Dockhead, Sarsons, Tanner St and Bermondsey Square

The previous post on this walk was Warehouses, Boats and Biscuits – Bermondsey 1988

Dockhead, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-10p-26-Edit_2400
Dockhead, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-10p-26

I walked past Dockhead and along Tooley Street, turning down Tower Bridge Road and on to Tanner St making a few photographs, but have only digitised the two shown here. Dockhead is of course at the head of St Saviour’s Dock and until a bridge was built across the mouth of the dock walkers by the river had to take the route past Dockhead – and I often took a picture looking down the dock towards the Thames and this was no exception, but I haven’t yet digitised it.

The building with the circular window on its top floor was Jacob’s Biscuit Factory – another of whose buildings on Wolseley street featured in the previous post.

Tower Coachworks, Tooley St, Lafone St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-10q-64-Edit_2400
Tower Coachworks, Tooley St, Lafone St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-10q-64

And although I made half a dozen exposures on Tooley St, one on Fair Street and several on Tower Bridge Road, this is the only one on-line. I do sometimes find it hard to know why I’ve not scanned some images and perhaps one day I’ll come back and fill in the gaps. But for the moment this is the only picture here from this section of the route.

It shows the two buildings on the corner with Lafone St, which runs north from Tooley Street to Shad Thames. Tower Coachworks has been demolished and replaced by new flats, but the large warehouse blocks at left, which run across the whole block to Boss St and up Lafone St to Queen Elizabeth St was refurbished by the London Docklands Development Corporation into a large residential development, Boss House. Q’s Ltd Snooker & Pool Club with its line of arrows to guide even the most shortsighted or inebriated to its entrance at rear has long gone. The three warehouses dates from somewhere around 1900 and there was a short street across the middle, Goat St, whose name can just be seen above the van parked on Lafone St, at least on a larger version of this frame.

Sarsons, Vinegar, Tanner St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-10q-43-Edit_2400
Sarsons, Vinegar, Tanner St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-10q-43

Sarson’s vinegar works were on a large site on Tower Bridge Road with these vats viewed from Tanner St. Their presence was very apparent by the smell which pervaded the area – I couldn’t walk past without thinking of fish and chips – although according to Wikipedia production had moved to Manchester in 1968, it actually continued through the 1980s and the works only closed in 1992.

Thomas Sarson is said to have first brewed his malt vinegar in 1794 in Shoreditch, though apparently this date is unlikely and probably Sarson’s only made cheaper ‘wood’ vinegar until 1894. Sarson’s vinegar was briefly sold as ‘”Sarson’s Virgin Vinegar’ but that name was soon dropped. There is a very detailed article Just Say Sarsons by Tim Smith in a GLIAS Journal about the company with descriptions and photographs from a finely detailed recording visit. The vinegar works were begun by Noah Slee and a Mr Vickers around 1814, but later greatly expanded. The works were run by the Slee family until a merger with Champions in 1908 and their family connection continued until the formation of British Vinegars Ltd in 1932. Later they became a part of Nestlé and the Sarson’s brand is now owned by a Japanese vinegar company, who also own my favourite Hayward’s Pickled Onions.

The site was redeveloped from 2000 on, with its Grade II listed buildings being converted into flats and other buildings such as these vats being demolished and replaced by modern flats.

Tanner St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-10q-32-Edit_2400
Tanner St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-10q-32

Further west along Tanner St are these three adjoining buildings at 1-3 Tanner St. The Bermondsey Wire Works name has faded a little more but otherwise that building looks much the same, while Neon Manufacturers at No 2 is rather more tidier, has lost its original windows and all signage and has a new door and porch. No 3 has also had something of a face-lift but retains most of its former character, but the hoist no longer has a bucket attached.

Tanner St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-10q-33-Edit_2400
Tanner St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-10q-33

These buildings were still very obviously in commercial use back in 1988, but I think now most are studios, offices and residential, and I think I went to an exhibition in one of them a few years ago. Tanner Street was originally known as Five Foot Lane and most of it was on a map by 1544. The second part of the story by Richard Miller deals with it after it was renamed Russell Street in the late 18th century when it contained the Bermondsey Workhouse, and part 3 looks at it after Bermondsey Parish Council renamed it Tanner Street in 1881, reflecting the main trade then carried on there. The workhouse closed in 1922, and the site was bought with funds from selling St Olave’s Church in Tooley Street to Hay’s Wharf – and a part of that church’s tower, now Grade II listed, was installed as a drinking fountain in Tanner Street Recreation Ground which opened on the site in 1929. The park got a little larger in the 1990s.

Cockle & Co, Bermondsey Mesh and Wireworks were at 109 Bermondsey St from 1903-1919 and their works stretched around the corner here into Tanner St. According to the Bermondsey Boy web site, No 3 -7 were built in 1838 for three separate businesses but were bought by the Simmons Company, makers of perambulators, mail carts and stretchers in 1888 and later they also owned No 1 – you can see some of their advertisements on thesite. Simmons sold No 1 in 1952 and closed the business in 1959.

Bermondsey Square, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-10q-14-Edit_2400
Bermondsey Square, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-10q-14

Bermondsey Square looks very different now to when I took this picture in 1988 and I think the actual position where I was standing may now be inside the ground floor of the Bermondsey Square Hotel. My shadow in the foreground shows me looking across the grass area towards the corner of Long Lane and Bermondsey St. The building then the Bermondsey Antique Market is still there – as is St Mary’s Church, but rather than antiques it is now ‘Flour & Grape’ which Google now tells me is an Italian restaurant and “A 3-min walk from the White Cube“. What is left of Bermondsey Square is now paved and although there is a small green area with seating at the front of the hotel it looks very plastic.

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One Response to “Dockhead, Sarsons, Tanner St and Bermondsey Square”

  1. […] The previous post on this walk on Sunday 30th October 1988 was Dockhead, Sarsons, Tanner St and Bermondsey Square. […]

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