This is a pedestrianised street close to Southwark tube station that was renamed a year ago as Marion’s Way after the local resident and campaigner, Marion Marples, who died in 2019. This length of the street was pedestrianised 20 years ago when it was closed to local traffic, but still retained its original name of Gambia Street, and over time was improved by the local community, when a local garden group was set up.

This part of Southwark was mainly orchards and tenter grounds (open fields where cloths were pulled tight on racks)  in the 1740s, but was redeveloped for housing in the 1770s after Blackfriars Bridge had opened in 1769.

The streets all had very Georgian names at the time.

R Horwood Map 1799

The southern end, Scoresby Street was Pitt Street, after the Prime Minister, while the northern road was George Street. This alleyway was originally William Street, then Gambia Street, but seems to have been renamed around the early 1890s as the earliest reference I can find mentioning its new name is the railway widening act of 1895.

It was also this act that was to see the houses on the eastern side of the alley demolished, and replaced with the road ramp that still exists today. At the time it lead to a goods depot next to the railway and is today used as office and storage space by Network Rail. It’s amusing to speculate if the pub on the southern corner survived demolition because the landlord was the well-known boxer, Arthur Wilson, and the lawyers didn’t fancy that sort of fight.

The alley remained a road until 20 years ago, when the northern end was pedestrianised, although the current cobbled street layout was created in 2003/4 to a design by John Eger Architects. In September 2021, the pedestrianised street was renamed from Gambia Street to Marion’s Way, after the local resident and campaigner, Marion Marples

Today it’s still a well used passage through this part of London, with a mix of cobbled (setts) paving dominating the area along with some pretty decently established trees providing shade. A large section at the northern end is richly planted in raised brick bedding and has seating areas to relax in.

The themes for the mosaics came from the Gambia Street Garden Group, and include references to blackbirds and bees, the local Christchurch, and two former local businesses, the Tress Hat company and Stephen’s Inks. And, one of the mosaics is of a scallop shell, a tribute to Marion Marples and a reference to her long association with the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

The mosaics are decorative, but their placement is deliberate. They cover holes in the paving that had been intended to be used for pot plants that, in theory, should have overflown the mounds, but that never quite worked. So bright mosaics replaced dead plants.

At the southern end is a legacy of when the eastern side was lined with houses, and this Spanish restaurant is the former Hop Pole pub that closed in 1999.

Apart from the handful of people sitting when I visited, the most notable occupant of the alley today is the pigeons. There are a lot of them. The main thing though is that thanks to community action, a bit of a rat run of a road is now a calm quiet space to walk through, or stop for a rest.


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One comment
  1. Kit Green says:

    In the first (I think) Harry Potter film there is a scene where Harry is in an upstairs room with a train going past the window. This was the view from a back room of The Hop Pole.

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