Ferrymen’s Seat – London Bankside

Along Bankside in London, near The Globe Theatre is the Ferrymen’s Seat. It is a a rather unremarkable looking piece of stone jutting out of a wall and you have to be pretty slim to fit on it. I suppose there was no McDonalds in those days and people were pretty undernourished and skinny.
Up until 1750 the only way to cross the river was by London Bridge and the south side of the river along this stretch, known as Southwark, was a haven of prostitutes, beggars, gambling and seediness.

Bear-bating pits, brothels (known as “stews”) and theatres like Shakespeare’s Globe and The Rose Theatre would have had regular visitors from the more affluent north bank. (Londoners still joke today about south London being “The Dark Side” and taxi drivers often won’t go south of the river after a certain hour.)

Water Ferry Men (or wherrymen) would sit around waiting for customers on these little seats, smoking their clay pipes to take people back across the river. You often find clay pipes if you wander around on the river bank with the other mudlarkers. If you’re lucky you can find Roman coins but the most common find is one of these clay pipes which, before you ask, are pretty worthless.

It would have been hard work sitting amongst the foul stench of the river, saturated with effluence and the stink of the nearby tanneries. Thieves, beggars and pickpockets were rife and the wherrymen would have to wait until late hours when the theatres closed or late night visitors to the brothels had finished their seedy deeds.

If you wander a little further along the river you will see a bollard which people tend to ignore. However, this is an authentic cannon used at the battle of Trafalgar. London used to have many of these cannons as bollards and you can se quite a few of them if you look out for them. Of course they ran out of cannons in the end and had to make their own but they still modelled them off these original ones captured from the French.
The photo I’ve use in the film is actually of an America cannon.

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Rather Splendid London Walks Book

In this book of 20 walks, I will show you some of the fun, interesting, weird and ridiculous things I’ve noticed on my travels around London