London SE1 website team

Southwark blue plaques 2005: vote now

Five SE1 icons are in the running to be honoured in this year's round of Southwark Council blue plaques.

A judging panel has whittled down scores of nominations from the public to arrive at a shortlist of much-loved celebrities, historical figures, famous places and events that have strong Southwark connections.

Now everyone can have their say to decide who wins one of the 'people's plaques', the only plaques to be voted for by members of the public.

There are 24 people and places on the shortlist – three from each of Southwark's community council areas.

Southwark Council leader Cllr Nick Stanton said: "There are so many great people and there is so much rich history associated with Southwark that we are really spoilt for choice, but these plaques are 'people's plaques' which means that everyone can have a say in deciding which Southwark heroes should be acknowledged. Voting goes on until September 2, so act now to make your mark on this year's campaign."

To cast your vote, and for more details about the 24 candidates who are battling it out on the shortlist, visit, email: or write to Blue Plaques Votes, Local History Library, 211 Borough High Street, London SE1 1JA.

The Rose Theatre

The fifth purpose-built theatre in London, the Rose was built in 1587 by shrewd businessman Philip Henslowe. It was also the first theatre on Bankside, an area already rich in leisure attractions including brothels, gaming dens, and bull and bear baiting arenas.

Little is known about the theatre's history before 1592, when Henslowe's stepdaughter, Joan Woodward, married the great Elizabethan actor Edward Alleyn whose fortunes became linked to those of the Rose.

The Rose 's success soon encouraged other theatres to be built on Bankside: the Swan in 1595 and the Globe in 1599. But compared to these new rivals the Rose rapidly came to seem small and old-fashioned. By 1606 it had been abandoned as a theatre and soon it vanished altogether.

In 1989 its remains were discovered and partially excavated. With the backing of celebrities including Richard Briers and Sir Ian McKellen, the Rose Theatre Trust is campaigning to reawaken public interest in the site, and raise funds for its full excavation.

Cross Bones Graveyard

This medieval burial ground was situated in what is now Redcross Way, SE1. There is a long-established belief that it was a final resting-place for Winchester Geese (prostitutes) from the legalised brothels or stews of Bankside. This dates back to the days when the Bishop of Winchester ran Bankside and licensed the geese. Stow, in his Survey of London (1603), describes the burial site as being for ‘single women forbidden the rites of the church so long as they continued a sinful life'.

By Victorian times, when poverty and disease were rife in the area, the site was used as a paupers' burial ground. It was closed in 1853, on the grounds that it was ‘completely overcharged with dead' and that ‘further burials were inconsistent with a due regard for the public health and public decency‘. A warehouse was built upon the site.

Recent archaeological digs at the site, for the Jubliee Line extension, uncovered a wealth of fascinating information about life, death and health through the ages. There was evidence of a highly overcrowded graveyard with bodies piled up on top of each other. Tests have shown that many of the bodies are women and children with diseases ranging from smallpox, TB and Paget's disease to osteoarthritis and vitamin D deficiency.

Elizabeth Newcomen

The widow of a well-known City mercer, Elizabeth Newcomen died in 1674, leaving a large estate in trust for her godson, for his lifetime, but on his death as an endowment for charitable uses in the parish of St Saviour. These included schooling and for poor boys and girls from the parish and also clothing for poor women.

Her legacy endures today in the Newcomen Collett Foundation whose work includes help for children with learning difficulties, grants to schools and efforts to promote education of Southwark residents under the age of 25.

Bermondsey Spa

In the 18th century Bermondsey was at the forefront of the fashion for wealthy people to ‘take the waters'. It was believed that drinking the spa waters, with their mineral salts, was beneficial to health and spa towns like Bath, Buxton and Leamington flourished.

By then, Bermondsey was already established as popular destination for day-trippers escaping the crowded City of London and, in 1770, Thomas Keyse discovered a natural spring in the grounds of his tea gardens in what is now Spa Road.

The discovery made Bermondsey fashionable and some of the area's most historic houses in Jamaica Road, Bermondsey Square and Grange Road were built at that time. A still life painter himself, Keyse opened an art gallery at the spa, which was visited by the great artist Sir Joshua Reynolds. In the evenings musical concerts and grand fireworks displays were held. For a while the spa made Bermonsdey the place to be. However, its boom was short-lived and it closed in 1804.

Sir Alexander Paterson

Sir Alexander Paterson did much to humanise Britain's prisons, holding views far ahead of his time. He first came to Bermondsey in 1906 to work at the Oxford and Bermondsey Boys Club. Living in a tenement block, he published a book in 1911 about working class life in south London, called Across the Bridge and returned to Bermondsey after the First World War where he found a job with the Prison Commission.

Paterson was a devout Christian with a firm belief in human redemption. He believed that prisons should concentrate on rehabilitation rather than punishment. He set about reforming prison to give inmates certain basic freedoms and self-respect. He allowed ordinary haircuts and clothing (as opposed to shaven heads and the broad-arrow uniforms) and more visits from the prisoners' families.

Paterson wanted to prepare prisoners to lead law-abiding lives on release so he started a training programme of hard but interesting work, extended education, and sport. Proper workshops were built, mindless tasks such as sewing mailbags were phased out and prisoners were allowed to earn money to tide them over when they were released. Many of Paterson's groundbreaking views are still held today. Paterson was knighted in 1947 and Paterson Park was named after him.

Some of those shortlisted for plaques in other parts of Southwark have strong connections with SE1, including William Blake (Nunhead & Peckham Rye), Manze's Pie and Mash Shop (Peckham) and Octavia Hill and Charlie Chaplin (Walworth).

The SE1 website is supported by people like you

Please join our membership scheme or sponsor an hour of local reporting so we can survive

You can also make a small payment to say 'thank you' for this article with Tibit:

Keep up with SE1 news

We have three email newsletters for you to choose from: