The Abandoned Church Tower in Bermondsey
In Bermondsey, walk into the southeast corner of Tanner Street Gardens and you’ll find this curious former drinking fountain.
Today it sits at ground level but once it stood at a lofty level in London Bridge on top of the church tower of St Olaf’s Tooley Street.
St Olaf’s Church, Tooley Street
Dedicated to the 11th Century Norwegian King, St Olaf (sometimes St Olave) was something of a hero in England. He successfully drove out Danish invaders and there were three London churches dedicated to him.
St Olave himself, seen on the side of an office block on Tooley Street
He also gives his name to the street; over time the words ‘Saint’ and ‘Olave’ becoming a slurred ‘tooley’.
So there’s been a few churches here since the 11th Century but the major on was completed in 1740 to the designs of Henry Flitcroft. Below is an image from Historic England in 1928, you can just about make out the turret on top of the tower.
The turret was made of Portland Stone, also designed by Flitcroft and finished c. 1737.
By the early 20th century the church had fallen into disrepair and part of the church was demolished in 1926.
With continued development around Hay’s Wharf, the tower also came under threat.
In 1928 the tower was finally demolished. The turret was saved and moved to Tanner Street Park. It was then converted into a drinking fountain.
Today an Art Deco office building stands in its place and there’s a plaque on the wall explaining what was here before.
In 1998 the abandoned 18th century turret was given Grade II listing status. Although it’s no longer a drinking fountain, it stands as a lovely historic reminder with a helpful plaque explaining its story!
Have you seen it in Tanner Street Gardens? It’s worth a closer look!
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