I wonder if any one on this website could enlighten me as to where the word “ Southwark” originates. It suddenly dawned on me that although I live here I don't know. If it was Southwalk it may make more sense. Any ideas anyone?
I think it means 'South ward' - as in the ward (area) to the south of london proper. We were outside the prim and proper city and so could indulge in all sorts of shenanigans (bears, brothels, cock fighting etc.). For a modern take on licentiousness check out XXL club, next to the Menier chocolate factory (sadly men only and you have to prove you are not an undercover police/licencing officer).
This might help, though there appear to be a couple of theories as to its origin -
'The earliest mention of Southwark by name in history is in A.D. 1023, when the Saxon chronicle tells us that Knut, and Egelnoth, Archbishop of Canterbury, with some other distinguished persons, carried by ship the body of Alphege, saint and martyr, across the Thames to "Suthgeweorke," on its way to its resting-place at Canterbury. In "Domesday Book" the name appears under the form of "Sudwerche."
It is generally said that Southwark was never fortified till quite a recent period. How, then, did its name, "wark" or "werke," arise? Is it the same word as in bulwark? A fortress built by the Earl of Mar, in Scotland, is called "Mar's wark or werke;" and possibly the same word is embodied in the word "Southwark."
Mr. Worsaae, in his "Account of the Danes and Norwegians in England," refers to the possession by those peoples of Southwark, the very name of which, he adds, is unmistakably of Danish or Norwegian origin. "The Sagas relate that, in the time of King Svend Tveskjæg, the Danes fortified this trading place, which, evidently, on account of its situation to the south of the Thames and London, was called Sydvirke (Sudvirke), or the southern fortification. From Sudvirke, which in AngloSaxon was called Sud-geweorc, but which in the Middle Ages obtained the name of Suthwerk or Swerk, arose the present form—Southwark. The Northmen had a church in Sudvirke, dedicated to the Norwegian king, Olaf the Saint." It is stated that the name of Southwark has been spelled in no fewer than twenty-seven different ways in old writings.'
'The Southern Suburbs.' Introduction
Richard Tames book on Southwark past says the first mention of southwark was in the "Burghal Hideage" believed to be c 914AD. But this may date back to 886 AD when Alfred of wessex ordered his son in law Edmund to reoccupy London and refortify its walls. The area is referred to as "Suthringa geweorche" which means a defensive work of the men of Surrey.
Richard Tames says this was confirmed in the later "Olaf Saga" which describes Suthvirki as a "great trading palce", defended by "large ditches" which may explain the fortification Tolstoy mentions.