but it became the neighbouring borough which in due course became the Metropolitan Borough of Southwark had a better claim. The representatives of St Olave's District Board suggested either "St Olave's" or "East Southwark" and were supported by Rotherhithe Vestry. The representative from the statistical department of the London County Council, who had looked into the historical associations of the parishes, strongly supported the name "St Olave's".[1]

The name "Bermondsey" was chosen by the commissioners and the new borough was formally established by the Borough of Bermondsey Order in Council, 1900.

Area and population[]

The area of the borough in 1901 was 1499.6 statute acres. This subsequently increased to 1503 acres due to recliaming of land on the bank of the River Thames. The population at each census was recorded as follows:

Year Population Notes
1891[2] 136,014 Population of Bermondsey, Rotherhithe and St Olave's District
1901[2] 130,760
1911[3] 125,903 The Medical Officer of Health noted that the decrease in population was "entirely due to the increased facilities of transit, leading to a tendency on the part of the population of this, as well as other central boroughs, to seek residence further out".[4]
1921[5] 119,452
1931[6] 111,542
1951[7] 60,640 No census was taken in 1941 due to the Second World War. During the war much of the population was evacuated and following bomb damage did not return.
1961[8] 51,860

Borough Council[]

Each Metropolitan Borough Council was governed by a Borough Council. This consisted mostly of directly-elected councillors representing the various wards into which the borough was divided, and partly of aldermen elected by the council itself. The ratio of aldermen was one to every six councillors. The term of office for councillors was three years and for aldermen six years. Elections of all councillors were held every three years while half of the aldermen retired following the triennial elections.

Bermondsey Borough Council consisted of 54 councillors and 9 aldermen from 1900-1953 and 45 councillors and 7 aldermen from 1953-65.

Armorial bearings[]

Bermondsey Borough Council was granted armorial bearings (a "coat of arms") by the College of Arms by letters patent dated 25 March 1901. The design combined symbols used by the parishes merged into the Metropolitan Borough in 1900. The lion and crozier represents Bermondsey and was derived from the insignia of Bermondsey Abbey. The ship represented Rotherhithe with is historic ship building industry. The axe and crown represented St Olaf, who gave his name to St Olave's.


Arms : Quarterly Azure and Gules in chief a Lion passant guardant supporting with the dexter paw a Crosier erect between two Roman B's in the third quarter a Battle Axe erect blade to the sinister enfiled by by a Ducal Coronet and in the fourth quarter an anicient ship of three masts sails set and flags flying to the dexter all Or.

Crest : On a Wreath of the Colours a Lion passant guardant Gules charged on the shoulder with a Roman B supporting with the dexter paw a Crosier erect both Or.

Motto : 'PROSUNT GENTIBUS ARTES' - Arts profit the people

Mayor of Bermondsey[]

One member of the council was elected mayor each year, although they could be re-elected. They chaired the council meetings and acted as ceremonial head of the borough. For more information on the individuals who held the office see list of Mayors of Bermondsey

Mayoral regalia[]

The mayoral chain and badge were presented to the borough by the first mayor, Samuel Bourne Bevington, in 1900.[9] The mayoress's chain and badge were presented by the president and directors of the South Metropolitan Gas Light and Coke Company in 1931. This was in connection with the official opening of three blocks of flats built by the company in Moodkee Street, Rotherhithe.[9] [10] The mace was presented in 1954 by W S Shuttleworth & Co.[9] Shuttleworth's were chocolate manufacturers based in Bermondsey from 1881-1973.[11]


In 1900 the borough was divided into wards, each electing a number of councillors divisible by three. The original order in council creating the borough also divided it into 12 wards:

Ward Area (Acres) No of Councillors Map
Bermondsey Ward No.1 77 6 Bermondsey Met. B Ward Map 1916
Bermondsey Ward No.2 105 6
Bermondsey Ward No.3 158 6
Bermondsey Ward No.4 143 6
Bermondsey Ward No.5 87 3
Bermondsey Ward No.6 59 3
Rotherhithe Ward No.1 133 6
Rotherhithe Ward No.2 170 6
Rotherhithe Ward No.3 451 3
St John 48 3
St Olave 34 3
St Thomas 38 3

The original wards remained unchanged until 1953, when a new set of boundaries were introduced. The number of councillors was reduced to 45 and the requirement that the number of councillors for each ward be divisible by three was removed. These remained in use until the borough's abolition.

Ward No of Councillors Notes
Abbey 4 Named after Bermondsey Abbey
Central 4
Dockyard 3
Leathermarket 5
Neckinger 3 Named after Neckinger Mills
Park 3 Named after Southwark Park
Raymouth 3
Saints 3
South 3
South West 3
Thorburn 3 Named after Thorburn Square
Tunnel 5
Willow Walk 3 Named after Willow Walk Goods Depot

Borough elections[]

Elections to the council were to be held every three years. In practice this did not always happen: elections were suspended for the duration of the First and Second World Wars while the elections due in November 1948 were moved to May 1949 and those due in 1952 were rescheduled to 1953 to avoid clashing with the London County Council elections. Elections then returned to a three-year cycle with the last elections prior to abolition held in 1962.

Year Conservative Liberal Independent Labour or Socialist Control
1900 Municipal Alliance 27 Progressive Party 25 2 0 Conservative/Unionist
1903 Municipal Alliance 28 Progressive Party 24 2 0 Conservative/Unionist
1906 Municipal Reform Party 32 Progressive Party 22 0 0 Municipal Reform Party
1909 Municipal Reform Party 26 Progressive Party 27 0 Independent Labour Party 1 None
1912 Municipal Reform Party 31 Progressive Party 23 0 0 Municipal Reform Party
1919 Municipal Reform Party 2 Progressive Party 27 Independent 1 Labour Party 24 None
1922 Ratepayers Association 10 Progressive Party 5 Independent 1 Labour Party 38 Labour Party
1925 Electors' Association 6 0 0 Labour Party 48 Labour Party
1928 Municipal Reform Party 6 0 0 Labour Party 48 Labour Party
1931 Municipal Reform Party 9 0 0 Labour Party 45 Labour Party
1934 0 0 0 Labour Party 54 Labour Party
1937 0 0 0 Labour Party 54 Labour Party
1945 Municipal Reform Party 3 0 0 Labour Party 51 Labour Party
1949 0 0 0 Labour Party 54 Labour Party
1953 0 0 0 Labour Party 45 Labour Party
1956 0 0 0 Labour Party 52 (including aldermen) Labour Party
1959 0 0 0 Labour Party 52 (including aldermen) Labour Party
1962 0 0 0 Labour Party 52 (including aldermen) Labour Party

Town hall[]

The town hall was on Spa Road, SE16, and was bombed during World War 2. After the war a neighbouring building was used and this is now used as offices for Southwark Council.

Notable Councillors[]

Based upon the Wikipedia category [1]

More information on the Wikipedia page [2].

External links[]

Some films can be seen here


  1. "The New London Boroughs". The Times: p. 12. 25 November 1899. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Table 9. Metropolitan boroughs, with their constituent civil parishes and wards. Area; houses 1901, and population 1891 and 1901. Census of England & Wales 1901. Online Historical Population Reports.
  3. Table 10. Administrative counties, urban districts (including county and other municipal boroughs) with their constituent civil parishes and wards, and rural districts with their constituent civil parishes; area; families or separate occupiers, and population, 1901 and 1911; and population enumerated in institutions, large establishments, vessels, &c., 1911. Census of England & Wales 1911. Online Historical Population Reports.
  4. R King Brown. Report on the sanitary condition of the Borough of Bermondsey for the year 1911. Wellcome Collection.
  5. Table 3 Population, acreage, private families and dwellings (A. C., Met. B. s, Wards of Met. B. s and civil parishes). Census of England & Wales 1921: County of London. Online Historical Population Reports.
  6. Table 3. Population. Acreage, private families and dwellings (A. C., Met. B. s, wards, and civil parishes). Census of England & Wales 1931: County of London. Online Historical Population Reports.
  7. Table 3: " Acreage, Population, Private Households and Dwellings for AC, MB, UD, RD; Wards of CB, MB; CP, NT". 1951 Census of England and Wales, County Report, County of London. A Vision of Britain Through Time.
  8. Table 3: " Acreage, Population, Private Households and Dwellings for AC, MB, UD, RD; Wards of CB, MB; CP, NT". 1961 Census of England and Wales, County Report, County of London. A Vision of Britain Through Time.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 {cite book|title=London 1900-1964. Armorial Bearings and Regalia of The London County Council, The Corporation of London and The Metropolitan Boroughs|year=1964|author=T J Beningfield|publisher=Ed. j Burrow & Co|pages=45-47}}
  10. J. B. Burland, J. R. Standing, F. M. Jardine (2001). Building Response to Tunnelling: Case Studies from Construction of the Jubilee Line Extension, London. Thomas Telford. p. 121. ISBN 9780727730176. 
  11. Shuttleworth Park / W S Shuttleworth & Co. Exploring Southwark.