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The name Suthriganaweorc or Suthringa geweorche is recorded for the area in the 10th-century Anglo-Saxon document known as the Burghal Hidage and means "fort of the men of Surrey" or "the defensive work of the men of Surrey". Southwark is recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book as Sudweca. The name means "southern defensive work" and is formed from the Old English su (south) and weorc (work). The southern location is in reference to the City of London to the north, Southwark being at the southern end of London Bridge. Until 1889, the county of Surrey included the present-day London Borough of Southwark, yet the name has been used for various areas of civil administration, including the ancient Borough of Southwark, the Metropolitan Borough of Southwark and the current London Borough of Southwark. The ancient borough of Southwark was also known simply as The Borough‚or Borough‚and this name, in distinction from 'The City', has persisted as an alternative name for the area. The medieval heart of Southwark was simultaneously referred to as the ward of Bridge Without when administered by the City (from 1550 to 1900) and as an aldermanry until 1978.

Southwark appears to recover only during the time of King Alfred and his successors. Sometime about 886, the burh of Southwark was created and the Roman city area reoccupied. It was probably fortified to defend the bridge and hence the reemerging City of London to the north. This defensive role is highlighted by the use of the bridge in 1016 as a defence against King Sweyn and his son King Cnut by Ethelred the Unready and again, in 1066, against Duke William the Conqueror. He failed to force the bridge during the Norman conquest of England, but Southwark was devastated.

Southwark appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 within the hundred of Brixton as held by several Surrey manors. Its assets were: Bishop Odo of Bayeux held the monastery (the site of modern Southwark Cathedral) and the tideway Ė which still exists as St Mary Overie dock; the King owned the church (probably St Olave's) and its tidal stream (St Olave's Dock); the dues of the waterway or mooring place were shared between King William I and Earl Godwin; the King also had the toll of the strand; and 'men of Southwark' had the right to 'a haw and its toll'. Southwark's value to the King was 16. Much of Southwark was originally owned by the church Ė the greatest reminder of monastic London is Southwark Cathedral, originally the priory of St Mary Overie.

Just west of the Bridge was the Liberty of the Clink manor, which was never controlled by the City, but was held under the Bishopric of Winchester's nominal authority. This area therefore became the entertainment district for London, with attractions such as bull and bear-baiting. It also hosted a concentration of brothels. In 1587, Southwark's first playhouse theatre, The Rose, opened. The Rose was set up by Philip Henslowe, and soon became a popular place of entertainment for all classes of Londoners. Both Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare, two of the finest writers of the Elizabethan age, worked at the Rose.

Southwark was also the location of several prisons, including those of the Crown or Prerogative Courts, the Marshalsea and King's Bench prisons, that of the local manors courts e.g. Borough Compter, The Clink, and the Surrey county gaol originally housed at the White Lion Inn (also called informally the Borough Gaol) and eventually at Horsemonger Lane Gaol.

The ancient borough of Southwark initially consisted of the Surrey parishes of St George the Martyr, St Olave, St Margaret and St Mary. St Margaret and St Mary were abolished in 1541 and their former area combined to create Southwark St Saviour. Around 1555 Southwark St Thomas was split off from St Olave, and in 1733 Southwark St John Horsleydown was also split off.

The Borough and Bankside Community Council corresponds to the Southwark electoral wards of Cathedrals and Chaucer. They are part of the Bermondsey and Old Southwark Parliament constituency whose Member of Parliament is Neil Coyle. It is within the Lambeth and Southwark London Assembly constituency and the London European Parliament constituency. Southwark is the location of City Hall, the administrative headquarters of the Greater London Authority and the meeting place of the London Assembly and Mayor of London. Since 2009, Southwark London Borough Council has its main offices at 160 Tooley Street, having moved administrative staff from the town hall in Camberwell. There are five business improvement districts (BIDs) in Southwark; Better Bankside, The Blue Bermondsey, South Bank BID, Team London Bridge, and We Are Waterloo.

Missouri Civil War Museum