Everyone knows of that famous old miser Ebenezer Scrooge in the the literature of Charles Dickens but right in the heart of one the most Dickensian feeling part of Central London there is a story that predates Ebenezer by 1,000 years and is largely unknown by everyone except for a few hardy visitors to explore the nooks and crannies around Southwark.
Legend suggests that before the construction of a replacement London Bridge in the tenth century a ferry existed here. Ferrying passengers across the River Thames was a lucrative trade. John Overs who, with his watermen and apprentices, kept the “traverse ferrie over the Thames”, made such a good living that he was able to acquire a considerable estate on the south bank of the river.
John Overs, a notorious miser, devised a plan to save money. He would feign death believing that his family and servants would fast out of respect and thereby save a day’s provisions. However, when he carried out the plan, the servants were so overjoyed at his death that they began to feast and make merry. In a rage the old man leapt out of bed to the horror of his servants, one of whom picked up a broken oar and “thinking to kill the Devil at the first blow, actually struck out his brains”.
The ferryman’s distressed daughter Mary sent for her lover, who in haste to claim the inheritance fell from his horse and broke his neck. Mary was so overcome by these misfortunes that she devoted her inheritance to founding a convent into which she retreated.
This became the priory of Saint Mary Overie, Mary having been made a saint on account of her charity. During the Reformation the church of St Mary Overie was renamed St Saviour’s Church. In 1905 it became Southwark Cathedral and the collegiate church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie.
You can visit this and many other fascinating places with Ye Olde England Tours.