Illuminating The Past With The Light Of The Present
The Blue Bermondsey is a truly unique place, because it cannot be found on any map. So how did an area, which is loosely defined by a gentle five-minute stroll in any direction from the Blue market, become known as ‘The Blue’. The obvious answer is, that it derives from the Blue Anchor Pub where the present building has stood since 1878, replacing previous incarnations of ‘the Blew Anchor’ as shown on the first map of the area, dating back to 1695.
But how did the Blue Anchor get its name?
This land belonged to the monks of Bermondsey Abbey which was founded in the eleventh century and was the equal of Westminster, attracting pilgrims from far and wide. Given the trend for continuity in ancient times the site of the ‘Blew Anchor’ would have previously been a location of religious significance, providing a place of solace for travellers along the route that is now Southwark Park road.
While taking respite from the journey and to counter any evil thoughts, the pious traveller could gain spiritual guidance from an Anchorite, who would dispense wise counsel through a tiny window in the ‘Anchorhold’ Gaining great esteem for religious observance and solitary communion with God, Anchorites were highly revered, and there were over 500 Anchorholds recorded in medieval times.
It is interesting to note that pilgrims travelling to and from the Shrine of Thomas a Becket at Canterbury Cathedral, would stop at an ancient hostelry known as ‘St Thomas Watering’ to refresh their horses and enjoy a jug of ale. This location is now the site of the Thomas a Becket pub.
But why a ‘Blue’ Anchor?
The colour Blue is sacred in many religious traditions as the symbol of heaven, eternity and spiritual devotion and the least material of all colours. It is especially sacred to Christianity as the colour of the Virgin Mary, who is predominantly depicted wearing Blue.
From then till now
Following on from these bygone days the area would have been relatively unchanged until London’s first passenger railway station at Spa Road in the 1830’s heralded a new era. Marshes and market gardens were replaced by factories and legendary brands such as Peek Freans (Biscuits), Shuttleworth’s (Chocolate), Pearce and Duffs (Custard) arose to offer employment for thousands of people and the landscape was rapidly transformed into something like the Blue as it is today.
To cater for the increase in population, shops and businesses began to inhabit the area and the Market emerged to consist of more than 200 stalls lining Southwark Park Road in its heyday, leading to ‘The Blue’ being recognised as Bermondsey’s historic town centre.
By fair means or foul, goods bound for the local factories found their way to the Blue, drawing legions of eager shoppers to the area, where the mighty Blue Market ﬁlled and illuminated the streets and it was said that you could buy anything one could imagine ‘Down the Blue’.
The increase in traffic through Southwark Park Road lead to the stalls moving to the purpose built Market Square in 1976.