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Heritage

the cultural and social importance of the area. One of the most comprehensive heritage initiatives is taking place along the Old Kent Road. This ancient thoroughfare (first paved by the Romans before being used by the Anglo-Saxons from the 5th century) has undergone various transformations. Once a well-trod path for pilgrims, as noted in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, it was later a hive of Victorian industrialisation, before becoming the urban retail sprawl we see today. Fortunately, the 1.8-mile London artery is now being given the historical recognition it deserves. The Old Kent Road Opportunity Area stretches from the Bricklayers Arms in the north to the boundary with Lewisham in the south. “For many people, it is just somewhere to do your Christmas shopping or buy a new computer. They wouldn’t necessarily associate it with heritage,” Tsoukaris says. However, after carrying out an extensive characterisation study, the team identified more than 60 buildings of historical interest. The Stables are a case in point. Situated

THESE BUILDINGS HAVE PROVED THEY CAN STAND THE TEST OF TIME AND MULTIPLE USES amid the current industrial spread and at the heart of the planned redevelopment by Colliers, this group of Victorian outbuildings offered a final nod to the former Bricklayers Arms railway goods depot, where they had served as a hospital for the many horses used by the railway. And although the stables were still in use, the freeholder was willing to sell the site, which had been earmarked for an eight-storey apartment block.

However, realising the importance of the historical buildings, Southwark Council placed them under an “Article Four directive” – meaning that planning permission would have to be sought before demolition – effectively quashing the sale. “Any site outside a conservation area can be demolished without planning permission and left as an empty site. It doesn’t matter how old the building is or what its previous use was. This was the risk in this case, so we used our power to take away the demolition rights. We wanted a positive development and we are currently looking to do that with all the buildings in the Old Kent Road that we have identified as ‘at risk’,” says Tsoukaris. Another example is the Old Kent Road’s Gasholders, which stand at the eastern end of the highway. Formerly owned by the South Metropolitan Gas Company, the Grade IIlisted buildings were designed by Sir George Livesey and in operation until 1953. Their future had looked uncertain until the site was bought by Southwark Council in 2017. It is now hoped the industrial monuments will form a backdrop for a new ‘urban park,’ to include an arts and community performance venue. And it is not only above ground where plans are afoot to save Southwark’s past. Surface work is under way to construct Bear Gardens – a 75-room boutique hotel which is set to take its place as part of the redevelopment of Bankside – subterranean strategies have been put in place to ensure that the site of London’s famous 16th-century ‘bear pit’ below is preserved. “This is very important archaeologically,” explains Tsoukarkis. “The bear pit has been given ‘Ancient Monument’ status, and although the public cannot access it, its new status means it will be preserved under the building that stands on the site, and it always will be.” While developers may not always agree to conform architecturally, they are often keen to keep the area’s social history alive, even if it is in name only. This is the case on the former Vinopolis plot where the former trades of these streets are being resurrected as part of the new urban landscape. Hence; Soap Yard, Dirty Lane and Clink Yard will once more make an appearance. Tsoukaris says: “Often there’s a point in the planning process when developers realise what they are dealing with in terms of heritage. They often get fired up by the site’s past, which often then acts as a hook to create something for the future.” And while there are those who will always hark back to the glory of the borough’s architectural past, some projects are rightly celebrated as a beacon of how society has

48 issue 20 winter 2018

46-49_southwark20_heritage8.indd 48

23/11/2018 15:38

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Southwark magazine #20  

Over 20 issues, Southwark magazine has covered the transformation of the London borough, showcasing the influential buildings, strong commun...

Southwark magazine #20  

Over 20 issues, Southwark magazine has covered the transformation of the London borough, showcasing the influential buildings, strong commun...