St Mary Overy

Tuesday, December 29th

Local History and Archives Centre, Lewisham

Went to the Local History and Archives Centre – a little gem with lots of interesting books – with Paul and Nick. They were researching the River Ravensbourne and I decided to look up information about the Quaggy. There is a really comprehensive booklet by Ken White published in 1999 called THE QUAGGY RIVER AND ITS CATCHMENT AREA which he had written by hand and photocopied. It takes you along the whole course of the Quaggy from where the River Ravensbourne rises near Caesar’s Camp on Keston Downs.

I spent the rest of the morning just pottering through various books including one called THE WIDENING THAMES by Robert Goodrich, written in the seventies and very readable and funny.

Finally learnt why St Mary Overy is so called. Not, as I had thought, idiotically, for years, named after the Virgin Mary and her ovaries but because it was “over the water” or “over the ferry”. Overy is the later spelling of the Saxon word overie meaning “over the water”. Brilliantly illustrated in the map above as we see the solitary priory across the river from the city (just above SOUTHWARK in caps).

Other random but interesting things:

A reach on the river as in Thames Reach is the distance a sailing ship could reach on one tack before changing.

Greenland Dock is named after the whaling ships who operated in the Arctic and would put in there.

Tooley Street is a corruption of St Olaves.

Odd connection: The Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strand started as a quasi-religious guild and activities included “the increase, the encouragement of navigation, the good government of seamen, and the better security of merchant ships on our coast.” They had numerous powers including “the examination of the children of Christ’s Hospital in mathematics” – which happens to be my old school. There really is no escape. Though they would have had their work seriously cut out examining me in maths and as for navigation …


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