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History and Heritage

London Bridge Hospital History

Chamberlain's Wharf

The present Victorian Chamberlain's Wharf building, which houses London Bridge Hospital's main building, was built as a warehouse in the 1860s. It replaced earlier warehouses, which had been rebuilt several times and dated back to the seventeenth century. Before that, the site had been occupied by one of the splendid ecclesiastic palaces, the Inn of St Augustine's Abbey, which was turned into warehouses after Henry VIII closed down the monasteries and sold off church property. The previous Chamberlain's Wharf buildings were destroyed in the disastrous Great Fire of Tooley Street, which burned out many hundreds of square feet of warehouses in 1861. Chamberlain's Wharf was then rebuilt as a single building, with the ground floor footprint of the previous multiple buildings lending to its particular shape at the front.

The earlier buildings escaped fire damage in 1843, when a fire destroyed all of the buildings upstream, including St Olave's Church. The warehouses were rebuilt, with the church being restored to its former eighteenth century condition. The warehouse was used for tea storage and goods from the Baltic.

St. Olaf House

St Olaf House, which houses London Bridge Hospital's Consulting rooms and Cardiology Department, was built as the Headquarters for Hay's Wharf in 1931. This outstanding example of an Art Deco building was designed by the famous architect, H.S. Goodhart-Rendel, and is one of his best known works. It is a listed building, with its well-known river facade and its Doulton faience panels by Frank Dobson, showing dock life and the unloading of goods – 'Capital, Labour and Commerce'. The boardroom has been used in several television commercials, including an advertisement for British Airways.

The Chairman of Hay's Wharf, Sir David Burnett, was also an artist, who created several pieces showing the docks, including the Chamberlain's Wharf area. As the docking industry moved down the river to Tilbury, it was Sir David who started the commercial development of the area, creating offices, shops, housing and the founding of London Bridge Hospital.

St Olaf House had been occupied for many centuries by the historic St Olave's Church, which was the parish church for the area, and remained so through all the changes to the district, up to 1928. The tower was a landmark in the area through medieval times, and was replaced by a new tower as part of its rebuilding in the eighteenth century. The new tower was designed by Henry Flitcroft, a well-known architect of the period.

 

Emblem House (Incorporating Denmark House)

Emblem House and Denmark House, which house London Bridge Hospital's Outpatient Centre, Physiotherapy Department and Pharmacy were both built in 1900 as shipping and general offices. The larger, Emblem House has an interesting façade, in faience, and Denmark House has a large intricate stone sculpture at roof level, showing a merchant ship. This is typical of the offices that served the adjacent wharfs, which were used to bring in a variety of food products – leading to this side of the Pool of London becoming known as the 'Larder of London'.

The extensive cellars were used for storage of a variety of items, including the Czar of Russia's silver reserves, and later that of Lenin's. The silver was shipped out of the building when necessary in a plain-looking bread delivery van.

 

29-33 Tooley Street

N29-33 Tooley Street, which house London Bridge Hospital's Women's Centre, Cancer Treatment Suite and consultation rooms were built in 1860 as shipping offices. Through much of the later nineteenth century, most of Tooley Street was fronted by very similar four-storey buildings.

These were progressively replaced by the end of the century with huge six-storey warehouse fronts on the north side of Tooley Street, and on the south side by the ever-widening railway viaduct to the busy London Bridge Station.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Tooley Street progressively became a dock road, serving the giant warehouses of the Pool of London, whereas before it had been a route of pilgrimage to Bermondsey Abbey; crossing various fish-filled streams, and fronted by a whole series of large church palaces, as well as the riverside town houses of the church dignitaries.

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