introducing bermondsey and rotherhithe

Bermondsey and Rotherhithe were, up until the Second World War, great centres of trade and industry. The wharfs along the River Thames and Surrey Docks on the Rotherhithe peninsula handled a range of goods. Tooley Street was known as 'London's larder', there were huge cold stores between Jamaica Road and the river, and Surrey Docks were the centre of the timber trade. Rotherhithe was significant for ship repair and barge building, and maritime-related industries like rope-making flourished. A roll-call of food processing industries grew in Bermondsey: Courage Brewery next to Tower Bridge, Cross and Blackwell in Crimscott Street, Pearce Duffs in Spa Road, Liptons on Rouel Road, and Peek Freans (first by St Saviour's Dock, then on Drummond Road). Engineering and the leather trade were also important.

This was an area of considerable poverty and deprivation. Much of the work available was casual and wages were often low. Housing conditions were appalling with overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and absentee landlords. In addition all the industrial activity made for poor air quality.

Philanthropists and social commentators were attracted to the area. It became a centre for social settlements and university and other missions. A range of innovatory and influential work emerged. The settlements in particular looked to social action. Local people also organized themselves through unions, political parties, and a range of local groups. Later, Bermondsey in particular was the focus of innovatory local government activity  and there was a transformation of housing and environmental conditions.

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