Bermondsey In Photos: 1930-2017

The part of London I grew up in has changed since 1930, but most of it is still recognisable.

Girls playing in a back garden in Marden Road, 1930

Shoppers at the busy street market. Blue Anchor Lane, around 1932.

A VE Day street party, 1945.

Market traders and a passing Tram. Bermondsey Street, 1945.

Tommy Steele was a local boy who became a famous pop singer in 1956. He went on to a career in pop musicals and hit records that lasted until today. (He is 85) This is a modern photo, superimposed over one of excited fans greeting him outside St James’s church Bermondsey, early 1960s. The same church where my parents were married.

Tommy again, in 1966. He is visiting a school in Bermondsey.

Paragon Secondary School, early 1970s. The Victorian school in Searles Road Bermondsey was later converted into apartments, in 2000.

A grandmother watching her granddaughter, 1976.

High-rise flats built in the late 1960s, photographed in 2017.

43 thoughts on “Bermondsey In Photos: 1930-2017

  1. I’ve seen many flats like those, Pete, and there was a fabulous-looking school that also got converted into luxury apartments, although the actual school just sold the building and moved into a new built. It is strange how things have changed beyond recognition and others remain pretty much the same. I’m reading a novel set in Victorian London, which is fascinating. Enjoy the week!

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    1. Regarding the flats in the last photo, each would have had two bedrooms, one main living room, and a quite small kitchen, with no room for a dining table. The bathroom and toilet would have been separate, and the floors would have been accessed by a lift. (elevator) These were social housing, built by the local Borough Council. Working people who wanted to rent one would have been charged around £6-£7 a week in 1965. (The average working class wage was less than £20 a week, but most women would have worked at least part-time.) Today, the rent on those same flats might be as high as £550 a month. Anyone who cannot afford to pay that might qualify for a supplementary housing benefit, paid by the government.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. (1) A passerby spotted three girls in the garden, all of whom were named Mary. Asked the passerby, “Mary, Mary, Mary, all quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” The three girls replied in unison, “With silver bells and cockle shells and pretty red maids all in a row!”
    (2) Overheard in 1122 AD somewhere in Cambodia:
    Royal engineer: “I think we should name the main road Blue Angkor Lane.”
    King Suryavarman II : “Wat?!”
    (3) A German immigrant drove his VW through a crowd that had gathered for a Victory in Europe Day street party. As the people scattered, they shouted, “Party pooper!”
    (4) I always jump at the chance to see tram photos. I remember this one in particular: “Street tramps and a passing Tram. Poline Street, 1945.”
    (5) I heard that Tommy Steele, who was a thief and a con man before becoming a pop singer, once claimed he was an expert marksman with his trusty Remington. It was later revealed that the gun was imaginary. (“You never owned a real Remington, Steele!”)
    (6) Mr. Steele claimed he visited a school in Bermondsey, and that he showed the children how to shoot a Tommy gun. Again, this was pure fantasy on his part.
    (7) Naming a school Paragon should mean that this school meets the highest possible standards. And yet it acknowledges that it’s secondary to others!
    (8) The little girl’s spike of hair indicates the direction of the wind. Grandma is actually a weather watcher.
    (9) Time warp evidence: “High-rise flats built in late 2017, photographed in 1960.”

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  3. Gosh, I had forgotten about Tommy Steele. My two brief years in England were spent mostly in the convent school (no pop music there) or with aging relatives. None there either! My father only listened to classical music so that’s what I was used to. Somewhere I had managed to hear the Shadows and I enjoyed their sound.
    I have always thought what an amazing “high” it must have been when the war ended. I can’t imagine a better reason to celebrate and go a bit mad. But I am grateful I have not yet had to experience it.

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    1. The only parts that changed dramatically were those destroyed during the WW2 bombing, John. The streets I grew up in are still the same, and the houses are still there.
      Best wishes, Pete.


    1. Yes, Tommy was knighted, and did very well in some mainstream musical films too. The VE celebrations were soon followed by VJ celebrations. But my dad didn’t get home from India until 1947.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  4. Really like the shot of Grandma watching over her granddaughter, and the mischievous looking boys in the background. Just a slice of everyday life. A great set of photos, enjoyed browsing them

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    1. He was very popular, but I didn’t actually like his records. Though I did go to the local cinema with my parents to watch his film ‘Tommy The Toreador’, in 1959. 🙂
      His real name is Tommy Hicks, and my mum knew Mrs Hicks, Tommy’s mum.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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