the rise of ROTHERHITHE

The gateway to other worlds by George Swinton
Canary Wharf London Rotherhithe Panorama Skyscraper Park Surrey Quays

A view of the Canary Wharf from the open spaces of Rotherhithe

there are few places so close to the heart of London that enjoy spaces as quiet and open as Southwark Park, or as fascinating as the Stave Hill Ecology Park, a 5.2 acre nature reserve, educational facility, research area and place of recreation. Situated on the bend of the Thames, Rotherhithe has extensive river frontage on both its northern edge and to the east, too. Naturally, it enjoys a regular commuter ferry across to Canary Wharf as well as a service along the river all the way to Richmond in the west and the Thames Barrier in the east.

The river, though, is not the only way of getting around from Rotherhithe. With tube stations servicing Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Canada Water and Surrey Quays,as well as Overground trains running north/south through Surrey Quays, Canada Water and Rotherhithe, the area is well-connected to say the least.

Thanks to the imminent redevelopment and upgrade of the retail and leisure complex at Surrey Quays, the next ten years is likely to see a big change in the area’s popularity and property value, even though prices have already seen a sharp upward turn in the last decade. Rotherhithe has often been considered the more desolate, distant end of Bermondsey – the ‘wrong side of the street’ to Wapping and the urban edge to Greenwich – but now this space between other desirable areas is rising on the swell of demand as people are catching on to its benefits and relatively low prices.

Rotherhithe’s history is surprisingly rich and still celebrated today, one example being the shopping centre’s naval facade. For a thousand years it has been a natural port for London, gaining its name from hrȳther + hȳth; the Anglo-Saxon for “landing-place for cattle”. The first recorded use of this name was in 1105, as Rederheia. Perhaps the delivery point for farm animals transported from the Isle of Sheppey and the farms of Kent, it was the watery gateway for food and trade into the capital.

Pilgrim Fathers Mayflower Rotherhithe New World America Old Photo

The Pilgrim Fathers aboard the Mayflower

By 1350 King Edward III had a palace built on the marshy rivers edge, although it could have been considered more of a hunting lodge for his falcons and a place to stay away from the plague-ridden London populous than a palace of luxury. The remains of the palace can still be seen, modestly resting in an open grassy square at the water’s edge at Bermondsey Wall East.

“The Mayflower picked up 102 English Separatists and headed off to the New World

Skip forward two hundred years to 1620, in front of the Mayflower pub (then called ‘the Shippe’), and you would have seen The Mayflower set sail to Southampton, where it picked up 102 English Separatist passengers and headed off to the New World, where they would become known as America’s founding ‘Pilgrim’ fathers. From these original travellers have come some surprising and hugely influential descendants including Presidents Franklin D Roosevelt, George W. Bush and John Adams as well as entertainers Bing Crosby, Clint Eastwood, Richard Gere, Orson Wells and Marilyn Monroe.

More recently the docks at Surrey Quays and the tunnel to Wapping built under the Thames by Isambard Brunel’s father and son team carved Rotherhithe out as a port and hub central to the surge in London’s, and the country’s, industrial revolution. It remained this way until the outbreak of the war when on the first day of the Blitz, Surrey Quays was heavily bombed, the raid igniting over a million tonnes of timber in Quebec Yard, causing the most intense single fire ever seen in Britain.

It seems a long time to remain dormant but Rotherhithe’s history is huge and the seventy years that have passed since have not weakened it for the long term. Now, from these ashes, like a mythical Phoenix, Rotherhithe is rising to be glorious again.

Also from this Edition:
  • WINES with provenance Selling to both trade and public, local wine specialists have re-opened their doors as the 'Lant Street Wine Company' with a fabulous RIVER Reader 'Wine Club'
  • BISCUIT town Sounds like a dream… Where is this place?
  • turkish DELIGHTS - #1: Iskender Kebap Getting to know Turkey through it's food, drink and hospitality at Kilikya's in St Katharine Docks
  • SHIPBUILDING at Surrey Quays The Surrey Quays Shopping Centre; its past, present and future
  • EVER HopeFull Rep. “Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art”
  • Entertainments Listings Autumn 2015 season listings
  • bermondsey street FESTIVAL 2015 The village fête in the city returns Saturday 19th September
  • THREE DAYS in the country John Simm leads a fantastic ensemble cast at the National
  • pencils DOWN With a first prize of £8,000, who will win the coveted Jerwood Drawing Prize?
  • pure EXCELLENCE A relentless drive for outstanding performance is behind the progress at Walworth Academy
  • OUTSTANDING in all areas The Dominie, a co-educational school for children with dyslexia and dyspraxia
  • 330 YEARS & Girls Allowed A year to be proud of; an exceptional past and a promising new future at Archbishop Tenison's School in Kennington
  • PRIME school Southwark's Free Primary School has links to the meadows and woodland of Pickhurst’s Forest School and lots more new facilities on site too
  • THREE schools in one In just five years an east London school has been transformed into a beacon of aspiration
  • CREATIVITY & collaboration Lambeth's Poetry School is the place for the aspiring wordsmith
  • 'A' STAR students Year on year success for the girls at St Saviour's & St Olave's
  • Education Open Day Events Open day events at local schools this Autumn
  • what's your property WORTH? With interest rates due to rise, when is best time to sell?
  • the rise of ROTHERHITHE The gateway to other worlds
  • Autumn 2015

	
Mersey Morning by Andy Norris
Other Stories