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History of Bankside

Bankside is one of the oldest settlements in Britain, dating back over 6000 years. When the Romans founded Londinium on the north bank of the Thames, a bridge was built near the present day London Bridge, and the surrounding area has been inhabited ever since. The main entertainments that drew crowds to Bankside were the 'stewhouses' (brothels), animal-baiting pits and public theatres, sometimes all at once. The Rose, the Swan, the Globe and the Hope were the four Bankside playhouses of the Tudor era, and some of the first ever in London. Some of England's greatest writers and players, including William Shakespeare, lived and worked here.

Theatres aside, the area of the Thames between Blackfriars Bridge and London Bridge was also known to freeze over in exceptionally cold winters and Londoners used to take to the ice for all manner of activities in what were known as Frost Fairs.

During the late 18th century Bankside quickly developed into an industrial environment, with docks, warehouses and wharves. Following industrial decline after the Second World War it remained largely undiscovered, until its recent renaissance as one of the capital's prime visitor destinations.

Bankside's great feat of planning has been to join up individual attractions to make one exciting coherent destination, accessible from the City via the Millennium Bridge and forming a natural riverside extension to the east of the South Bank. The area is refreshingly pedestrian friendly and every time you turn a corner another cultural highlight reveals itself.

In the late 80s Tate realized that its collection had outgrown its home on Millbank and decided to create a new gallery to house Tate's international modern art.
In 1949, when Sam Wanamaker came to London for the first time, he looked for the site of the original Globe and was disappointed not to find a more lasting memorial to one of the greatest playwrights in the world.
On exceptionally cold winters the River Thames used to freeze over between London Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge and Londoners used to take to the ice for all manners of activities.