Bermondsey and the Blitz

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Sunday 9 October 2005 10.36pm
Can anyone tell me anything about the events of 15th September 1940, when Bermondsey Town Hall was struck by a German bomb? An entire branch of my family (father, mother and 3 children) where killed in this bombing and I'd like to learn more.
Monday 10 October 2005 11.22am
There is a local history library (just behind the John Harvard library on Boro High St) - you should be able to get info from there. Not sure if their database is on line though. I'm sure another SE1-er will know whether it is or not ... good luck with your search!
Monday 10 October 2005 11.41am
Kevin also emailed me and I directed him to the Local History Library. Their email address is

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Monday 10 October 2005 12.05pm
Kevin, I remember being told about a Mr Henley who was tremendously brave during this bombing, he crawled up on the roof of Bermondsey Town Hall with a shattered ankle that happened during the bombing. I 'm not sure whether he was a councillor for bermondsey or a mayor? John Harvard should have a lot about him.

There was a portrait of him in Bermondsey Town Hall i( up the stairs) in 1995, I think Henley drive was named after him.( if it's not gone the way of all other artifacts )

I remember reading a paper back , it showed st.pauls on the front, ' london during the blitz?) that had quite an extensive description of that night..

Monday 10 October 2005 6.44pm
Thanks to everyone who has replied so far. I live in Belfast and cannot therefore visit the library (at least not for a while). I got some information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. All of the family memorials say:
"In memory of ........ BELAM of The Shelter, Neckinger Depot. At Town Hall, Spa Road. Who died as a result of enemy action on Sunday, 15th September 1940. Commemorated in the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey, Section of the Civilian War Dead Register".
Monday 10 October 2005 7.09pm
Have you emailed the library? I'm sure they would provide some useful pointers.

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Monday 10 October 2005 9.02pm

From my book of maps on the bombings, I can tell you little, other than the damage was comparatively light compared to the area to the north west at the junction of Tower Bridge Road and Abbey Street, which was completely destroyed.

The heaviest damage on Spa Road was close to the junction of Grange Road with the area to the north being "damaged beyond repair". It is probably a testament to the solidity of the buildings that they were not completely destroyed.

BTW, contrary to the web search result, I can't see a V1 bomb having landed on the town hall in 1944.

Also, what I didn't know, until I looked in my London library, was that Spa Road was the original terminus for the London & Greenwich railway, until London Bridge was built, or for that matter the location of a Spa (could have guessed that I suppose!) which closed c.1805.

Sorry I can't help more.


Sunday 16 October 2005 2.04pm
Albert George Richard Henley to whom you refer was Mayor of Bermondey when he was killed by the enemy action. The following is a quote from a 1966 newspaper article about the death of his mother which refers to his death.

Mrs Ada Henley, the grand old lady of Bermondsey's Labour movement, died on her 91st birthday in St Olaves Hospital. A founder member of Rotherhithe Labour party-the first dockland party, Mrs Henley never served on the council but her three children and one of her grandsons did. One son Bert Henley, was killed by a bomb on the town hall in 1941. Len Henley, one of the grandsons is a councillor in the new borough. Mrs Henley had been and out of Hospital for many years and she was a patient when her husband Albert died there at 82 in 1956. Mr Henley Snr was a retired docker and proudly wore the old Labour Protection League badge in preference to that of the Transport and General Workers. The funeral yesterday was from Mrs Henleys home in Westlake Road where she had lived for 67 years.

Also see


Sunday 16 October 2005 10.43pm
Thanks but this is a different incident. My family died on 15th September 1940. Albert Henley died on 11th May 1941. It is well known that Bermondsey was one of the most heavily hit areas of London during the Blitz and the Town Hall must have been hit more than once.
Monday 17 October 2005 10.35am
Sadly, many blitz casualties did not have the mercy of swift deaths.

I looked at the War Graves Commission site, and Two other Bermondsey civilian fatalilties on the same day are described as died later on same day at St Olaves Hospital. Looking closely at the wording on the CWGC list..
"of The Shelter, Neckinger Depot. Son of the late Benjamin Belam; husband of Susan Belam. Died at Town Hall, Spa Road."
makes me wonder whether your family members were casualties of a bomb that fell on the Shelter at the Neckinger Depot, and died of their injuries in a first aid station at the Town Hall, which was a hundred yards to the south.

I believe that the Neckinger depot was on the same site as the "Woodmill building" now occupied by Southwark's local health trust.

This would seem to make more sense, given that the 1930s Town Hall building is still standing, and I don't think that the Victorian municipal building on Spa Road next to it was destroyed until later in the war.
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