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Box of Victorian documents left in street for binmen gets donated to Southwark local history library

A big box of old Victorian documents, some from 1885, left out for bin men on Borough High Street this week, were rescued by a passerby and handed into Southwark’s Local History Library

Adam Smith was on a bus travelling through Borough when he saw people going through the abandoned boxes outside Field & Sons, a real estate agent, and decided to get off to have a look.

He said: “Ever the sucker for a box of interesting things I rang the bell and hot-footed it back from London Bridge to take a look for myself.

“What I found astonished me. In grubby cardboard boxes, amongst rubble and broken glass, were hundreds of plans, documents, blueprints and maps.

“I opened up an old bank safe to find a stack of invoices from 1885, I unfolded a map of a 1911 housing estate and rolled out a beautifully coloured plan for a Victorian orphanage.

“There, on the pavement, under the grey south London drizzle, was a whole heap of London’s social history, left to the elements and the bin men.”

Boxes of history Credit - @nfkadam (2)
Boxes of history Credit – @nfkadam

Adam decided to take as many of the old documents as he could home before deciding they would be better off at the Local History Library.

A Local Library History spokesman said: “We were really excited to receive the items which Adam brought in. In particular a beautiful page of architectural drawings from the late 1800s shows the north wing of Charlotte Sharman’s orphanage in West Square, which is now part of the Imperial War Museum.

“This is a really fantastic addition to the archives. There were also two folders containing plans and correspondence. Some of the material brought in relates to areas outside Southwark and we will speak with Adam about where these may be more appropriately kept.

“Situations such as this highlight the fact archive staff can’t be everywhere in the borough at once. We count on the help of Southwark residents to protect and preserve the heritage of the area.

“We are always more than happy to provide recordkeeping advice to local residents and organisations, and if anyone has any concerns about historic documents or would like to know more about how to put records into our custody for safekeeping, then please drop in to see us on Borough High Street, or get in touch with us at

The documents previously belonged to Field & Sons, who told the News that they were thrown out after the British Museum and British Heritage had taken a look.


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