N° 49 Banks, aka Cardinal’s Wharf, was built in 1710, the same year St Paul’s Cathedral was completed, and is the oldest house on Bankside today.
It is believed the name Cardinal’s Wharf comes from the Cardinal Wolsey (1473-1530), who was the Bishop of Winchester in 1529 and would have stayed at the nearby Winchester Palace when in London. Contrary to popular belief, the house wasn’t lived in by Sir Christopher Wren, the renowned architect of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Royal Naval College in Greenwich and many of the City of London’s churches. However, it did serve as a home for coal merchants, an office, a boarding house, a squat during the 1970s and I now a private home once again.
The strange tale of Cardinal Cap Alley
Cardinal Cap Alley is reputed to be one of Southwark's oldest public highways and has something of a chequered history. It is suggested that the name comes from the story that a senior cleric, a Cardinal, was in Southwark, enjoying the pleasures of the flesh, and was chased down the alley to the river. On his way, the Cardinal lost his cap, hence the name, Cardinal Cap Alley. Another story, possibly more rooted in fact, suggests that Wren stood in the shelter of the alley whilst watching the building of St Paul's.