Bermondsey Gargoyle | Look Up London

A Curious Gargoyle in Bermondsey

Along Jamaica Road in Bermondsey, look up and you’ll spot a curious gargoyle on top of Millstream House.

A helpful plaque (at a more eye-catching height) informs you that this gargoyle was once part of the Houses of Parliament and was moved here after bomb damage during the Blitz.

Millstream House was rebuilt in 1947 after it suffered substantial damage to the northwest corner on 14 October 1940.

I’ve circled in red the location on the 1945 Bomb Damage map below. The colour black indicates ‘total destruction’.

Image from www.layersoflondon.org

7 months later the Palace of Westminster would suffer its most serious air raid attack. Of the 14 occasions where bombs fell on the building, the worst night was 10-11 May 1941.

Bombed House of Commons Credit UK Parliament (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

That night incendiary bombs fell on roof of Westminster Hall and the Commons Chamber. The fire service, unable to save both, concentrated on the hall. A sensible choice given that its the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster, built in the late 11th century and contains this awe-inspiring hammer-beam roof, commissioned in 1393.

Best London Ceilings
Westminster Hall’s 14th century Hammer-beam roof

So the gargoyle may have come from the House of Commons, although I can’t spy one in older photos.

Image from Wikipedia Creative Commons

It’s also not the only bit of stoneware to be shipped elsewhere, in Maidstone, Kent there’s a Grade II listed finial!

Lastly, if we want to get seriously pedantic about things, technically this is a grotesque, not a gargoyle. Gargoyles (from the Old French meaning throat) are decorative water spouts.

You can watch a YouTube video about the night of 10 May 1941 on the UK Parliament channel here;

So there you have it, the history behind this curious ‘gargoyle’ in Bermondsey! As ever, it’s always worth looking up.

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