| P R O P E R T Y | 38 THE RIVER MAGAZINE | Autumn 2018 T he whiff of hedonism lingers in the air as party-goers stumble under the railway arches spanning Tooley Street to Bermondsey Street. It was against this backdrop that Mark Williams opened his estate agency on Bermondsey Street in 1998. Fast forward to 2018 and the managing director of Williams Lynch is still working in offices on the street – something he could only have imagined. “Bermondsey Street in 1998 was in no way the desirable, gentrified location we know and love today. To be honest, it was pretty bleak with hoardings everywhere.” Mark opened his agency at 90 Bermondsey Street with three staff where it operated until 2007. But only a week into their new venture the office was ransacked by burglars. “We celebrated our arrival with a drinks launch but the next day I arrived at the office to find half the front door missing and all of our computers were gone. We became familiar with the sound of police sirens and chases up and down the street,”Mark revealed. Tanner Street Park, today with its tennis courts and trendy French restaurant Casse-Croûte is the antithesis of what it was like in 1998, explained Mark. He added:“You couldn’t even see into the park. It was pretty bleak. Even down on Bermondsey Square there was nothing – just an open concrete car park where the Bermondsey Street Hotel now stands. I remember the White Cube gallery was just a monolithic, grey storage space until it opened as the trendy art space in 2011.” Mark knew the street had potential but he admits it was hard to visualise. “I could never have imagined how the street would flourish, but I knew how expensive and well heeled neighbouring Shad Thames was. We were selling newly refurbished warehouse converted apartments in Tanner Street at £185,000 for 830 square foot. In 2017 the same units sold for close to £1 million. It’s quite incredible!” The first splash of colour, as Mark describes it, arrived in 2003 when fashion designer Zandra Rhodes founded the Fashion and Textile Museum, which she lives above. The iconic building with its exuberant pink and ochre walls was designed by Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta and attracts fashionistas and tourists the world over. Mark started his property career in 1988 in North Kent. When he later moved to an agency on Tower Bridge Road he realised that SE1 was full of intriguing properties and had huge potential. “I loved the mix of people and property in SE1 and it was a real shift from suburbia. It was a breath of fresh air,”he said. But it wasn’t his first taste of Bermondsey Street and Southwark. Mark recalled his teen years working on Tanner Street in the 1970s for his father’s business. “I used to work for my dad during the holidays in The London Microfilm Bureau on Tanner Street. It was such a different place – full of antique warehouses, It’s now a fashionable foodie mecca but Bermondsey Street has come a long way.We chatted with Mark Williams, managing director of Williams Lynch, as the agency celebrates 20 years of business on the street. by natalie li BERMONDSEY BACK IN TIME Peek Freans was the first mass producer of biscuits and employed over 3,000 people in its time from when it opened in 1866 to when it closed in 1989. It earned Bermondsey the nickname ‘Biscuit Town’. In 1770, Thomas Keyse discovered a natural spring on land he owned by what is now known as Spa Road. As a result of his discovery Bermondsey became a spa town. The area boomed and in the late 18th century many large houses were built in the area. INDEPENDENT & LOCAL WILLIAMS LYNCH 20 YEARS