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Southwark and Lambeth curiosities in Statute Law (Repeals) Bill

London SE1 website team

On Guy Fawkes' Night the House of Lords gave an unopposed second reading to a 'bonfire' of obsolete legislation. The 800+ acts to be repealed include a number of local curiosities.

Acts to be repealed include:

The Streets (London) Act 1696 which provided for the removal of houses on London Bridge to permit the widening of the bridge at its southern end.

The Magdalen Hospital Amendment Act 1866 which authorised the sale of the site of the hospital for "penitent prosititutes" situated near St George's Circus.

The Bethlem Hospital Act 1839 which authorised the City of London to grant the hospital a lease of two acres of land in St George's Fields. The hospital site is now the Imperial War Museum.

The Southwark and East Brixton Court of Requests Act 1806 which set up a court to to handle debt disputes valued up to £5 which had arisen in Southwark or the eastern half of the Brixton hundred. The court was built in 1824 on the site of what today is the Inner London Crown Court annexe in Swan Street. None of the original buildings in the area remain.

The Church of St George, Southwark Act 1732 which recorded that the parish church of St George the Martyr "is very old, and in such a ruinous Condition, that it is dangerous for the Inhabitants of the said Parish to attend the Worship of God therein". The act authorised the use of £6,000 raised under the New Churches in London and Westminster Act of 1710 to cover the costs of rebuilding works.

The Church of St Olave, Southwark Act 1736 which authorised the levying of rates and the sale of annuities to pay for the rebuilding of this church which stood in Tooley Street.

The St Olave Southwark Rectory Act 1817 which provided income for the maintenance of the rector of St Olave and for the building of a new rectory house.

The Southwark Streets Act 1749 was passed to improve the security in the parish of St John Horselydown. The preamble to the act recorded the need for street lamps and watchmen to improve security to the local residents at night. The legislation provided for street lamps to be erected throughout the parish and for parish constables and watchmen to be appointed to keep watch in the parish each night. The parish vestry was authorised to levy rates to meet the costs of lighting and watching. The Watch House still stands in Fair Street.

The London Streets Act 1776 which provided for the lighting of Borough High Street which was not properly "lighted or watched: and Robberies and other Offences are frequently committed therein". The act appointed trustees to arrange for the lighting and watching of the road, to appoint watchmen, to provide road lamps and to levy rates to cover the costs.

The Southwark Streets Act 1778 which was passed to authorise money arising from the Orphans Fund to be used to pay for the paving of streets in Southwark.

The Southwark Improvement Act 1804 appointed commissioners to supervise the cleaning of the streets, the removal of obstructions and levy of rates.

The Southwark Improvement Act 1845 was passed to abolish the charging of turnpike tolls in Southwark on Sundays. As the preamble put it, "the Collection of such Toll is a general and public Annoyance and Inconvenience".

The bill also proposes the repeal of five obsolete 19th century acts, all passed to establish markets in Southwark and none of which proved successful.

The preamble to the South London Market Act 1834 recorded that the population of the Borough of Southwark and neighbouring parishes had been greatly increasing for many years and the establishment of a market and the erection of a market place with shops and other buildings selling fresh meat, fish, vegetables, dairy products and other commodities "would be highly advantageous to a great Part of the said Borough ... and would greatly tend to the Benefit and Advantage of the Inhabitants thereof".

It appears that this new market was planned as an extension to the existing St George's Market which had been established around 1789 in St George's Fields. The 1834 act was passed despite considerable opposition from the trustees of Borough Market.

The 1834 act incorporated the South London Market Company with power to acquire land and build and operate the new market. No part of the market was to be erected within 1000 yards of Borough Market, the company paying the trustees of Borough Market compensation for any interference with its business.

Despite further acts of parliament in 1864 and 1866 the market never got off the ground.

The South London (Elephant and Castle) Market Act 1882 was passed to authorise the establishment of a market which would, according to its preamble, sell "fish and other provisions articles and commodities in a convenient position near the Elephant & Castle tavern in the parish of Saint Mary Newington ... [and] would be advantageous to the inhabitants of that neighbourhood and of the southern part of the metropolis generally". This market lasted three years and closed in 1886.

A footnote to the Law Commission's report on the proposed repeal of the act notes that "the present day Elephant & Castle Market, situated outside the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, does not rely in any way on the powers contained in the 1882 Act".

The St George's Fields, Surrey: Right of Common Extinguished Act 1772 which was passed in order to extinguish a right of common over land called White Lyon (or Hangman's Acre) in St George's Fields in Southwark to enable the building of a new prison. The existing house of correction was said to be "too small, unhealthy, inconvenient, and unsafe, and Persons committed to the [house of correction] for Felony cannot be kept separate from those committed for small Misdemeanours, which greatly tends to the Ruin and entire Corruption of the latter".

The South London Polytechnic Institutes (Borough Road Site) Act 1890 which was to authorise the purchase of a site in Southwark for the South London Polytechnic Institutes. The Borough Polytechnic Institute opened on the site 1892 and this year its successor, London South Bank University, celebrates its 120th anniversary.

The Waterloo and Whitehall Railway Act 1865 which was passed to authorise the construction of a pneumatic railway between Great Scotland Yard and Waterloo Station.

The National Theatre Acts 1949 and 1974 which were designed and enacted to authorise the Government to contribute public funds towards the cost of erecting and equipping a new national theatre building on the South Bank.

Source: Law Commission report [PDF].

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