Southwark was formed in 1963 from the amalgamation of the old metropolitan boroughs of Southwark, Bermondsey and Camberwell. The new authority quickly attained the status of London's poorest borough, even though it contained the high status area of Dulwich.
The "poorest borough" label has only recently become inappropriate, and it is the massive redevelopments along the banks of the Thames and within the old London Docks that have raised Southwark's profile. Rotherhithe has become one of London's smartest new precincts, while the general smartening-up process along the south bank of the Thames opposite the city has made Southwark a place to live, work and visit once again. A "string of pearls" along the south bank of the river includes Southwark Cathedral, the Tate Modern gallery, the reconstructed Globe theatre, the London Dungeon, London Bridge City, the Design Museum and the Tower Bridge visitor centre. The new headquarters building of the revamped Greater London Authority is also under construction here and promises to be a bold and striking addition to the Thames-side vista. This Thames-side region, known commonly as Bankside, has been developed since Roman times and contains many places of historical significance. It was London's "playground" for many centuries, being an area of inns, gambling dens and brothels in its early history but later a setting for gardens and theatres. Shakespeare's plays had their debut performances here.
The borough still exhibits the same "crap sandwich" demography as neighbouring Lambeth, with the smart and affluent areas of Bankside, Rotherhithe and Dulwich being separated by poor and unlovely areas such as Bermondsey, Newington and Peckham. The latter district was the setting for the BBC's long running comedy, "Only Fools And Horses", though the reality of Peckham is somewhat more grim. Even within these areas, though, there are green spaces and outbreaks of regeneration, and Southwark is slowly but surely coming up in the world.
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This page last updated 21st September 2008