What’s it all about?
With its docks located on the south bank of the Thames making it a target for bombers, Bermondsey suffered greatly during and post World War II, with large swathes of it left badly damaged, and it was not until relatively recently that the area began to capitalise on the potential offered by its Dickensian backstreets, river views and industrial chic. These days, Bermondsey is back with a vengeance – not only does its central location make it perfect for people working in town but it has become a mecca for foodies and culture seekers. The patch around Maltby Street’s railway arches, now known as Rope Walk, offers street food, innovative dining and cafe culture, while the White Cube gallery and the Fashion and Textile Museum add to the area’s attractions. To some the divide between gentrified and original areas can seem jarring, but to others it gives the area its unique charm, and the neighbourhood appeals to a younger, creative crowd. Despite its zone 1 location, many residents have strong community ties, whether living in converted warehouses on the water’s edge or family houses. The area is well served by buses and trains, but for many part of the joy of living here is the morning walk over either London Bridge or Tower Bridge.
- Bermondsey is thought to be named after Beormund, the Saxon lord of the district, and ea or eye, meaning ‘island’, because of its riverside location.
- It is estimated that at the end of the 18th century a third of all the leather produced in England was made in Bermondsey, and confectioner Peek, Frean & Co moved its factory there in 1857, earning the area the nickname of ‘biscuit town’.
Architecture and property
After the decline of London shipping in the 1960s, the area around the docks in north east Bermondsey was left derelict. It took the creation of the London Docklands Development Corporation in 1981 to kickstart the development of Bermondsey riverside. Since then, the area has flourished as a desirable London location and the sheer variety of Bermondsey’s architectural styles point to key periods in the city’s history. From pre war homes and ex-council houses to upmarket period flats, warehouse conversions and recent luxury developments, it is a melting pot of real estate traditions.
This historic part of London has seen extensive regeneration in the past decade and now offers a range of property types, including many new builds, riverside warehouse conversions and Victorian terraces. The thriving arts scene, proximity to the centre of town and plethora of new restaurants and bars have moved Bermondsey from up and coming to firmly established.
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Culture: Shortwave is an independent cinema screening the best arthouse films. With only 52 seats, it’s best to book in advance. The Scoop at City Hall offers a range of live performances, showcasing everything from opera to dance, as well as film showings. Within a short walk are The Unicorn Theatre, specialising in children’s productions, the award winning Menier Chocolate Factory and the Southwark Playhouse. The area is well served for art spaces, including The White Cube Gallery with its three exhibition spaces spread over 58,000 sq ft, making it one of the largest commercial art spaces in Europe, and ArthouseSE1, a smaller, more intimate gallery. Exhibitions at the nearby Design Museum attract thousands of visitors every year.
Food and drink: The locals of Bermondsey are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating and drinking. From modern Italian at Zucca or sherry and tapas at José, to traditional French cuisine at Casse-Croute, Bermondsey Street has a great range of dining options. The Hide Bar is popular for cocktails after work, while those in search of a pint or two often make for The Woolpack, where the menus make the most of locally sourced produce.
- Kitty Travers has won over the locals with her ice creams and sorbets at La Grotta Ices, while O’Shea’s Butchers is a magnet for those looking for organic free range cuts.
- For a couture outfit for that special occasion, head for Amanda Thompson Couture on Bermondsey Street.
- Fitness For Everybody offers a high level of personal service, while The Seven Islands Leisure Centre, just a short hop away in Rotherhithe, has a swimming pool, gym and sports hall.
- The unusual Canada Water library, designed like an inverted pyramid, is a celebrated building by architect Piers Gough, and has proved a welcome new addition at a time when many libraries are closing.
- Maltby Street Market is the perfect location for foodies who want to avoid the crowds at Borough Market. On a Saturday, drop in for a tasting at Jensen’s Bermondsey Gin distillery on your way to the Spa Terminus food market further east, where more tasty treats can be found. Oliveology, London Honey Company and The Ham & Cheese Co are particular local favourites.
- If you need a supermarket, there are a number of Tesco stores within walking distance, as well as a couple of nearby Marks & Spencer Food. The Asda superstore on Old Kent Road has a large car park.
- Fridays are for bargain hunting at the Bermondsey Antiques Market. From 6am to 2pm each week, traders sell everything from cutlery and china to furniture and jewellery.
- There are a couple of large car parks in the area and several streets with pay and display bays.
Southwark Park covers 25 hectares of greenery, including a cafe and children’s play room. The bandstand is a focal point, hosting different events and performances in summer, and the art gallery Cafe Gallery Projects London is known for its excellent exhibitions. There are several smaller parks in the area, including Bermondsey Spa Gardens, with its extensive facilities for children.
Bermondsey on the river
Bermondsey has risen from the ashes of World War II to provide residents with waterside apartments and high class restaurants. Alongside salubrious docks such as Butler’s Wharf, Bermondsey’s creative hub thrives, with the Fashion and Textile museum and Bermondsey Antiques Market all adding to this riverside locale’s allure.
Find out more about the perks of living on the river here.
Bermondsey has seen a flurry of development activity in recent years. Brand new one and two bedroom apartments abound in new complexes, such as Bermondsey Spa, which offers flats to purchase under shared ownership.
Tube: Bermondsey station on the Jubilee line provides good links to Westminster, Bond Street and Canary Wharf.
Rail: Trains from South Bermondsey station take just eight minutes into London Bridge and also serve the Beckenham Junction and West Croydon routes.
Bus: Local routes include the C10 (to Victoria), P12 (to Canada Water/Surrey Quays), 47/N47 (to London Bridge and Shoreditch), 188 (to Waterloo), and 381/N381 (to London Bridge).
Cycle: There is a largely traffic free route from Camberwell to Durand’s Wharf on the river, thanks to the South Bermondsey walking and cycling network.
Getting away: For a complete change of scene, London City Airport is only half an hour away by public transport.
Parents are spoilt for choice in Bermondsey, with an impressive number of local schools, both primary and secondary. Particular favourites include St Joseph's Roman Catholic Primary School and St Michael's Catholic College. Both City of London schools are good options for those seeking private education.
Please see our schools tab for more information on schools in this area.
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