Southwark Cathedral’s Shocking Start

On Bankside, close to Borough Market and just by the Golden Hinde replica ship stands an often overlooked memorial to a fascinating Bankside legend. 

Southwark Cathedral, although having been a church since medieval times, only became a cathedral in the early 20th Century, and remains also the collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie.

St Mary Overie is the original name of the church and the memorial refers to how this name, may, have originated.

John Overs was a ferry man carrying passengers across the Thames. He was also a notorious miser.  One day to save money he pretends to die, believing that his family and servants would fast out of respect, saving a day’s food and drink. 

However family and servants were overjoyed at his death, feasting and generally making merry. John in a rage leaps out of his coffin and one of the terrified servants wallops him with an oar “to kill the Devil”, bashing out John’s brains.

His daughter Mary had already sent for her fiance, who in the rush to come over falls off his horse, breaking his neck!  Poor Mary becomes a nun, devoting her inheritance to founding a convent, which is the foundation for St Mary Overie.

Lovely story and indeed the cathedral did start off as a nunnery.  However the Overie is most likely a reference to Over the Water, as it sits across the London Bridge on the Southside of the Thames, away from the ancient City of London.

Join me and explore all things Borough in my Southwark walking tour


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