The strange tale of Cardinal Cap Alley

(Before embarking on the saga of Cardinal Cap Alley, I should state that the documentary evidence, supporting this explanation of what has happened at Cardinal Cap, can be found in public archives: The National Archive at Kew; The Government Office for London; the London Metropolitan Archive; The John Harvard Local History Library and, last but far from least, the records of Southwark Council. A serious researcher might consider making a request to Southwark Council to review the file held on Cardinal Cap, Skinmarket and the Bankside Roadway. That file contains all the relevant information and, in particular, the history of the Cardinal adverse possession claim, a claim which is the root of the problems which cause Bankside, Cardinal Cap Alley and Skinmarket Place to remain obstructed.) 

Cardinal Cap Alley is reputed to be one of Southwark's oldest public highways and has something of a chequered history. It is suggested that the name comes from the story that a senior cleric, a Cardinal, was in Southwark, enjoying the pleasures of the flesh, and was chased down the alley to the river. On his way, the Cardinal lost his cap, hence the name, Cardinal Cap Alley. Another story, possibly more rooted in fact, suggests that Wren stood in the shelter of the alley whilst watching the building of St Paul's. Certainly there is a very good view of the cathedral from the mouth of the alley.

But to fully understand why Cardinal Cap Alley is now gated, it is necessary to go back to the mid 1970s when the Greater London Council revised the line of the Thames' bank at Bankside. This image shows the line of the river's edge c1952. (This map is to be found on Southwark Council's website.)

Original river's edge c1952

The work undertaken by the GLC co-incided with the decommissioning of Bankside Power Station and accommodated the Jubilee Walkway as well as addressing flood prevention measures for Bankside. The image below shows the new line of the revised river's edge superimposed on the earlier map.

Red line shows revised river's edge as it exists today(2012)

To revise the river's edge, Local Authorities (acting for the GLC) were required to secure any wharfage rights (freeholds) on the rivers edge and these were commonplace on the Thames due to its previous and extensive commercial use. (Look for 'The London Nobody Knows' on YouTube and follow James Mason as he walks, 16:48, Bankside and Cardinal Cap Alley, in 1968.) Southwark Council entered into negotiations with the owner of No.49 Bankside to secure their claimed wharfage rights (visible in the 1969 view from Cardinal Cap Alley) and agreed to provide a replacement garage in compensation.

Southwark Council also sought to close that part of the Bankside roadway where it ran across the river elevation of Bankside powerstation. The power station itself was finally closed in 1981 making the fuelling wharf redundant and obviating the need for the roadway at that point. Southwark Cathedral, the owners of 51 & 52 Bankside, objected to the closure and, in compensation, were given a garage and all available parking space in front of the Bankside terrace where Southwark Council also created a roadway turning head. Once these various negotiations were completed, the revised river's edge in front of Cardinal Cap Alley looked like this:

Bankside layout after stopping up of Bankside, building of two garages and creation of parking and turning head.

The barrier, the adverse possession claim and the development land.
In 1986, the then owner of No.49 Bankside (Guy Sebastian Munthe) sold the property to Cardinal Inc and, in 1989, Cardinal purchased a swing barrier and installed it across the public highway at Bankside in line with the title of No.49. Cardinal then presented an adverse possession claim to the Land Registry claiming that Cardinal had controlled all of the land immediately in front of No.49 Bankside for 15 years (patently untrue). It is suggested that the intention behind this claim was to create a ransom strip across the public highway which sought to control Bankside to the west of the ransom strip/barrier and the gate which faced into the turning head. Beyond that gate lay part of the power station site which would have made a valuable development site.

The Land Registry, recognising the public highway status of Bankside, rejected the larger part of the claim but granted title to a small element, the furthest part of the claim, an element which, today, stands on land which was reclaimed and land which was created in the purchase of the wharfage rights. Cardinal adverse possession claim can only be described as dubious at best.

Having failed in the effort to create a ransom strip, Cardinal sold No.49 Bankside in 1995 to one of the partners of Pollard, Thomas and Edwards, Bill Thomas, who gave the development idea further consideration. That consideration included the possible demolition of No.49 Bankside to gain access to the land behind but Thomas decided against the project. He, in turn, sold the building to the present owner, Colin Brewer. (See the 'wideboy' video clip of Cardinal Cap in December 2011 which features a brief appearance by Colin Brewer).

However, in 1994, Michele Lady Renouf had, guided by a Globe Trustee (Sir Peter Parker) approached Southwark Council with the idea of locating an Elizabethan Knot Garden on the site of the parking area at Bankside. Reportedly opposed by the Dean of Southwark Cathedral, the idea came to nothing but, from that time forward, Southwark Cathedral were to play a more influential role in guiding the future of Bankside.

The barrier at Bankside
The barrier in April 2003
One of the major obstacles in understanding what was going on at Bankside was the existence, till December 2004, of a swing-barrier installed across the public highway, immediately to the east of No.49 Bankside. This barrier had caused a huge amount of confusion at Southwark Council when the Council tried to understand the adverse possession claim made by Cardinal Inc and again when the Council tried to understand the claims made on the roadway and the parking area by the residents of the Bankside Terrace (Mr. Brewer and the Dean of Southwark Cathedral).

The residents had claimed that the barrier had been installed by Southwark Council yet, internally at the Council, there was no record of the barrier ever having been installed. Privately, some members of Council staff believed that it had been installed by the Council as a favour to Southwark Cathedral but there was no evidence of this having been the case.

The barrier caused other problems in that, when roadway surveys were carried out, the staff carrying out the work would arrive at Bankside, see the barrier, and assume that the area beyond the barrier was 'private'. This resulted in further internal reporting that Bankside, beyond the barrier, was private. Mr. Brewer often quoted a statement to this effect made by a staffer at Southwark Council but the documentary evidence (particularly the Bankside 'stopping-up' order) shows that Bankside is public highway all the way to the front of the garages, the adjacent wall and the gate into what is now the Tate. What no-one considered, certainly no-one at Southwark Council, was that the barrier might have been installed by someone other than Southwark Council.

In December of 2004, Southwark Council, in its attempts to resolve the various claims made upon the Bankside public highway, decided to remove the barrier as it was clearly obstructing a public highway. The removal of the barrier was observed by the Dean and triggered a veritable firestorm which probably included calls to the Chief Executive.

A consequence of the firestorm was that serious enquiries were made about the barrier itself: who had made it; who had paid for it and who had installed it. Whilst it was not possible to confirm who paid for it, it was possible to confirm (by way of delivery note) that it was delivered to Bankside in 1989 and signed for by one 'A Tolmie'. The adverse possession claim made by Cardinal Inc was witnessed by an 'A Tolmie' acting as a Director of Cardinal so it is a reasonable assumption to make that Cardinal ordered, paid for and installed the barrier and did so to support the adverse possession claim.

The obstruction of Cardinal Cap Alley and Skinmarket Place

In the early 1980s, American actor Sam Wannamaker had reached a tipping point in his effort to recreate a theatre on or near the site of Shakespeare's original Globe. The site located was a then municipal depot located immediately behind and to the east of the Bankside terrace. Southwark Council agreed to close the depot and make the site available for the Globe project. At the same time, Southwark Council were required to relocate the line of Skinmarket Place because of its relationship to the Globe site to the north and to the development site to the south. The conflict can be seen in the drawing to the right where the Globe, the development site and the Power Station titles are superimposed on the c1952 plan. Skinmarket Place runs through what was to be an office block.

To address this issue, Southwark Council obtained a stopping-up order (T&CP Act 1971 Stopping up of Highways (LBS) (No.1) 1982 and dated 30th April 1982) which relocated Skinmarket Place to the north of the boundary of the development site and the Globe Educational Trust entered into a legal agreement regarding the relocation. Cardinal Cap Alley was unaffected by this agreement.

August 2003                     
August 2003
The construction of both the Globe and the office block to the south meant that Skinmarket and Cardinal Cap were both obstructed during building works. A pedestrian pavement was constructed following the line of the relocated Skinmarket Place but the entrance from Emerson St has since been gated (Does the Globe wish to fulfil their obligations in the 1982 'stopping-up order'?) The Globe, in 2003, had also filled Cardinal Cap Alley with rubbish and construction materials, giving the residents on the Bankside terrace further excuse to maintain their gate the northern extent.

Gillian Tindall omits any consideration of the obstruction of Cardinal Cap and Skinmarket in her otherwise excellent book, The House on the Thames. She does, however, record (p231) that, "The ancient alley (Cardinal Cap) is currently a dead-end, and to avoid what are politely called 'nuisances', the present owners of number 49 have put a locked gate across it at Bankside. You cannot walk into the past that way."

By 1996, with: Southwark Cathedral seeking 'ownership' of the public highway at Bankside in front of the terrace; the Globe obstructing both Cardinal Cap Alley and Skinmarket Place; the owner of No.49 putting pressure on Southwark Council via the land obtained by the dubious 'adverse possession' claim and, importantly, with no-one campaigning to retain Cardinal Cap and Skinmarket as public highways or footpaths, their future was clearly under threat. And in 1996, Southwark Cathedral opened up another front in their effort to obtain exclusive ownership of the Bankside highway in front of 49, 51 & 52 Bankside.

A short piece about public highways.
A public highway does not exist below the surface, down to the earth's core. The 'public highway' refers to the surface. You or I could own the land beneath the public highway but we couldn't do anything with the surface, designated as public highway. However, were a local authority to 'stop-up' the public highway then we would become owners of useable land to which we would hold title. 

Southwark Cathedral and the Prudential.
In the mid 1990s, the power station site was owned by PRUIMP, the real estate investment arm of Prudential Plc. A number of infrastructure projects were in the wind including the Millenium Bridge and the possible location of the Tate Modern at Bankside. Southwark Council were the only public realm organisation capable of managing the range of projects so PRUIMP transferred the power station estate to Southwark Council who would, in turn, hand it on to the Tate whilst retaining areas of land required for, for example, the Millenium Bridge.

As a result of a reported meeting between the Dean of Southwark Cathedral and a senior member of PRUIMP/Prudential staff, PRUIMP, as part of the transfer of the power station site, required Southwark Council to transfer to Southwark Cathedral that part of the power station land which lay beneath the public highway at Bankside. Further, Southwark Council were required to use their 'best efforts' to close that part of Bankside which lay on top of the Bankside land to be transferred to Southwark Cathedral. In this way, Southwark Cathedral would become the freehold owners of the land in front of the Bankside terrace.

In the greater scheme of things, set beside projects like the Millenium Bridge and the Tate Modern, the transfer of a small piece of land must have looked like a very minor footnote and hardly worthy of attention. Yet, something like 15 years after the agreement between PRUIMP/Prudential and Southwark Cathedral, the land in front of the Bankside terrace is still drifting in limbo and the reason is really quite simple.

To close it, first it must be open.
For a public highway or footpath to be 'stopped-up', expunged, closed for ever or otherwise ceased out of all existence,  first it must be open. That is the law - if you care about the law, that is.

So, going back to 1989 and Cardinal's installation of their barrier and the Globe's subsequent blocking up Cardinal Cap and obstructing Skinmarket and including the gating of the northern end of Cardinal Cap, all of those efforts have been quite counterproductive. Because, before Southwark Council can 'stop-up' Skinmarket Place and Cardinal Cap Alley and Bankside in front of the terrace, they have all got to be open. This means: removing the gate across Cardinal Cap; clearing away all the Globe's obstructions of Cardinal Cap; clearing away the Globe's obstruction of Skinmarket Place; clearing away any tacky barriers across Bankside outside No.49 and, finally, making sure that the law abiding citizen can walk freely along these public highways and footpaths without let or hindrance. Until all of these are achieved, Southwark Council cannot 'stop-up' any of the aforementioned public highways or footpaths.

A final thought.
The effort to close Cardinal Cap, Skinmarket and the public highway at Bankside has always been about property values. Imagine if the land in front of the Bankside terrace were surrounded by a grand set of railings, what would that add to the value of the three properties? Quite a bit I suspect, particularly when 51/52 was on the market for a cool £5M. Closing Skinmarket offers the Globe an easier life and a cleaner title and closing Cardinal Cap offers financial benefit to the adjacent properties. And all at the expense of the taxpayer with the allied loss of another small part of Southwark's historic street scene. You or I could not get away with it, but access and influence offer huge advantages.