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I. Formation of the Parish
With the dissolution in 1540 of the Augustinian Priory of St Mary Overie, on the south bank of the Thames across from London, the priory church was newly dedicated as St Saviour and leased in 1541 (and later sold outright) to two small Southwark parishes, St Mary Magdalen (a parochial chapel attached to the wall of the priory church) and St Margaret (on the High Street), both of which were dissolved, St Margaret being subsequently used as a Sessions Court, a Court of Admiralty, and a prison. The new parish included within its bounds the Manor of Paris Garden at its western end; the bishop of Winchester's Liberty (‘Clink Liberty’) in the middle; and at its eastern end where the church itself stood a portion of the Borough of Southwark. For a transcript of the Parliamentary Act of 1540 establishing the parish, click here.
In 1550, ten years after the formation of the parish of St Saviour, the Borough of Southwark became the City of London's new ‘Ward of Bridge Without’, created to extend the City's area of control into Southwark. The Ward of Bridge Without was never fully a ward, of equal stature with the twenty-five ancient wards north of the river. The inhabitants of Bridge Without did not elect their alderman, as all the other City wards did; instead, their alderman was appointed by the other aldermen. Nor did Bridge Without ever elect its own members to the Court of Common Council. The eastern portion of St Saviour parish fell within the bounds of the new Ward of Bridge Without, and this portion was referred to in parish documents as ‘Boroughside’ or ‘the Borough’, in distinction to the other two parts of the parish, Paris Garden Manor and Clink Liberty, which lay west of Southwark.
II. Organization of the Parish
The Act of 1540, assigning the parishioners of St Margaret's and St Mary Magdalen's to the newly-formed St Saviour's parish, had formed them into a Corporation, into whose hands the newly constituted parish of St Saviour passed in 1540. From 1540 onward the priory church and rectory were leased to the Corporation by the Crown, at a rental of about £50 per annum. The Corporation in 1540 consisted of thirty vestrymen, of whom six were churchwardens. The latter were charged with the protection of the church and its furniture. One of their early decisions was to cut through the south wall of the choir of the priory church, thus opening a passage to the attached chapel of St Mary Magdalen.
III. Purchase of the Parish
Spurred by a bequest in the will of William Cownden in 1610, a group of merchants from the congregation, known as ‘the Bargainers’, organized themselves in 1611 to purchase the church and rectory outright from the Crown for £800. The completion of this purchase, in 1614, is recorded in the minutes of the Vestry for 15 August 1614.
IV. Personnel of the Parish
There were six churchwardens at any one time, two chosen each year on 2 March, the commencement of the parish's accounting year. The new churchwardens were chosen each year by the vestrymen from among their membership.
In theory there were thirty vestrymen, but practice seldom matched the theory. New vestrymen were selected by the sitting vestry; they were not chosen by the parishioners.
There were two ministers at the parish at any given time.