I have lived on the corner of Harper Road for the last 25 years and have done a lot of research into the history of the old Borough area. However, I can find no explanation as to why Harper Road was so named.
Can anyone enlighten me?
* Ordnance Survey maps on the Council website show in 1938 the street was still called Union Road (successor name to Horsemonger Lane) but by '1949-54' this has become Harper Road. You could search press cuttings & municipal records from that period for material on the name change.
* The celebrated Southwark Fair which took place prior to 1762 included a booth called Lee and Harper. This appears to have staged shows and plays, and is also described as 'Harper's Booth'. The Fair took place on Borough High Street. Meanwhile, at different times the section of the street between John Harvard Library and Mermaid Court contained at least three prisons.
* One of these was the White Lion/Lyon. Previously an inn, this was one of a series of local gaol sites managed by the Surrey Justices - the County of Surrey extending to the Thames at this point. The last of these was the prison generally known as Horsemonger Lane Gaol, which stood where Newington Gardens (aka Gaol Park) is now. The artist Hogarth produced one or more prints of Southwark Fair in which Harper's Booth features. It's possible this is the source of the name.
* This is a long shot, but British History Online has references to several people in Southwark called Harper, including a John ~ who in 1557 was gaoled for treason and sentenced to be hung, drawn & quartered at St Thomas a Waterings - at the junction of the present Old Kent Road & Albany Road - but then pardoned. Given Union Road/Horsemonger Lane's past association with gaols I wonder if the local council when looking for a new street name around 65 years ago decided to use this historical connection?
If you do find the answer please post.
For anyone interested in the history of The Borough, on Saturday 25 February I'm leading a walk on SE1 Prisons, which starts at 11.00 am. The assembly point will be announced shortly.
Billy Graham was preaching in a tent in the fifties before the 'new' flats were built on the corner of Bath Terrace!..I remember being dragged there by my Auntie, must have been a Godless Soul then, was never converted because I could not understand the accent!
Harper's Booth was indeed well known in its day but I doubt that 200 years later someone would have thought of honouring him - but I'll certainly look into the possibility. Sybil Rosenfeld wrote a seminal work on the Fairs of London. Well worth a read.
I like the idea of poor condemned John Harper. If it were true it would be a great signal that someone in the Council had a wicked sense of humour!