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Southwark Cathedral: a Historical & Architectural Wonder

Historically and architecturally speaking, Southwark Cathedral is a wonder.

The iconic building enjoys a diverse and extraordinary history. Southwark Cathedral stands at the oldest crossing point of the tidal River Thames. It is believed that there was a community of nuns on the site long before 1066.

In 1106, the church was re-founded as a priory, with a hospital created alongside the church. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, St Saviour’s was rented to the congregation by Henry VIII. This large parish church served a colourful area, not only of merchants and minor courtiers, but also actors, foreign craftsmen – and the ladies from the Bankside brothels. St Saviour’s church became Southwark Cathedral in 1905.

This constant rebuilding also seals the architectural wonder of the place, with a beautiful blend of medieval, Norman and Gothic elements, to name but a few. This is part of the reason why Southwark Cathedral, today, makes for such a stunning event venue.

Southwark Cathedral

It's of course still a place of worship for many, and keeps its doors open for events of all kinds, too. Its location is hard to beat: just south of the River and just a short walk from London Bridge and Borough Market, it's convenient and in the middle of a vibrant part of the capital.

The surrounding area around the Cathedral continues to be a place of major regeneration and change, and Bankside has once again become a residential area, a playground for London and a place where the Arts are celebrated, as well as a growing centre for political, financial and legal decision-making.

Southwark Cathedral

Many of the architecturally diverse elements of the Cathedral can be hired – in other words, there are several spaces available for your event, meaning the individuality of your function can shine through. For meetings and business events, for example, there are a host of spaces. The Desmond Tutu Room is a modern space for intimate meetings, holding up to 12 for boardroom gatherings. Similarly contemporary, The Chapter Room has space for up to 30, and offers unbeatable views of the Thames.

Chapter Room

For bigger business functions, such as conferences and seminars, venue bookers may consider the Garry Weston Library. It's a fascinating fusion of old and new, with Gothic architecture and an oriel window mixing naturally with all the facilities you'd expect from a conference venue: PA systems, AV facilities, and LCD screens (for an additional charge). The space, though, also lends itself well to seated private dinners, and standing receptions for up to 120 people. Catering is available for such social events, with a professional kitchen on site.

Garry Weston Library

Garry Weston Library

But for the full, glorious architectural experience, The Nave is the dramatic, awe-inspiring space for larger events. This is, after all, the centrepiece of the Cathedral. It'll hold up to 800 for standing, canapé-style receptions, and 220 for seated banquets. Again, historic meets modern in this space, where the towering, almost dizzying Gothic arches join forces with the state-of-the-art lighting and production elements needed for many dynamic events. Concerts and exhibitions have found a beautiful home here, just as fittingly as have art installations and awards ceremonies.

The Nave

Then, for the approaching summer season, of course, the Cathedral opens up its two outdoor spaces for various events. The Millennium Courtyard will provide a spacious location for exhibitions and live performances in the summer months, with room for up to 400 guests.

Millennium Courtyard

On the south side, the Churchyard is a delight in the sunshine: a space in which 600 guests can enjoy the herb garden and other natural features as they socialise. Drinks receptions and barbecues find their natural homes here, with refreshments accompanied by jazz in the evenings – all with the backdrop of the monumental Cathedral behind.


Whatever the event, and whichever space is chosen, the constant harmony between the contemporary and the historic truly makes for a unique London event experience.

Don't hesitate to get in touch with Southwark Cathedral to make an event enquiry for the one-of-a-kind venue.


Talib Visram

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