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.

Former Drinking Fountain in Tanner Street Gardens

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 Olaf, Tooley Street

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.

St Olafs Street, Tanner Street Gardens Plaque

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.

Plaque Tooley Street - Tanner Street Gardens

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!

Former Fountain Tanner Street Gardens

Have you seen it in Tanner Street Gardens? It’s worth a closer look!

Former Fountain Tanner Street Gardens

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4 Comments

  • Ian Johnson

    Reply

    Well I had no idea that’s where the name Tooley Street came from. Very interesting. Thanks Katie.

    September 5, 2020 at 10:40 am
  • Cheryl Pollington

    Reply

    I love these posts. As a big fan of London and all its quirks this site has become a welcome drop into my mail box every week . I am still having to self isolate and therefore missing my trips to London and this helps me learn and see something new without having to leave my house!
    Thank you Katie .

    September 9, 2020 at 7:46 am

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