Continuing the walk around modern London following the route of the lost fortifications erected during the English Civil War.
- Bulwarks and redoubts were types of fortifications – basically small forts.
- Hornwork was another type of fortification, usually built near a larger fort or building to create another layer of defence.
- Flanks were the sides.
- A battery was a strong position that held one or more cannons.
- Breastwork meant steep mounds of earth or stone with fences to stop attacking forces.
Day 4 – Vauxhall to Rotherhithe
20) A Quadrant Fort with 4 Half Bulwarks, at Vaux-hall.
In the head of which town, westward, and close by the river, I visited the Nyne-Elmes Fort, composed of foure angles, five ports, and five demi-culverines, being slenderly pallosaded, and single ditched; for this fort and Tuttle Fort stand opposite to other, the river only dividing them.
Whence, following my circuiary progresse, I enhanced my desired view of Fauxhall Fort, which, indeed, is a delicate, large, and defensive work, being twice pallosaded, once ditched, and bearing the burthen of four- teen culverines.
Crossing over the bridge, we come to an area of some ambiguity about where the Vaux-hall fort may have stood.
It could have been anywhere in the Vauxhall Bridge area, and unfortunately, no one seems to have carried out any archeological explorations. At least, if any were done under the MI6 building, they’re not saying!
Even the Pleasure Garden park is modern, as while the area was once open, it was later built upon and then cleared again. So the park is a bit of a miss-leader.
So lets head under the railway and past Vauxhall station, onto Kennington Lane to have a look at the park. Next to the famous Royal Vauxhall Tavern is the entrance to the site of one of mid-17th century to the mid-19th century London’s greatest attractions – the pleasure garden.
The first known reference to the pleasure garden is by Samuel Pepys in 1662, so it has the potential to be the site of the former fort which was repurposed, but that is speculation.
The park closed in 1859 and was built on, but slum clearances saw the park we are now in being created, so it is a modern park.
You might spot a short row of curious homes, but look up – there’s a stature of a vulture on the roof.
Carry along Tyers Street to the very end, and then cross over on the crossing into one of London’s famous streets – and do the Lambeth Walk.
The street is sadly a pale shadow of its former self, with the shops rather run down, or simply closed entirely. What is worth noting though is the murals. Walk past the row of shops, and there’s a square on the right side, and if you look up, there are five murals, that were installed in the early 1980s.
They celebrate the region’s music hall stars including Charlie Chaplin, its street markets, a free school for the poor, the ceramics industry and the theatre. Like the shops, they had decayed, but were recently restored by the local tenants association.
Carry along the Lambeth Walk, and do notice the Victorian era post box just past the London Eye Hostel, and straight ahead on the horizon is a most peculiar building.
Bringing your eyes back to the road, carry along the Lambeth Walk, and a short walk along is a rather impressive brick decorated building. This is the Pelham Mission Hall, with its distinctive outdoor pulpit. Built in 1910 and closed as a church in the 1970s, it is now part of Morley College.
Carry on around the corner to Lambeth Road and turn right to head towards the Imperial War Museum.
21) A Fort with 4 Half Bulwarks, at the Dogg and Duck in St. George’s Fields.
22) A Large Fort with 4 Bulwarks, near the end of Blackman Street.
And hence, transported amaine, with a greedy desire to surveigh S. Georges Field, I found, half way hither, a singular countercarp, and fortified, besides workmanship, with three half culverines: and then I arryved at the Fort Royall, in Georges Field; which, indeed, of all the works I have as yet made mention of, this is the only rarest and fairest, and contryved and reared after the moderne modell of an impregnant citadale, having foure large bulwarks, every one counterbanding another, from flank to flank; and the foure intervening quarters are also interlaced with spacious and defensible midworks: the maine bosome of which, with the incumbent insides of the foure promontories, may easily contaiue three thousand men; the foure corners being destinated for twenty-foure cannon reall.
The exteriour works are not as yet accomplished, (although fast advancing,) but certainly they will bee perfyted after the Londonian forts, as I have newly rehearsed; neither are the trenches done, which are drawn along thence to the top of Southwark, called Nevington Fort; the which is composed of two flanking redoubts, divyding nine pieces of ordonance between them, having two courts du guard, and backed with two countercarps, infringing the road- way passenger, till a condigne tryall of what are you, what carry you, and from whence came you, bee demanded.
This is one of the more provable sites for the fort, as a well known pub later occupied the site, which was known for being surrounded by mounds of soil left over from the fortification.
The Dog and Duck pub stood here for many years, and its said by researcher, Donald Imber that surface features that could be identified with the fort were still visible in the 1970s.
Comparing a lot of old maps, and the site of the pub can be fairly reasonably placed just to the left of the main entrance, which with a certain degree of irony means that the Tibetan Peace Garden almost certainly sits on top of a military fort.
On to the next fort, which is also fairly accurately locatable.
Being described as near the top of Blackman Street, leave the grounds of the Imperial War Museum and turn left to cross over the road by St George’s Cathedral, a Catholic gothic revival building that’s about 160 years old.
On this side of the road you’ll probably notice its a high wall and fence. This is the London Road train depot for Bakerloo line trains, a triangular slab of open air railway tracks in a very valuable plot of land.
There’s talk of TfL redeveloping the site in the near future.
Carry on past, and you’ll come to St George’s Circus, with an obelisk in the centre. This was the site of the first purpose built traffic junction in London, built in 1771 and the obelisk used to have four oil lamps on it.
The obelisk was moved in 1905 to be replaced by a clock tower, but that was in turn demolished in the 1930s. The obelisk, missing its oil lamps only returned in the late 1990s.
Cross over and turn into Borough Road and head along here. Notice the ornate, but now closed library, which was built thanks to donations by the philanthropist John Passmore Edwards.
Carry on, and when we get to the junction with Newington Causeway, cross over the road, and you might hear (above the street noise) a roaring sound. Head around the trees and you’ll spy the origin of the noise – a ventelation shaft for the Northern Line, looking totally out of place in front of the grand facade of the court houses.
But, back to the forts, head north a little way along Borough High Street until you get to the police station. Here is the only sign you will see along the entire route marking the site of one of the forts.
23) A Redoubt with 4 Flanks near the Lock Hospital in Kent Street.
Hence I continued my purpose to the top of Kent Street, and found there only a circuiary rampire of smal importance, fensed with a single ditch, between two ditches, and enstald with five piece of ordonance; and so is the other, at the back of Redreiff, but more defensible than the other; yet they are both to be interlarded with redoubts and countercarps in the intrenched grounds.
So here, at Redreiff Fort, just opposite to Wapine Fort, I finished the pilgrimagious toyle of a wearisome dayes journey, the circuit whereof, on both sides the river, amounteth to eighteen Kentish myles.
Lets head towards London Bridge a bit more, cross over at the junction to go past the imposing St George the Martyr church, and next to it stop at the paved courtyard.
This is in fact the top of Kent Street, and is likely to be following the path of an old Roman road. It’s also notable for being paved from 1565 with hard stone from where you’re standing to the far end of the road, where the fort ended up being located, on the site of a former hospital for lepers.
The former Kent Street is now called Tabard Street, but we’re going to take a short diversion, head north again past the first building, and you’ll spy an alleyway.
Walk along, and notice the many inscriptions in the ground – for this is the site of the infamous Marshalsea prison, made famous by Charles Dickens. You are in fact inside of the prison at the moment, so you might want to hurry along lest someone restrains your escape.
Carry on to the end of the alley, follow the road around to the right and cross over, then carry on past the Soho Gym to the other side of the new development. We’re back on to the old Kent Road, so turn left and head away from central London.
As you walk along, notice on the right side the old council housing blocks, and look at the railings. They’re old WW2 stretchers, repurposed after the war for council housing. There’s still a number of estates in London that have them.
The fortification line didn’t follow this street, as far as we call tell, but the street, being paved in an area that was still largely rural is probably why the end of the street was chosen as a location for the fort.
Head down to the end, to the Bricklayers Arms roundabout, and it’s somewhere around here that the fort would have stood. Not in the roundabout, which is modern, but in this area. Sadly, the whole area was built on soon after the civil war and remained largely industrial until recent times.
There is a possibility that works to extend the Bakerloo line may see some excavations here for a ventilation shaft, and it would be an exceptional stroke of luck if anything was found to show the fort or the wall.
The final leg is going to be a feat of diversions as there is no evidence where the wall ran, and even if we did know, the route has long since vanished, so head up Tower Bridge Road until you get to Grange Road, and turn right.
This was a fur factory, and there’s a sign next to the entrance explaining its history, so I wont recount that here.
Cross over into Bermondsey Spa Park, and although not mentioned by our Scottish companion, a later writer talked of a large fort around this location.
Turn into the park, and keep to the Spa Road side, walk around the circle, and you’ll see a stone in the park by a large tree. This is the Tree of Heaven, which was dedicated to the local councillors who lined the local streets with many such trees to ease the effects of the industrial factories on the poor who lived here.
Leave the park, by the exit opposite the former Town Hall, and turn up Spa Road and stop just before the railway. This was the site of a former railway station, at Spa Road, and the original London terminus of the railway from Greenwich before London Bridge was built.
Pass through the narrow tunnel under the railway, and notice the small entrances on the sides, which used to lead up to the platforms, and head up to Jamaica Road, then turn right.
Head along past Bermondsey Tube station and keep going a bit further along until you come to a modest brick block of flats. Notice the stone plaque, and read the inscription, then look up — there’s a stone gargole on the roof, which was taken from the Houses of Parliament.
Quite why it ended up here is a curiosity, but a pleasing one.
Now, either head back to the tube station and cross to the other side of the road, or cross over here, depending on bravery and road traffic conditions, then carry on along Jamaica Road until you reach Cathy Street, and head up here until you get to the river.
You’ll spot a large open field with stone ruins, but yet again, don’t get excited. Well, not excited to have found a civil war defence, for this isn’t it. But it is exciting, it’s the remains of King Edward III’s manor house.
King Edward III was crowned aged just 14 in 1327, and the deposition of his rather useless father and reigned for 50 years until his death in 1377. Quite when the Manor House was built is however uncertain, although, the earliest references are from 1349.
The remains were only uncovered only in 1985-7 as part of the Docklands redevelopment works.
Back to the civil war though, and exactly where their fort stood is unknown, any archeology in Southwark park for example was lost when it was covered in spoil from digging the Rotherhithe tunnel in the 19th century.
But, this spot, next to a riverpath that used to be called Redriff Wall seems a most appropriate point to end the walk, at what might have been the location for Redriff fort.
Looking across the Thames, you might spy the spot where you started, and maybe imagine 17th century Parliamentarians watching for invading ships, ready to haul up a mighty chain that lay on the river bed to deny the ships entry into London.
Now pop into the pub, the oldest in the area, for a well earned pint.
From which I may say, that London was never truly London till now; for now she sits like a noble lady upon a royall throne, securing all her encroaching pendicles under the wings of a motherly protection: yet these limites were never heretofore granted, till the parliament, for their better safety, confirmed this construction, that (Grand Cayro excepted) I have not seen a larger inveloped compasse within the whole universe. By which computation, I apprehend that this circuit comprehends above five hundred thousand dwelling houses, aud in them large three millions of soules; that, me thinkes, he were a happy prince that could be but only king of such a city as London now sits intrenched, though he had no more provinces besides.