Michael Leapman retraces Shakespeare's steps around Southwark

London: the step-by-step guide Distance: Three-and-a-half miles Time: Under two hours, plus visits Tube: Borough (Northern Line) Buses: 35, 404 133, 211, 344, P3 Parking: Easy at weekends, difficult during week
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The Independent Culture
sunday is Shakespeare's 431st birthday. This walk covers some of his Southwark haunts and takes in a visit to his Globe Theatre, whose reconstruction in its original Elizabethan form is well advanced.

From the tube station, cross the big road junction diagonally to the imposing 18th-century brick church of St George the Martyr and turn right beyond it into Tabard Street. Go left into Long Lane and right on Pilgrimage Street (medieval pilgrims used Long Lane as their route to Canterbury). Just past the corner of Manciple Street turn left to walk along the left- hand edge of Tabard Gardens, then go left into Pardoner Street and left again at the T-junction.

Cross Long Lane on Weston Street and soon, on the right, you see the 1833 leather market building. Tanning was an important industry in Bermondsey for centuries: it was a smelly process and the London City authorities ensured that it stayed beyond the range of their sensitive noses - just as they banished the unruly bear gardens, brothels and theatres south of the river.

Next to the market is the splendid Leather Hide and Wool Exchange (1878), its walls adorned with roundels showing scenes from the leather trade. Turn right here into Leathermarket Street and go through a blue gate on the left, opposite the Jugglers pub. This is Leathermarket Gardens, tastefully planted for spring. Walk through the gardens and turn left.

At the crossroads keep almost straight ahead into Tanner Street. On the right, at numbers 36-40, is a surviving tannery, opposite the high wall of an old vinegar factory - another noxious trade. Go straight across Tower Bridge Road and keep on Tanner Street as it crosses Druid Street to reach Tooley Street.

Cross the road here and turn right for a few yards to climb three steps by a parapet for a view of St Saviour's Dock, a tidal inlet off the Thames where old warehouses are now swish apartments. Across the road behind you is an 18th-century tavern called the Dockhead (subject of many a treasured misprint).

From the parapet, walk a few paces back west and turn right on Shad Thames. Take the first left, Queen Elizabeth Street, to the Circle, a 1990 apartment building faced with garish blue glazed brick. A statue of a dray horse signifies that this was once where Courage, the brewers, kept their horses.

Turn right up Curlew Street to reach the river bank, with the Design Museum on your right. Turn left towards Tower Bridge, past the quayside restaurants of Butler's Wharf. The walkway passes under the bridge approach to continue opposite the Tower and alongside the museum ship HMS Belfast, passing the Hays Wharf shopping complex on the left.

Climb up to London Bridge and cross the road by the bus stop, then go down the steps behind the bus stop opposite. Turn right at the bottom and make for the entrance to Southwark Cathedral on your left.

Inside the cathedral, turn sharp right to see the recumbent figure of Shakespeare, placed there in 1911, beneath a stained glass window with scenes from his plays. To its right is a plaque to Sam Wanamaker, the American actor whose vision of rebuilding the Globe you are about to see being fulfilled. (A Shakespeare celebration, with Judi Dench and others, is to be held at the cathedral tomorrow.)

Leaving the cathedral gate turn right, then left up Pickfords Wharf to see the elaborate rose window, high on a wall above the foundations of the Bishop of Winchester's medieval town house. Beyond it is a surviving wall of the Clink, the notorious prison, and a museum about its history (open daily, 10am-6pm).

Follow the road under the railway bridge and turn right to pass (or enter if you feel like it) the Anchor, one of London's historic riverside pubs. After walking under Southwark Bridge you soon reach the reconstructed Globe, worth sparing time to visit.

The entrance is in New Globe Walk. A guide explains the history of the original theatre - not on this exact site - and takes you to see the thatched seating galleries surrounding the open central area where the stage will be erected. Videos and other exhibits explain more. (Open 10am-5pm daily.) Continue along the embankment for a few yards to Cardinal's Wharf, the small house where Christopher Wren is supposed to have stayed when St Paul's was being built. Whether he did or not, it commands an imposing view of the cathedral across the river.

Go back to the Globe, turn down New Globe Walk and take the second left, Summer Street. At Southwark Bridge Road turn right, cross the road and turn into Thrale Street, with a good early Victorian terrace on the left. Go left into Southwark Street. Where it curves left to join Borough High Street is the elaborate former Hop Exchange (1866), with hop motifs on the pediment and woven into the iron gates. Southwark was the centre of the hop trade until the 1960s.

Turn right into Borough High Street. Disrupted at present by Jubilee Line works, this street has kept much of its historic pattern, with several yards and alleys on the left-hand side that used to be entrances to inns. Some of them survive, notably The George (above), the only galleried inn left in London. It was rebuilt in 1677 after a fire, but Shakespeare is said to have been a customer at the earlier inn on the site.

You might want to follow his example. When you have finished, continue south along Borough High Street for the tube.

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