A Tour Of Bermondsey With Saint Saviour

Doron
By Doron Last edited 46 months ago
A Tour Of Bermondsey With Saint Saviour

You’d think Becky Jones was born and raised in Bermondsey, so encyclopaedic is her knowledge of this nook and its SE1 surroundings. While the Stockton singer-songwriter, who goes by the name Saint Saviour, only settled here a few years ago, she is the first to champion this bit of London’s history, culture and culinary spots.

Jones took a break from readying the release of her second album, In The Seams, and rehearsing for her tour, to take Londonist out for an afternoon around Bermondsey — showing us her favourite haunts and telling us some of her local anecdotes.

“When I moved down to London I was initially living west, working at a recording studio called Metropolis in Chiswick and doing stuff like finding hot dogs for James Brown or getting crazy sushi for Elton John. I was basically a runner and that’s also where I met my husband,” Jones tells us.

She relocated to SE1 when her husband, Sam, set up an illustration agency and staged his first project, a fine art exhibition, at the Fashion and Textile Museum on Bermondsey Street. “Sam got the space because it was in conjunction with the regeneration of Bermondsey Square at the time,” Jones explains. “That regeneration had been held up for years and years after they’d discovered an old abbey under the ground — Bermondsey Abbey — which was dedicated to Saint Saviour. That was the start of Bermondsey and everything else was built around it, because Bermondsey was basically just a marsh!”

Jones now lives in what she describes as the old-fashioned part of Bermondsey, The Blue. “I think it is called that because this whole area was built for the Scottish dockers, who worked on the river and that’s what started the Millwall Football Club — it was the Scottish dockers’ team and they wore blue”, she says.

Is there just one thing she can pin down about why she loves the area so much? “There are so many things. I don’t really have a hobby, because doing music for a job is one life-long hobby, but the closest thing to a hobby for me is history — I love reading about history. With Bermondsey, it feels very historical. There are lots of protected areas and really interesting characters throughout history who moved through here.

"Then there’s the Dickens connection, further towards Borough and London Bridge, with debtor's jail Marshalsea Prison, where Dickens’s father was locked up. It was mentioned in Little Dorrit, and the remains of the prison are still there behind Borough High Street.

"Also, just being able to take a short walk to Tower Bridge is really amazing. I find that exciting. It feels like you’re in a really suburban area but you’re basically 15 minutes from town.”

Jones tells us this over a cup of coffee in her home, which is the first stop on our visit. We start there, as she has something special to show us...

“One of the artists working on the exhibition with us was Lucy MacLeod and, as the brief for the exhibition was the history of Bermondsey, she drew Saint Saviour. Everywhere you go around Bermondsey there are references to Saint Saviour – there’s a dock, there’s a school, there’s a library. Her artwork is a beautiful picture of a lady who looks really strong, a lioness-type character with a beautiful face. I saw it and thought – I want to be her! And that’s where I ended up getting my act name from.” The painting now hangs in pride of place in Jones’ house.
“One of the artists working on the exhibition with us was Lucy MacLeod and, as the brief for the exhibition was the history of Bermondsey, she drew Saint Saviour. Everywhere you go around Bermondsey there are references to Saint Saviour – there’s a dock, there’s a school, there’s a library. Her artwork is a beautiful picture of a lady who looks really strong, a lioness-type character with a beautiful face. I saw it and thought – I want to be her! And that’s where I ended up getting my act name from.” The painting now hangs in pride of place in Jones’ house.
From Jones’ home in The Blue, we move on to her local, The Queen Victoria, on Southwark Park Road for a swift half. In 2008 the pub played host to another, more famous, Queen Vic landlady, Barbara Windsor, who was filming a television programme in the area. “Despite pleas from a number of star struck regulars, no-one was badly behaved enough to force her to scream her 'Get out of my pub!' catchphrase”, reported Southwark News at the time.
From Jones’ home in The Blue, we move on to her local, The Queen Victoria, on Southwark Park Road for a swift half. In 2008 the pub played host to another, more famous, Queen Vic landlady, Barbara Windsor, who was filming a television programme in the area. “Despite pleas from a number of star struck regulars, no-one was badly behaved enough to force her to scream her 'Get out of my pub!' catchphrase”, reported Southwark News at the time.
Our next stop, two minutes’ walk down the road, is The Blue Market, where Jones regularly picks up food. There she takes us to meet her local, and -- as she describes him -- “proper cockney fishmonger”, Russell Dryden (pictured here with Jones and a salmon).
Our next stop, two minutes’ walk down the road, is The Blue Market, where Jones regularly picks up food. There she takes us to meet her local, and -- as she describes him -- “proper cockney fishmonger”, Russell Dryden (pictured here with Jones and a salmon).
“Russell gives you all the measurements you need for a proper fish pie and he also gives you the parsley to go with it”, Jones says. “He’s a musician too. He is in bands and also organises Bermondsey Carnival, which is a really cool festival in Southwark Park. Chas and Dave played there this summer, which was brilliant.”
“Russell gives you all the measurements you need for a proper fish pie and he also gives you the parsley to go with it”, Jones says. “He’s a musician too. He is in bands and also organises Bermondsey Carnival, which is a really cool festival in Southwark Park. Chas and Dave played there this summer, which was brilliant.”
“Bermondsey Square was just a pit when I first moved to the area. Once I got involved with the art project I wanted to know what the local community thought about the antiques market being dug up. For the people who run the market it was, obviously, a very serious thing. It’s an ancient market and I think it was written into some ancient by-law that you were allowed to sell stolen goods there between certain times. I guess that’s why they start so early in the morning”, Jones chuckles. Here she is pictured outside the Bermondsey Square Stainless Steel Bicycle Station.
“Bermondsey Square was just a pit when I first moved to the area. Once I got involved with the art project I wanted to know what the local community thought about the antiques market being dug up. For the people who run the market it was, obviously, a very serious thing. It’s an ancient market and I think it was written into some ancient by-law that you were allowed to sell stolen goods there between certain times. I guess that’s why they start so early in the morning”, Jones chuckles. Here she is pictured outside the Bermondsey Square Stainless Steel Bicycle Station.
Shortwave Cinema, Bermondsey Square’s winning combo of film, booze and – often – excellent carrot cake, comes highly recommended by Jones for those looking for an intimate setting when going to the pictures.
Shortwave Cinema, Bermondsey Square’s winning combo of film, booze and – often – excellent carrot cake, comes highly recommended by Jones for those looking for an intimate setting when going to the pictures.
“Rob [Wray], who owns and runs Shortwave, was involved in our art project with the local community when Bermondsey Square was being dug up, which is when I first met him”, Jones says. Wray, who is also founder and director of Elefest, opened the 52-seater as a permanent venue in 2009. In 2012 Jones had her debut album, Union’s playback and launch party at Shortwave.
“Rob [Wray], who owns and runs Shortwave, was involved in our art project with the local community when Bermondsey Square was being dug up, which is when I first met him”, Jones says. Wray, who is also founder and director of Elefest, opened the 52-seater as a permanent venue in 2009. In 2012 Jones had her debut album, Union’s playback and launch party at Shortwave.
Jones takes us for a wander in White Cube Gallery, where she regularly gets her fix of contemporary art.  “I’ve been to see the Gilbert & George Exhibition a couple of times now. The thing is, there were only a few of the images that I liked aesthetically but I am really drawn to all of their ethos and their own set of commandments, with little bits of scriptures about who they are and their way of life. I’ve found those really inspiring.” 

Gilbert & George, Scapegoating Pictures for London
© Gilbert & George, courtesy White Cube
Jones takes us for a wander in White Cube Gallery, where she regularly gets her fix of contemporary art. “I’ve been to see the Gilbert & George Exhibition a couple of times now. The thing is, there were only a few of the images that I liked aesthetically but I am really drawn to all of their ethos and their own set of commandments, with little bits of scriptures about who they are and their way of life. I’ve found those really inspiring.” Gilbert & George, Scapegoating Pictures for London
 © Gilbert & George, courtesy White Cube
“One work I really liked was a list of Gilbert & George’s modus operandi, which has these rules for sculptors, and the last one reads: “the lord chisels still, so don’t leave your bench for long” and I loved that because I am really interested in the mind of an artist and how you overcome writers’ blocks. It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve really started to think about my craft rather than the dancing about and the stage persona stuff. That’s why ‘In The Seams’ is so different to my last album. The process of writing it was much more respectful. It wasn’t necessary to hide the songs under layers of arrangements and production”.
© Gilbert & George, courtesy White Cube
“One work I really liked was a list of Gilbert & George’s modus operandi, which has these rules for sculptors, and the last one reads: “the lord chisels still, so don’t leave your bench for long” and I loved that because I am really interested in the mind of an artist and how you overcome writers’ blocks. It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve really started to think about my craft rather than the dancing about and the stage persona stuff. That’s why ‘In The Seams’ is so different to my last album. The process of writing it was much more respectful. It wasn’t necessary to hide the songs under layers of arrangements and production”. © Gilbert & George, courtesy White Cube
“At the same time as the Bermondsey Square regeneration was going on, we were residents at the Fashion and Textile Museum. We were exhibiting our art but also running activities in the community, like educational workshops, street art and painting the hoardings around the building sites. We ultimately ended up living on Bermondsey Street for a couple of years. During that period the whole street became bombarded with restaurants and shops and came back to life again”.
“At the same time as the Bermondsey Square regeneration was going on, we were residents at the Fashion and Textile Museum. We were exhibiting our art but also running activities in the community, like educational workshops, street art and painting the hoardings around the building sites. We ultimately ended up living on Bermondsey Street for a couple of years. During that period the whole street became bombarded with restaurants and shops and came back to life again”.
The final stop on our local tour with Jones veers outside the strict confines of Bermondsey but still within the Saint Saviour catchment area. And for a good reason. We walk down Union Street, which has played a big thematic part in her discography, to reach Cross Bones Graveyard. “There used to be a workhouse on the street and the graveyard itself was used for Winchester Geese. They were prostitutes who were licensed by the Bishop of Winchester, in return for a cut from their income.”
The final stop on our local tour with Jones veers outside the strict confines of Bermondsey but still within the Saint Saviour catchment area. And for a good reason. We walk down Union Street, which has played a big thematic part in her discography, to reach Cross Bones Graveyard. “There used to be a workhouse on the street and the graveyard itself was used for Winchester Geese. They were prostitutes who were licensed by the Bishop of Winchester, in return for a cut from their income.”
“There’s a local man who leads geese walks here, or at least that’s what I believe they call them. He takes in spirits and then goes into character as one of the prostitutes and talks about the stories of the time. People come from all over the world to watch him. I was down here one day and the tragedy of the women buried here really hit me”, Jones says of how she subsequently came to write her song, Reasons.
“There’s a local man who leads geese walks here, or at least that’s what I believe they call them. He takes in spirits and then goes into character as one of the prostitutes and talks about the stories of the time. People come from all over the world to watch him. I was down here one day and the tragedy of the women buried here really hit me”, Jones says of how she subsequently came to write her song, Reasons.

Photography by Tim Boddy

Saint Saviour’s new album, In The Seams, is out on 3 November. You can catch her co-headliner tour with Bill Ryder-Jones at The Tabernacle on 12 December. Tickets available here. Londonist and Saint Saviour visited White Cube Bermondsey during the Gilbert & George Scapegoating Pictures for London exhibition.

Last Updated 25 October 2014