London Bridge, Borough Market: A trendy neighbourhood steeped in history turns terror target

Borough Market was the site of a purported terror attack.
Borough Market was the site of a purported terror attack.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - A historic part of London that fell into decline after the closure of the docks, the scene of Saturday's (June 3) terror attack is now a bustling part of London where hipsters and City workers rub shoulders.

The London Bridge and Borough Market area is also very multi-ethnic and international, frequented by foreign tourists, with a popular backpacker hostel and student accommodation nearby.

An Australian and two French nationals were among the 48 people rushed to hospital after the attack, in which three assailants smashed into pedestrians in a van before attacking passers-by with knives.

The stabbings occurred at Borough Market, a food market that dates back centuries and is housed in an elegant 19th century structure surrounded by trendy bars and restaurants filled with young revellers.

The market is next to Southwark Cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century, and at the southern end of London Bridge where the attackers ploughed their van into pedestrians before going on a rampage.

The modern bridge was built in the 1970s, replacing earlier crossings in the same area going back to the Roman era, and is the subject of the old nursery rhyme London Bridge Is Falling Down.

The area's cobbled streets contrast with the skyscrapers cropping up in the area, including The Shard - a towering glass structure which at 309.7m is Britain's tallest building.

"It's an area that has completely transformed in the last 15, 20 years," Mr Peter John, the leader of Southwark Council, told the BBC on Sunday (June 4).

"It's such a vibrant part of our city that has been impacted in this way. It's horrific."

But he added: "This is an amazingly diverse borough and nothing will change."

According to a picture taken by Italian documentary filmmaker and photographer Gabriele Sciotto, the three attackers were shot dead between the Wheatsheaf pub and a fruit and vegetable stall at Borough Market.

Minutes earlier the trio had smashed through pedestrians in a hired white van, stopping outside The Barrowboy & Banker, another pub on Borough High Street whose name evokes the area's strong links with the City of London financial hub across the river.

Among the eyewitness videos uploaded in the hours after the attack, one showed police shouting at revellers in Katzenjammers - a Bavarian-style beer house near Borough market - to lie on the floor.

Another video showed armed police with guns drawn and dogs patrolling in the dark lanes around Southwark Cathedral and several showed revellers coming out of bars and restaurants under police escort following a lockdown with their hands on their heads.