Southwark has long been at the heart of London culture. Unlike some of the relatively recent outer borough’s – which began their relentless sprawl in the 17th & 18th centuries, Southwark is a part of the capital that’s been around a long time.
Which means it’s seen every bank holiday there’s ever been – because Bank Holiday’s only came into UK legislation in 1871. Lying along the south bank of the Thames, it’s long provided a residential and commercial hub to the rest of central London. So if you like a bit of history, there’s a stack of stuff to do in Southwark this Bank Holiday that’ll be right up your street.
Visit the Clink
No, we’re not advocating getting yourself into trouble with the Metropolitan Police. The Clink is a medieval prison museum on the original site of The Clink – Southwark’s Prison. Not unsurprisingly, it is thought to have been the origin of the phrase ‘in the clink’. Built around 1144, it spanned an incredible 600 years of incarceration of sinners, debtors, heretics, drunkards, harlots and religious prisoners.
At £7.50 for adults, £5.50 for Children or £18 for a family ticket (2 adults/2 children) it’s great value, although, as medieval prison’s were pretty gruesome places, you may feel it is not suitable for young children. Visit the Clink’s website to find out more.
Get on your Bike
If you’re after a more active way to see London’s sights, then how about a Bike tour? The London Cycle Tour Company operate guided bicycle tours from their base in Gabriel’s Wharf. The Central Tour takes in a chunk of the Southbank as well as some of the best known sights north of the river. – including Buckingham Palace, The Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square and the Tate Modern.
The three hour tour costs £23.95 and includes bike hire.
The Golden Hind
Between 1577 & 1580, Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe. It was the second full navigation of the planet in history. What’s all the more astounding is the maritime technology available at the time wasn’t exactly what you’d call advanced. In fact the boat he did it in – The Golden Hind (renamed from Pelican by Drake half-way through the voyage) was just 102ft in length and had a top speed of 8 knots.
St Mary Overie Dock on Cathedral Street, Southwark is home to Golden Hind II – a replica of Drake’s ship, launched in 1973. This boat was at least the equal of it’s namesake and covered an impressive 140,000 miles visiting all corners of the globe – until 1996, when she was retired to her current home.
We’d recommend a guided tour – so you can learn all about the conditions endured by the Elizabethan explorers. A Family ticket – at £20 – is great value. Visit GoldenHind.com to find out more and to book.
Always a firm favourite – if you’ve decided to immerse ye-self in Elizabethan culture, then the Globe theatre (a replica of London’s famous Shakespearean entertainment venue) is only a stone’s throw from the Golden Hind. The theatres exhibition and tour are open daily and gives visitors an unrivalled opportunity to learn and understand Shakespeare’s world, writing and contribution to performance art.
If you’re really quick you might be able to book tickets for the Monday evening’s performance – As You Like It – one of the Bard’s best loved comedies. Find out more on the Globe’s website.
VE day and World War II
With the VE day commemoration still fresh in the mind – and the controversial “A Royal Night Out” hitting cinemas – you might find yourself wanting to learn about the sacrifices made just a few generations ago. The Imperial War Museum’s Fashion on the Ration exhibition runs until 31 August and explores the innovation of street styles in war-torn London. Visit the IWM website to discover how Londoner’s dressed well in Austere times.
And if you’re wandering what all the fuss was about, and thinking London is a busy old place in 2015 – watch this short silent clip of the VE day celebrations.