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The Liberty of the Clink

Download larger PDF map | Images below: left - Northern of the 2 CLINK 1812 bollards at the Southwark Bridge Rd end of Keppel Row, middle - ‘BORO MARKET’ bollards and gas lamp standard at the rear of the Globe public house, Bedale St, right - London Hydraulic Power Company valve box at the north end of Stoney St.

The Liberty of the Clink was so-called because it was exempt from the jurisdiction of the Sheriff's County High Court. It originally occupied the north east part of the Hide of Southwark, which was granted by Henry I to the Priory of Bermondsey in 1104-9, which then sold it to the Bishop of Winchester circa 1149.

The Liberty's special status was abolished during the Commonwealth. It was reinstated at the Restoration, but was finally abolished in 1889 under the 1888 Local Government Act and merged into the County of Surrey.

The 1812 “CLINK” bollards

It is these bollards that are the theme of this walk. An Act of 1786 established the Clink Paving Commission. In 1812 the Commissioners ordered 60 cast iron street posts to be made by Messrs. Bishop & Co., and in 1813 they also bought a number of posts made from guns. Many of the former, with the inscription “CLINK 1812”, and a few of the latter still survive. The post that best resembles a genuine cannon can be found on the north side of Bankside by the west side of Southwark Bridge, which displays evidence of the trunnions having been removed, and whose bore of app. 80 mm. suggests that it might have been a 4 pounder.

Suggested Route

START: Christ Church, Blackfriars Road

Before embarking on the walk, it is recommended that a visit be made to this modest post-war church on the west side of Blackfriars Road. Although it is just outside the boundary of the Liberty, it contains much of interest about the area. The church dates from 1960 and replaces the 18th century church which was badly damaged during the Blitz. It is a decent example of the more conservative school of post-War church architecture, combining elements of the neo-Georgian and Art Deco styles. It presents itself well to the main road and at the same time sits comfortably in its churchyard.

It is particularly notable, however, for its interior, which retains a full set of contemporary glass windows in the nave. These windows, by K.G.Bunton, 1959, depict local trades and industries of the 1950's and the 18th century. They are vigorously drawn and boldly coloured, conspicuously lacking the drab insipidity of so much 1950's glass.

Bollards inscribed “CLINK 1812” can be found at the following locations:

Hopton Street: 2 at the north end. One on the east side, one at the north end. Not listed.

Bank End: 1 on the west side at the south east corner of the Anchor P.H. Listed grade II.

Bank Side: 2 on the south side at the north east corner of the Anchor P.H. Listed grade II. 1 on the north side at the foot of the steps beside Cannon Street railway bridge. Listed grade II.

Cathedral Street: 1 on the west side, on the north corner of the junction with Winchester Walk. Listed grade II.

Park Street: 1 on the north side outside No. 4. Not listed. 1 (of a group of 5) on the south west side in front of Nos. 21 & 23. All 5 are listed but only the third from the south is inscribed. 1 on the north side at the south east corner of No. 58. Listed grade II.

Keppel Row: 2 at the Southwark Bridge Road end. Not listed.

Great Guildford Street: 1 on the west side, on the south side of the junction with Copperfield Street. Listedgrade II. Listed grade II.

Copperfield Street: 2 at the north east corner of the junction with Pepper Street. Not listed.

Union Street: 2 on the north side east of the junction with Ewer Street. Listed grade II.

Ewer Street: 2 on the east side just north of the junction with Union Street. Listed grade II.1 on the west side beneath the railway. Not listed.

Great Suffolk Street: 2 on the east side on either side of the junction with Farnham Place. Not listed.

FINISH: Kirkaldy's Testing and Experimenting Works

On the south side of Southwark Street can be seen a pedimented doorway whose tympanum contains the statement “FACTS NOT OPINIONS”. This typically Victorian motto marks the premises of David Kirkaldy (1820-97) at No. 99. Kirkaldy was a Scottish engineer who specialised in the testing of building and engineering materials and whose firm remained in business at No. 99 until 1974. He moved his business from Glasgow to London in 1866 and his new building in Southwark Street was opened in 1874 to house his unique testing machine. This machine, which was hydraulically powered and which still survives in working order in the basement at No.99, is 47'- 6” long and weighs 116 tons. It was designed to test in tension, compression, bending, torsion, shear, punching and bulging. It was capable of applying a load of 440 tons.

Hidden History

As you stroll Bankside searching for bollards, also keep an eye out for LHP valve box covers on the roads. In London the London Hydraulic Power Company (LHP), established in 1884, set up a network of mains which remained in operation until their last pumping station closed in 1977.

Water is virtually incompressible and, when pressurised, exerts an equal pressure in all directions. Pressure can therefore be transmitted over long distances: about 15 miles from the pressure source being the maximum economic distance. Before the transmission of electric power began in the early 20th century water under pressure was used extensively as a means of power distribution, usually for operating heavy equipment such as warehouse hoists.

The LHP's system comprised a series of pumping stations delivering water at 700 lbs/sq. in. into a network of cast iron pressure mains north and south of the river. Clients could have their premises connected to the mains, allowing them access to a clean and reliable source of energy.

Although the LHP has had its day, it has left a few traces by which premises which made use of the network can be identified. The most obvious are the iron or steel jib cranes alongside the upper floor taking-in doors of warehouses and workshops.

Some good examples can be seen in Stoney Street. The more recent cranes would probably have been electrically powered, but many were on the LHP's main, evidence of which can still occasionally be seen in the roadway or on the pavement alongside the premises in question in the form of small cast iron valve box covers connection of the client's premises with the street main. Examples can be seen in Clink Street under the railway arch and in Ayers Street.

Paul Calvocoressi, July 2011

Images above: left - CLINK 1812 bollard of the west side of Union St. beneath the railway; right - CLINK 1812 bollard on the north side of Union St, just to the east of Ewer St.