The Dixon's Shakedown: A Century of Crime & Justice in SE1

  • Instant Confirmation
  • Private Tour
  • 3 hr

Enter—if you dare— into the world of South London’s criminal underbelly and justice system.

Itinerary Details

Operated by: Travel Curious

Let us bring to life the unique role of The Dixon through this crafted experience with your own expert local guide and a coffee cupping session at the Dixon’s Shakedown. Afternoon tours will also enjoy a complimentary espresso martini. 

London has been one of history’s great engines of power and prosperity. But for those without property, the city has long been a place of toil and bitter poverty. Upon the south side of the Thames arose a hardscrabble society of laborers, sailors, prostitutes, thieves, and actors. 

  • Your guide will meet you at The Dixon's Shakedown Coffee  to begin your tour into the inner workings of England's past criminal justice systems.
  • Enjoy a coffee cupping session at The Dixon's Shakedown Coffee, and learn about coffee roasting in the former prison.
  • Learn about the history of tanneries in Bermondsey and their rise and fall in the area.
  • Take a turn about Marshalsea Prison, where Dickens's father was imprisoned as a debtor.
  • Walk down Lant Street, a home of Charles Dickens  and learn about the quality of life which landed many in prison.
  • Visit St George the Martyr Church, which played host to several scenes in Dickens' Little Dorrit. 
  • Stop by where paupers and prostitutes were buried and understand the  ways in which the rich and poor were separated, even after death.
  • If you book an afternoon tour, over an espresso martini in The Courtroom Bar, you will learn about how the courts held here played their role in administering justice to the surrounding SE1. 
Depart on a walking tour of the neighbourhood to discuss the travails of crime and punishment in England before the reforms of the 19th century. Your visit will take you to Lant Street, the home of Charles Dickens, whose novels bore testament to the lives and struggles of the poor Londoners, among whom he lived. Your guide will discuss  the influence of these experiences on his work, and  while touring St George the Martyr Church, tell of Little Dorrit. Amid the narrow streets you will discuss the history of the area as a port, before passing the ruins of the Palace of Bishop of Winchester - a cleric who charged tax upon the prostitutes of his neighbourhood.
Moving north to the riverside, your guide will lead you to the Clink, a former debtors prison. You will pass the Golden Hinde, and discuss the moral world of Sir Francis Drake  - lauded in England as a hero, yet hated elsewhere as a pirate and criminal. Moving past Southwark Cathedral, you will pass through Hay’s Galleria, discussing the waves of economic change and gentrification affecting what was once a bustling port district. 

Then return to the hotel and learn its role in the local criminal justice system. During your tour, step into prison — or the former prison cells inside The Dixon’s Shakedown. Here enjoy learning about the hotel’s coffee roasting and roastery, while you sit in the cells where prisoners used to await their trials in the chambers above.
For those who book an afternoon tour, your tour finishes at the Courtroom Bar, where you will hear the tales of the unfortunate criminals who came through this court. Over a complimentary espresso martini, learn about the legal reforms which have transformed the lives of Brits over the past century, and the role the courthouse played in seeing such legislation brought to fruition. 

Tour duration
3 hours

Type of tour
Walking tour - no transport is required for this tour

Tickets included
No tickets required 

Other inclusions
Coffee cupping session at Shakedown coffee
Children under 5 are free. 

Suitable for
Couples, Friends, History Buffs, Intellectually Curious

Attractions along this route:

Golden Hinde II
Sir Francis Drake’s ship sit in SE1 reminding travelers of his tremendous feats. However, he is regarded in Spain as a criminal for raiding ships and ports throughout the Americas.

Marshalsea Prison
Much of today’s crime and punishment hails from Victorian England, when the practice of imprisoning 90% of offenders began, with a spectrum of punishments.

St George the Martyr
Throughout Dickens novel, Little Dorrit, St George the Martyr church plays a central role - from Little Dorritt’s birth through the church where she is married.

Southwark Cathedral
With over a thousand years of history, Southwark Cathedral first shows up in history in the Domesday Book of 1086.

Potter's Field Park
These fields were once the homes of potters, but are known today for having been the burial grounds for paupers.

Lant Street
Charles Dickens grew up on Lant street and famously wrote about the plight of the poor, as much of his early life was influenced by his father’s incarceration in debtor’s prison.

The Dixon
The historic, Grade II building was erected between 1902 and 1905 as the Magistrates Court and police station for over a century. It reopened in 2018 as a boutique hotel.

Shakedown Coffee
The hotel’s homage to coffee and the roastery it has built in a former cell attest to the former prison, and the coffee the cops used to pass between cells to inmates while swapping stories.

Courtroom Bar
The old courtroom now serves as The Dixon’s bar and is renown for its espresso martini, though its artwork and architecture are equally captivating.
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