Saturday, 30 November 2013

Let's reclaim God's own country in London: Bermondsey Beach

From the home of Bermondsey's working-classes, to London's premier pleasure beach?
When taking a lazy evening stroll along  The Queen's Walk, SE1's Thames-side walkway, it is very easy to miss the clues that point to Bermondsey Beach's place in history as the home, workplace and playground of the ordinary working people of Bermondsey.  Riverfront terraced housing, later rebranded as 'slums', has long since been demolished; Hay's dock and with it the livelihood of tens of thousands of locals has been filled-in and 'gentrified'; and the industrial heart of Bermondsey, including the Anchor Brewery and bonded warehouses ripped out of the once gloriously rich Thames promenade.  Whitewashed and airbrushed out, but not forgotten.
Hay's Galleria, formerly Hay's Dock
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
But with the demise of the docks and wharves, and with them Britain's shipping industry, Bermondsey's brightest and best were progressively and brutally ejected from their deckchairs on London's finest beach.

©Bermondsey Beach 2013
Enjoyed today by men and women from all over the world, and toiled over in days long forgotten by innumerable dockers and labourers  from the once all-powerful Bermondsey working-classes, the beach formed the gateway to the now defunct 'larder of London', with over three-quarters of the city's butter, cheese, bacon and canned meats landing there.  Although dockers were poorly paid, they along with many food processing firms such as biscuit manufacturer Peek Freens and Co and Sarson's Vinegar provided additional employment to sustain the lives of our hardworking families. 
St Saviour's Dock, SE1
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
Ships would dock weekly in their thousands, offloading their wares, and in turn feeding the hungry mouths of millions of families across London.  These days, powerboats scream past carrying the wailing well-to-do on their birthday gift experiences.  London's cheese, poultry and meat industries no longer employ generations of Bermondsey families at Hay's Dock - instead our premier markets at  Spa Terminus (Spa Road) and Maltby Street sell some of the best produce in Britain, albeit to an exclusively middle-class elite.
The Beach at Cherry Gardens, SE16
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
In 21st century Bermondsey, the modern beach front houses some of Britain's finest places to spend a Friday night: from The Pont De La Tour and Blueprint Cafe, to the buzzing All Bar One and Browns bars.  In fact, it's thanks to the Butlers Wharf and Shad Thames pioneer Terence Conran that much of this area was redeveloped at all.  The question is, how can these be made more inclusive, and as a result inviting, to those living in the poorer parts of Bermondsey?

Butlers Wharf, Shad Thames, SE1
Nonetheless, if you haven't seen lately the views from the beach, get down there today: London's testicle, otherwise known as City Hall, is provocatively tickled by the Shard; the Cheese grater shaves off slices of the Gherkin before your eyes; and standing majestically in the distance  is St Paul's Cathedral - but is Sir Christopher Wren looking down with delight or disdain?
The Shard and City Hall (known affectionately as The Testicle), SE1
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
Views across the river of  Wapping and Tower Hill are nothing short of spectacular.
View across the beach to Wapping
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
Today, we are extremely fortunate to be able to float away to Greenwich, the South Bank or even onto Hampton Court by catching a clipper boat from at least two Bermondsey piers: Cherry Gardens and London Bridge City behind Hay's Galleria.  Thanks to both Ken and Boris, the Thames is being used more often - now it's time to make it cheaper and easier to use by the very same Bermondsey Brits who breathed life into it through passion and gritted graft over hundreds of years.
View across the Beach to The Tower of London
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
When you've seen the views, at dawn and at dusk, there is only one conclusion that can be reached: Bermondsey is God's own country in London!
View from the beach - Tower Bridge
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
The problem is that the only place tourists and locals alike fail to venture down to is the beach itself: sandy, sometimes silty, it is a veritable haven for probe wielding treasure-hunters and those who want a minute's peace, but unfortunately not for much else.

Rugged and rich in history - the Beach near Cherry Gardens
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
This decade's real challenge is to turn Bermondsey Beach into London's foremost pleasure beach; not with chutes, slides and big-wheels, but by sticking up two fingers to the 'elf-'n'-safety bigwigs and following the example set by our parents and grandparents: playing football, launching small tethered sail boats, building sandcastles and even paddling in the Thames. (These people built an empire and fought and won two world wars, and the beach didn't harm them!) Furthermore, the disturbing and unacceptable outbreak of rickets and vitamin D deficiency in modern day Southwark could be beaten decisively by beach bathing on a towel  or a deckchair - oh, and of course by feeding our kids a healthy diet, rather than neglecting them.  Let's reclaim the beaches from the exclusive enjoyment of the privileged few that can afford to live there - we will all benefit.

View of Bermondsey Beach from Rotherhithe 
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
From sunrise to sunset, the views from Bermondsey Beach have strangely medicinal qualities, lifting tired and broken hearts and breathing new life into cynical and weary souls.  So, bring your knotted handkerchiefs, bucket and spade and a copy of Southwark News - then, stop and marvel at world-class views.  And for the truly daring, come on in - the water's lovely!

Friday, 29 November 2013

What's happening in Bermondsey SE1 and SE16?

Bermondsey's Best Blogs

Bermondsey Photographs shows an interesting selection of images in and around the Bermondsey Street Conservation Area.

Corner of Dockhead and Mill Street, SE1
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
Not strictly a blog, more of a hybrid-forum, Bermondsey Boy is our first port-of-call for comparing images of places and buildings old and new, as it charts the changes in Bermondsey throughout the years.

©Bermondsey Boy

Offering faith, hope and love in south-east London, St. James' church's Canon Gary Jenkins' blog Bermondsey Vicar offers musings on the area from a thoughful Christian perspective.

St James' church, Thurand Road, SE16
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
And finally, try relative newcomer 'Bermondsey, my village', written by a member of the new Bermondsey gentry (and a lover of SE16, too).

Grange Road, SE1
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
And of course, our blog Bermondsey Beach!

You can also follow us on Twitter @BermondseyBeach.

Or better still, enjoy some of the best Bermondsey photographs and images on Instagram @BermondseyBeach.

Bermondsey Beach near Cherry Gardens, SE16
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
Whichever Bermondsey blog you read, we hope that you enjoy discovering more about the jewel in London's crown - Bermondsey SE1 and SE16.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Today Bermondsey pauses and hopes for a better world

A prayer for the world on Remembrance Sunday

Today, thousands in Bermondsey joined together with Southwark, Greater London, Great Britain and the rest of the world, united in support for the dedication of our armed forces, their families and loved ones and those who performed the ultimate sacrifice - giving up their lives so that we might live ours in love and peace.

Copyright 2013 BBC
As the day draws to a close, the words from Graham Kendrick's song 'Beauty for Brokeness', offer us comfort and hope: comfort in the good that we see daily everywhere in Bermondsey, and hope for a better Bermondsey and a world of decency, justice, equality and peace.

Copyright 2013 Royal British Legion

Beauty for brokenness
Hope for despair
Lord, in the suffering
This is our prayer
Bread for the children
Justice, joy, peace
Sunrise to sunset
Your kingdom increase!

The View from Bermondsey Beach at dusk

Shelter for fragile lives
Cures for their ills
Work for the craftsman

Trade for their skills
Land for the dispossessed
Rights for the weak
Voices to plead the cause
Of those who can't speak.

Jamaica Road and Bermondsey Tube Station at sunrise
God of the poor
Friend of the weak

Give us compassion we pray
Melt our cold hearts
Let tears fall like rain
Come, change our love
From a spark to a flame.
Cherry Gardens
Rest for the ravaged earth
Oceans and streams
Plundered and poisoned
Our future, our dreams
Lord, end our madness
Carelessness, greed
Make us content with
The things that we need
The Shard and Southwark Cathedral
God of the poor
Friend of the weak

Give us compassion we pray
Melt our cold hearts
Let tears fall like rain
Come, change our love
From a spark to a flame.
Bermondsey Spa Gardens and the old Municipal Offices of the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey
Refuge from cruel wars
Havens from fear
Cities for sanctuary
Freedoms to share
Peace to the killing-fields
Scorched earth to green
Christ for the bitterness
His cross for the pain.

 Video Links:

1. Royal British Legion:

2. 'Beauty for Brokenness' by Graham Kendrick

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Support the 2013 Poppy Appeal TODAY at Bermondsey Station

Bermondsey never forgets to remember

In a post-modern world that is often cruel, cynical, selfish, and sans sacrifice, this November our beloved Bermondsey stands tall and proud in supporting the work of the Royal British Legion, and in turn honours in perpetuity the brave men and women who surrendered their lives, so that we didn't have to.
The Royal British Legion will be collecting today at Bermondsey tube station from 9am until around 5pm - you'll find them just inside the ticket gates.  So have at  the ready your donations; however large or small both coins and notes are welcome!  And so far, it appears that Bermondsey man and woman have been extremely generous in helping the armed forces.  Over the last two weeks, a dedicated team of volunteers have been quite literally overwhelmed and swamped with interest, smiles and ungrudging charity - Bermondsey at its best! 
In exchange for your kind support, the team will be giving away a range of products from The Poppy Shop: wristbands, bracelets, large car bonnet poppies, metallic brooches and wooden crosses.  One of the perks of giving is watching the heartfelt smiles and glances of passers-by, as they too understand the deep meaning behind such a simple and enduring symbol: pride, honour, courage and fearlessness.

But, it is perhaps the tradtional red paper poppy adorned with a green oak tree leaf that says it best.  Indeed, it is a little known fact that Bermondsey led the way in making the first ever remembrance poppies, so in giving generously today we continue a gloriously British tradition that started long ago here on the shores of Bermondsey Beach.

Bermondsey will join together in poignant displays of unity and solidarity in  remembrance services at churches and war memorials tomorrow, as well as the two minute silence on Armistice Day this coming Monday.

So, to those uber-liberals and naysayers who perpetrate dangerously the nonsense that dropping £1 into a collection tin is in some way supporting war and conflict, we say this: when Bermondsey forgets to honour and help the armed forces today, it sows the seeds of its own dishonour and destruction tomorrow - and don't you ever forget it!
Donate to the Poppy appeal NOW:
Every donation helps to support British Armed Forces past and present and their families
All images (except the church) copyright 2013 The Royal British Legion

Monday, 14 October 2013

Will encouraging personal and corporate responsibility change lower Tower Bridge Road?

Tower Bridge Road: still a no-go area?
As bridges go, Tower Bridge has to be one of the finest in the world!  Built in 1894 by Sir Horace Jones  and viewed by some at the time as controversial, it provides an impressive and truly awesome gateway into the wealth of wonders that Bermondsey SE1 and SE16 has to offer.  Well maintained and efficiently managed, Tower Bridge stands proudly as Bermondsey's flagship piece of British history: hardworking and reliable, open to all with enduring and classic design and loved by the people.  Tower Bridge Road on the other hand is quite a different story - for decades it has not deserved to bask in the reflected glory of its namesake. 
Tower Bridge viewed from The Queen's Walk, More London SE1
Tower Bridge Road stretches across Tooley Street to the junction with Abbey Street, past Grange Road and Bermondsey Street, and comes to an abrupt end at the Bricklayers Arms roundabout.

Until very recently,  journeying southwards along Tower Bridge Road, was a truly harrowing experience, involving a gradual  descent  into a  frighteningly downmarket and squalid quarter of Bermondsey, similar to much of the Old Kent Road: a fried chicken magnate's dream and a planning department's nightmare.

Do we really need another? Why has Southwark Council taken so long to ban them?

A proliferation of fast-food outletssecond-hand clothing stores, supermarkets and fruit and veg vendors;  classically beautiful Victorian and Edwardian shop fronts bastardised by the knowingly reckless addition of garish and ghastly fascias and signs;  the construction of newer buildings that juxtapose disastrously with the architecture of the past; and groups of menacing youths and twenty-somethings 'hanging-out' on street corners, as well as from their sagging jeans.  Yes, the lower section of Tower Bridge Road has become a no-go area not only for locals, but also for the Euro-wielding tourists crossing happily Tower Bridge, only to turn right into the safety of Tooley Street and London Bridge. The challenge has always been how to share their spending-power with Bermondsey's less affluent parts like lower Tower Bridge Road.
Classy? Only a moron would grant planning permission for this!
After decades of needless neglect by Southwark Council, who have historically taken the politically-correct and incorrect view that best we can offer the poorest in society is a life of grit, grime and fly-tipping, Tower Bridge Road is changing - in fact, a miraculous transformation is taking place. 
Over the last few months, a burgeoning movement of residents and small businesses has joined together to fight for a better Tower Bridge Road.  Unlike Southwark Council, it has honestly and openly admitted that there are real problems that need local solutions, and is working to improve the area to make it attractive and inviting once more.  The Tower Bridge Road Alliance is a Community Interest Company, which aims to promote and improve Tower Bridge Road and make it a better place for businesses, residents and visitors.  And under the leadership of Tower Tandoori's Suhel Ahmed, it is beginning to do just that.
What a delight!
Shop fronts are being repainted and in some cases, completely redesigned, using traditional colours and avoiding unnecessarily bright plastic fascias.
This restaurant would not look out of place on Bermondsey Street,  Notting Hill or Fulham
Fast-food-freak-shows are being upstaged by the advent of smarter restaurants offering healthier menus and increased choice. 
Gift and lighting shops offering 'shabby-chic ware' and crystal chandeliers are replacing second-hand charity shops that offer at best tatty clothes and unwanted video tapes.  
This must go!
In fact, the recently opened pawnbrokers that even the Sheriff of Nottingham would be proud of, is beginning to look rather out of place.  Quite how this high-interest charging 'business' ever received planning permission from a council that claims to protect the poor is anyone's guess.  The new TBRA could do us all a favour and prioritise a campaign for its removal. 
Shutters are decorated to improve the image and 'feel' of the road
So, while the London Borough of Southwark had over many years the lowest expectations of local businesses and residents, while instead putting its energies into creating a 'republic' obsessed with political correctness, ideological warfare and pointless party politics, the TBRA is doing what is worryingly unfashionable in the halls of Southwark's City Hall: encouraging businesses and local people to accept personal responsibility for their shops, streets, homes, front doorsteps and actions.  In doing so, they are mirroring the house-proud  working-class folk of long ago who fought for a better Bermondsey.  Good luck TBRA! 
Hoardings are decorated with images of local interest
Twitter: @TowerBridgeRd
Tower Bridge Road Alliance
Suhel Ahmed
74 Tower Bridge Road
Mobile: 07960 001 925

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Bermondsey just wants to have fun... at the Bede House Annual Funday!

After the recent inspirational exhibition celebrating 75 years of Bede House serving the Bermondsey community, it's time to enjoy their fun day at the Bede Centre on Abbeyfield Road SE16.
With music, food, live performances and much much more, it promises to be the perfect summer party for all the family. 
Oh, and if you can support Bede House in anyway, for example as a volunteer or through a donation, they would love to hear from you.
Contact details:
Bede House
Telephone: 020 7237 3881
Twitter: @bedehouse

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Bede Exhibition at CGP London gallery: “Believing in Community – 75 Years in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe

Bermondsey's glorious history - in black and white snaps!

It's your last chance to see the outstanding National Lottery funded exhibition presented by the local charity Bede House at the  CGP Gallery.  Opening to a rapturous reception on Friday 9th August, there are only two more days to live the lives of our Bermondsey ancestors in glorious black and white photographs - and if you listen carefully, you might hear their voices speaking clearly to us about the present.

Bede House is always looking for support in a variety of ways, including volunteers and donations.  As you read director Nick Dunne describing in words and picturesthe opening gala event, Bermondsey Beach hopes that you will consider lending Bede a hand...
Dear Friends of Bede,
Many thanks to all of you who came to celebrate the opening on Friday evening of the Bede Exhibition “Believing in Community75 Years in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe”.

It was a brilliant evening, with nearly 100 people filling the Café Gallery in Southwark Park. The exhibition was opened by the Deputy Mayor of Southwark, Cllr Sunil Chopra. Helping him cut the ribbon were June Morgan, who has worked for Bede since 1965, and Bede trustee Tina Stanley. Tina met her husband John when both were living in Bede House in the 1960s and the couple have been involved ever since.

Image shown with permission - Copyright Bede House

Distinguished concert pianist Catherine Edwards performed jazz music by 1930s composer Billy Mayerl, and Mimi Edwards led the guests in singing “There’ll be bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover” as the birthday cake was cut.

Image shown with permission - Copyright Bede House

The exhibition runs at the Café Gallery in Southwark Park until 5pm this Sunday, August 18 and showcases 100 fascinating black and white photos from the Bede archive which illustrate the changes in the area since Bede House was founded in 1938. Many were taken by celebrated photographer Tony Othen who lived in Bede in the 1960s. Side galleries display more recent images of Bede’s success in helping adults who have a learning disability, and young people from low income families, to develop their potential and play their part in building strong local communities.
Image shown with permission - Copyright Bede House
Lots of people have told me how this Gala opening expressed the spirit of Bede House perfectly. It brought together people from different background who all support Bede’s work. By the end of the evening, we had a true community atmosphere in the gallery which inspired everyone.

Image shown with permission - Copyright Bede House

The exhibition, which is sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is open from 11am to 5pm at the Café Gallery, Southwark Park, SE16 2UA until Sunday August 18. Entry is free, so do come along if you can!
Best wishes,
Nick Dunne

More information:

Bede House
Telephone: 020 7237 3881
Twitter: @BedeHouse
Charity no. 303199
CGP Gallery
Telephone: 020 7237 1230
Twitter: @CGP_London

Friday, 9 August 2013

Save Bermondsey's Pubs Campaign

Hands off our watering holes:
Southwark News' fight to save our pubs.

It's a well known and accepted fact that Bermondsey loves downing a drink or two.  But, as two more of our historic public houses are threatened with closure, we may soon be forced to walk or stagger further afield for our daily tipple.

'The Leather Exchange' on Leathermarket Street

Thanks to the Southwark News 'Save our Pubs' campaign our pride of local pubs may soon be saved from closure by out-of-town developers whose sole aim is putting profit before heritage.

'The Miller' on Snowsfields, SE1
Backed by Simon Hughes MP, the campaign has already succeeded in having 'The Grange' public house listed this week as a community assetThe Assets of Community Value (England) Regulations came into force on 21 September 2012.  They define community assets as 'land and buildings owned or managed by community organisations' covering 'a wide spectrum and including town halls, community centres, sports facilities, affordable housing and libraries'
'The Grange', Grange Road SE16
But, with the St James Tavern up for sale on St James' Road, the battle is far from over.  Selling a range of the finest beers, as well as seafood from its royal blue 'Butchie's of Bermondsey' van, this local treasure faces a fate worse than a stonking great hangover - its redevelopment as posh luxury apartments, similar to those at The Queen's Arms on Spa Road.  Once frequented by dockers and the workers of 'the larder of London', the tavern may soon be unrecognisable to Bermondsey folk: occupied by the upwardly mobile, rather than generations of working-class revellers enjoying a good local night out.
'The St James Tavern' on St James' Road, SE16
There are of course two solutions to the modern-day problem of the declining pub industry - the 'Save our Pubs' campaign is only one of them.  As with any successful business, loyal and committed customers are the key solution to keeping Bermondsey pubs alive and beating at the heart of our community.  As well as listing and protecting the pubs, we must patronise them in our droves - now, not next week.
'The Kings Arms' on Newcomen Street, SE1
Just off Borough High Street, The Kings Arms boasts an impressive royal coat of arms that was originally displayed on the old London Bridge before it was sold off to the Americans.  It is gems such as this that form a key part of our shared history and the Bermondsey local identity.  The closure of these community assets threatens to put in jeopardy over a hundred years of history.
'The Rose' on Snowsfields, SE1
After the merger of Bermondsey  and Rotherhithe Community Councils, against the wishes of many local residents, Bermondsey lost its collective voice.  A Bermondsey Society or parish council would provide a key grass roots voice that could fight to protect our history and identity.  Although Southwark Council rejected out of hand the idea without even consulting Bermondsey voters, representative and inclusive bodies such as these need not divide local politicians on party lines.  What is best for Labour and the Lib Dems is not always best for Bermondsey.

Anood Al-Samerai (Southwark Lib Dem Leader) and Peter John (Southwark Labour Leader)
So, we must follow the fine example set by The Walworth Society in SE17 and apply to list all of Bermondsey's pubs as community assets, giving local people the opportunity to buy pubs that are up for sale, and six months to raise the necessary funds.  All that is needed are twenty-five signatures from local people on the electoral roll, beer-thirsty Bermondsey boozers streaming through the front door and perhaps a Bermondsey Society or parish council - power to the people!
Simon Hughes MP behind the bar backing the campaign
More information at:,news,26495,185,00.htm

Twitter: #saveourpubs