Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey


Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey

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The former Bermondsey Town Hall
Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey.svg
Bermondsey within the County of London
 • 1911 1,500 acres (6.1 km2)
 • 1931 1,503 acres (6.08 km2)
 • 1961 1,504 acres (6.09 km2)
 • 1911 125,903
 • 1931 111,542
 • 1961 51,860
 • 1911 84/acre
 • 1931 74/acre
 • 1961 34/acre
 • Origin Bermondsey parish
Rotherhithe parish
St Olave District
 • Created 1900
 • Abolished 1965
 • Succeeded by London Borough of Southwark
Status Metropolitan borough
Government Bermondsey Borough Council
 • HQ Spa Road
 • Motto Prosunt gentibus artes (Arts profit the people)
The Arms of The Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey
Coat of arms of the borough council

The Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey was a Metropolitan borough in the County of London, created in 1900 by the London Government Act 1899. It was abolished and its area became part of the London Borough of Southwark in 1965.

Formation and boundaries[edit]

The borough was formed from four civil parishesSt Mary Magdalen BermondseySt Mary RotherhitheSouthwark St John Horsleydown and Southwark St Olave and St Thomas. In 1904 these four were combined into a single civil parish called Bermondsey, which was conterminous with the metropolitan borough.[1]

Previous to the borough’s formation it had been administered by three separate local bodies: St Olave District Board of Works, Bermondsey Vestry and Rotherhithe Vestry.[2]


The Victorian vestry hall on Spa Road, SE16, was bombed during the Second World War. After the war the neighbouring Municipal Offices (1928, designed by H Tansley) took over the role.[3] Bermondsey Town Hall continued to house civic offices, latterly for Southwark Council, until being sold off in 2012.[4]

The population declined sharply after the Second World War, being cut by about half from 1931 to 1951.

Coat of arms[edit]

The borough was granted a coat of arms in 1901.[5] The design included references to the three constituent authorities. The lion, crozier and two letters B represent Bermondsey vestry, and are derived from the insignia of Bermondsey Abbey. The crown and axe were the emblem of St Olave’s District Board of Works, and were derived from the royal arms of Norway, Saint Olave being the anglicised name of King Olaf II of Norway. The ship represented Rotherhithe and the Surrey Commercial Docks. The symbolism in the coat of arms were incorporated into a sculpture called The Bermondsey Lion that was unveiled in The Blue in 2011.[6]

The Latin motto adopted by the borough was Prosunt gentibus artes or “Arts profit the people”,[6] and was adapted from Ovid’s Metamorpheses.

Population and area[edit]

The area of the Borough was 1,504 acres (6.1 km2). The population from the Census returns was:

Constituent parishes 1801–1899

Year[7] 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891
Population 46,281 49,397 57,148 62,637 68,701 85,308 101,913 122,398 134,632 136,660

Metropolitan Borough 1900-1961

Year[8] 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961
Population 130,760 125,903 119,452 111,542 [9] 60,638 51,860


A map showing the wards of Bermondsey Metropolitan Borough as they appeared in 1916.

The borough was divided into twelve wards for elections: No. 1 Bermondsey, No. 2 Bermondsey, No. 3 Bermondsey, No. 4 Bermondsey, No. 5 Bermondsey, No. 6 Bermondsey, No. 1 Rotherhithe, No. 2 Rotherhithe, No. 3 Rotherhithe, St John, St Olave and St Thomas.[10][11]

Borough council[edit]

In the first election to the borough council, held on 1 November 1900 the Moderates (supported by the Conservative party) gained a majority. The opposition group was formed by the Progressive Party. The Moderates retained their majority at the 1903 elections. In 1906 the Moderate group was renamed Municipal Reform. In 1909 The Progressives won 27 seats and the Independent Labour Party 1 to the Municipal Reform’s 26 seats, but the latter party retained power through the aldermanic elections. They regained an overall majority of councillors at the 1912 elections.

Local elections were postponed during the First World War, with the next poll held in 1919. The results were a major reverse for the Municipal Reform party with just two councillors elected. The Progressives formed the largest party with 27 seats, followed by the Labour Party with 24. There was one independent councillor. At the 1922 elections Labour gained a majority with 38 seats. The opposition was formed by a Ratepayers Association with 14 councillors. Labour held the council at the subsequent elections, holding all the seats from 1934 to 1945 and from 1949 until the borough’s abolition.[12]

Parliament constituency[edit]

For elections to Parliament, the borough was divided into two constituencies:

In 1918 the boundaries of the borough’s two seats were adjusted, and one was renamed:

In 1950 the borough’s representation was reduced to one seat:


  1. ^ “GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, Bermondsey AP/CP/Vest through time: Census tables with data for the Parish-level Unit”. A Vision of Britain through Time. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  2. ^ F A Youngs, Guide to the local administrative units of England, Volume I, 1979
  3. ^ “London’s Town Halls”. Historic England. p. 167. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  4. ^ “Bermondsey Town Hall to be converted into 41 homes”. SE16. 10 May 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  5. ^ Letters Patent dated 25 March 1901
  6. Jump up to:a b The plaque on the plinth of The Bermondsey Lion in The Blue (September 2012)
  7. ^ Statistical Abstract for London, 1901 (Vol. IV).
  8. ^ Bermondsey MetB: Census Tables accessed 14 June 2007
  9. ^ The census was suspended for World War II
  10. ^ Post Office London County Suburbs Directory, 1919. 1919. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  11. ^ County Series 3rd Edition’ Map of London (1912-14) at 1:2500 scale”. Ordnance Survey.
  12. ^ Election results as reported in The Times, 3 November 1900; 4 November 1903; 3 November 1906; 2 November 1909; 2 November 1912; 4 November 1919; 4 November 1925; 3 November 1928; 4 November 1931; 3 November 1934; 3 November 1937; 2 November 1945; 7 May 1949; 7 May 1953; 11 May 1956; 8 May 1959; 12 May 1962

Further reading[edit]


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