The tower of St Mary's Church, Rotherhithe
Rotherhithe shown within Greater London
|OS grid reference|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|UK Parliament||Bermondsey and Old Southwark|
|London Assembly||Lambeth and Southwark|
Rotherhithe (pron.: //) is a residential district in southeast London, England, and part of the London Borough of Southwark. It is located on a peninsula on the south bank of the Thames, facing Wapping and the Isle of Dogs on the north bank, and is a part of the Docklands area. It borders Bermondsey to the west and Deptford to the south east.
Rotherhithe has a long history as a port, with many shipyards from Elizabethan times until the early 20th century and with working docks until the 1970s. In the 1980s the area along the river was redeveloped as upmarket housing, through a mix of warehouse conversions and new-build developments. Following the arrival of the Jubilee line in 1999 (giving quick connections to the West End and to Canary Wharf) and the London Overground in 2010 (providing a quick route to the City of London), the rest of Rotherhithe is now a rapidly gentrifying residential and commuter area, with current regeneration progressing most quickly around Canada Water, where a new town centre with restaurant and retail units as well as new residential developments is emerging around the existing freshwater lake and transport hub.
The name "Rotherhithe" derives from the Anglo-Saxon Hrȳðer-hȳð meaning "landing-place for cattle". The first recorded use of this name was in about 1105, as Rederheia. In the past Rotherhithe was also known as Redriff or Redriffe, however until the early 19th century, this name was applied to the whole river front from St Saviour's Dock to Bull Head Dock, this near the entrance to Surrey Water.
Although the docks were closed and largely filled in during the 1980s, and have now been replaced by modern housing and commercial facilities, Rotherhithe is still given a large part of its character by its former maritime heritage. The largest surviving dock on the south bank, Greenland Dock, is the focal point for the southern part of the district, while there are many preserved wharves along the riverside at the north end of Rotherhithe. St. Mary's Church is at the centre of the old town of Rotherhithe village, which contains various historic buildings including the Brunel Engine House at the south end of the Thames Tunnel.
Canada Dock (now renamed Canada Water) was the dock basin furthest away from the River Thames in the Surrey Docks complex, and it was linked to Albion Dock and Greenland Dock at its northern and south-eastern extremities via the Albion Canal. The remodelling of this dock has resulted in the northwest half of the dock being retained as an ornamental lake, now renamed Canada Water. The canal has remained as a walkway and water feature within the re-developed area.
Rotherhithe is the traditional home of the football team, Fisher F.C., although the team currently ground-share with Dulwich Hamlet. The most popular team in Rotherhithe is Millwall Football Club located nearby in the boundaries of the London Borough of Lewisham.
The sustainable transport charity Sustrans has proposed the construction of a bicycle and pedestrian swing bridge from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf, and cost-benefit and feasibility studies were undertaken. In January 2009 the London Mayor Boris Johnson said he would not fund the bridge, citing budget cuts due to the credit crunch, with the result that the project is effectively on ice for the time being.
King's Stairs Gardens 
King's Stairs Gardens is a small park on the river towards the Bermondsey boundary. It is well known and often frequented by locals. In September 2011 Thames water announced that they wanted to build an access shaft for the super-sewer Thames Tunnel. Due to local action by The Save King's Stairs Gardens Campaign, which collected over five thousand signatures, as of March 2011 it seems that Thames Water will build the access shaft at an alternative site; providing that the local community is in agreement.
Local landmarks and history 
Severn Islands Leisure Centre occupies the site of the old Rotherhithe Town Hall. The building ceased to be a town hall in 1905 when the former Rotherhithe Council merged with the old Bermondsey Borough Council and the new council used premises in Spa Road. The old Rotherhithe Town Hall became a library and a museum. It was razed to the ground by repeated bomb hits and near misses during the Second World War (see below).
Rotherhithe had its own general hospital, St Olave's Hospital, on Lower Road close to the old town hall. Built originally in the early 1870s on land adjoining Rotherhithe Workhouse, it became the infirmary of St Olave's Union in 1875, and was renamed St Olave's Hospital in 1930. Subsequently becoming part of the Guy's Hospital Teaching Group in 1966, it closed in 1985 and the site has been redeveloped into the residential Ann Moss Way.
When the roundabout facing the Rotherhithe Tunnel was redeveloped in the early 1980s, several 19th century buildings were demolished including a school and a nunnery. A public house, the "Europa", described in an early 20th century history of the area as one its oldest, was also demolished. Max Bygraves frequently played piano there at weekends.
Nordic connection 
Because much of the former Surrey Docks had strong trade links to Scandinavia and the Baltic region the area is still home to a thriving Scandinavian community. During World War II, in fact, it housed the Norwegian Government-in-Exile. Originally established as seafarers' missions, Rotherhithe is home to a Norwegian, a Finnish and a Swedish church. The Finnish Church and the Norwegian Church are both located in Albion Street; they were built in 1958 and 1927 respectively (Rotherhithe Library is located between them). There are also a number of "community centres" for the Nordic community in London, including hostels, shops and cafés and even a sauna, mostly linked closely to the churches.
Some of the redeveloped areas were built by Nordic architects, such as the Greenland Passage development by Danish Company Kjaer & Richter. This gives some areas a distinctly "Nordic" feel in terms of house and street design.
The relationship with Scandinavia and the Baltic is also reflected in the names of some of the buildings (such as the King Frederik IX Tower), the street names (e.g. Finland Street, Sweden Gate, Baltic Quay, Norway Gate, Helsinki Square) or other place names (e.g. Greenland Dock). Another major influence factor was trade with Russia and Canada (mainly timber), reflected in names such as Canada Water and the Russia Dock Woodland.
Indian connection 
Other connections include with the Indian subcontinent, with wharves being named Bombay Court and East India court. A neo-Indian community has also now found root there with many young upcoming Indian professionals moving to London to work in the technology, financial services and legal professions. The proximity to the City and Canary Wharf has made this a convenient choice and hub for graduates from the Indian Institutes of Technology.
In July 1620, the Mayflower sailed from Rotherhithe for Southampton on the south coast of England, to begin loading food and supplies for the voyage to New England. At that time, the English Separatists, who later became known as the "Pilgrim Fathers", were mostly still living in the city of Leiden, in the Netherlands. There they hired a ship called the Speedwell to take them from Delfthaven in the Netherlands to Southampton to meet up with the Mayflower.
The ship's captain, Christopher Jones, died shortly after his return in 1621 and he is buried in an unmarked grave at St Mary's Church. The Mayflower sailed from near a public house called the Shippe in Rotherhithe Street, which was substantially rebuilt in the 18th century and is now named the Mayflower.
China Hall 
On Lower Road, about half way between Surrey Quays and Canada Water stations, is a public house called the China Hall; at one time it was the entrance to a riparian playhouse visited by Samuel Pepys and mentioned in his diary. It is not known how long the theatre remained on the site, but it was reinvigorated in 1777 and during 1778 George Frederick Cooke acted there, but in the winter of 1779 it was destroyed in fire. The site of the theatre became a well known tea-gardens, with the "usual arbours and 'boxes'" during the Victorian period, but by the 1920s most of the gardens had been absorbed into the Surrey Commercial Docks as part of a timber yard.
Second World War 
Like the rest of the London Docks, the Surrey Commercial Docks were targeted by the Luftwaffe. On 7 September 1940 on the first day of the London Blitz, the deal yards of Surrey Docks were set ablaze. The raid ignited the timber in Quebec Yard, causing the most intense single fire ever seen in Britain.
The bombing of the old Rotherhithe Town Hall, during the London Blitz and later in Second World War, gives an indication of how heavy the bombing in Rotherhithe was. The first damage to the building occurred when Luftwaffe bombs landed near by in April 1941, and again in February and mid-June 1944. Later the same month (June 1944) it was very severely damaged by a direct hit by a V1 doodlebug. In November 1944 it was further damaged by near misses only to be destroyed by one of the last V1s to land on London during the Second World War.
King Haakon VII made many of his famous radio broadcasts to occupied Norway from Saint Olav's Norwegian Church in Rotherhithe, where the Norwegian Royal Family regular worshippers during their exile in London.
Rotherhithe is joined to the north bank of the Thames by three tunnels. The Thames Tunnel to Wapping was the first underwater tunnel in the world. Built by the Brunels originally to carry cross river freight, it became a pedestrian tunnel, due to the money running out to build the necessary ramps. It is now occupied by the London Overground network, which on 27 April 2010 started running trains on the route of the former East London Line. The later Rotherhithe Tunnel (opened 1908) carries a two-lane road to Limehouse. The Jubilee Line extension (opened 1999) has a railway tunnel to Canary Wharf in the Isle of Dogs.
In places Rotherhithe Street was at one time or another called Jamaica Street, Lavender Street, Low Queen Street, Queen Street, Redriff Wall, Redriff, Rotherhithe Wall, Shipwright Street and Trinity Street.
Rotherhithe is part of the SE16 postcode district. Electorally, the western half is Rotherhithe ward and the eastern half Surrey Docks ward.
As much of Rotherhithe was covered by the now-defunct Surrey Commercial Docks, the district is sometimes referred to as Surrey Docks or (since the late 1980s) Surrey Quays, though the latter name tends to be used more for the southern half of the peninsula. An eastern part, which became in effect an island when the docks were in use and locks open, is called "Downtown". This name was never related to the idea of a "downtown" in the American sense, and indeed this part of Rotherhithe has since the 1980s been quiet and suburban in nature.
Notable people 
- Marc Isambard Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel built the Thames Tunnel connecting Rotherhithe and Wapping.
- Max Bygraves, born in Rotherhithe.
- Michael Caine, born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite in Rotherhithe.
- Eliza Fay, author of Original Letters from India (1817), was born in Rotherhithe.
- Malcolm Hardee lived on a houseboat in Greenland Dock, Rotherhithe, and owned and ran the Wibbley Wobbley pub-boat on the same dock, and drowned there in 2005.
- Alfred Hitchcock filmed scenes for his first film as director, Number 13 (1922), in Rotherhithe before it was pulled from production.
- Myleene Klass lived in Rotherhithe in the early 2000s.
- Aaron Manby assembled and launched the world's first seagoing iron-hulled ship at Rotherhithe in 1822.
- Princess Margaret met her future husband, photographer Tony Armstrong-Jones, in a house in Rotherhithe.
- James Walker worked on the design and construction of Greenland Dock, where a memorial bust of him stands.
Cultural references 
- In the popular television drama series Upstairs, Downstairs the character James Bellamy stands as a Conservative Party candidate for the constituency of Rotherhithe East.
- In the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, Harmsworth Quays Printing was used as the scene for Carver's print works.
- Redriff was the fictional birthplace of Jonathan Swift's character Lemuel Gulliver, of Gulliver's Travels fame, and where his family waited for him.
- Rotherhithe is alluded to in the British Sea Power song Carrion and the Elvis Costello song New Amsterdam.
- Adam Carter from Spooks supposedly lives in Canada Wharf on Rotherhithe Street, and much of the series is filmed on locations around Rotherhithe and the Docklands.
- In the ending chapter of Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist there is a lively depiction of a Rotherhithe slum district of the mid 19th century.
- The famous Gujarati poem, 'Rajashahi Ghodi', talks about a bicycle, allegorically a royal steed as it passes by the narrow by-lanes of Rotherhithe every morning, describing landmarks and monuments like the Mayflower Pub, the Picture Library and Southwark Park, along its way.
- A song from the musical Cats, "Growltiger's Last Stand", mentions the cottagers of Rotherhithe.
- "The man from Rotherhithe" is an unnamed, recurring character in the long poem In Parenthesis by David Jones.
- A period costumier, picture library and minor film producer Sands Films is located at Rotherhithe Street, close to the Mayflower pub.
- Long-running ITV series London's Burning was based at local fire station Dockhead for the first few series, with most scenes filmed in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. For example, leading character 'Vaseline' was filmed drowning in Greenland Dock, and another leading character, Bert, campaigned to save the local city farm, filmed at Surrey Docks Farm in Rotherhithe.
- 2004-5 ITV drama series "The Brief" often filmed in Rotherhithe, with internal scenes filmed at the Mayflower pub and lead character Henry Farmer, played by Alan Davies, lived a few doors away.
- 2007 film "The Riddle", starring Vinnie Jones and Derek Jacobi, was largely filmed on location in Rotherhithe. It features the interior and exterior of the genuine Blacksmiths Arms, Rotherhithe, although the rear of the pub in the film was a temporary set built adjacent to the Downtown nightclub, close to the Surrey Docks Farm.
- In " The Adventure of The Dying Detective", Sherlock Holmes pretends to Dr. Watson that he has contracted a contagious disease in Rotherhithe, while working on a case.
- The first and last episode of Dempsey & Makepeace was filmed at the Mayflower public house and in the area.
Main sights 
- Brunel Engine House
- Finnish Church
- Canada Water
- Southwark Park
- Greenland Dock
- Russia Dock Woodland
- South Dock
- Stave Hill (including Ecological Park)
- St. Mary's Church
- Thames Tunnel
- Surrey Docks Farm
- Hilton Docklands Nelson Dock Pier
- Cuckold's Point
Rotherhithe is served by three stations. Near the river, in the north, Rotherhithe, formerly a London Underground station, has been re-built as a London Overground station, and re-opened on 27 April 2010, together with Surrey Quays to the south. In between lies Canada Water in central Rotherhithe. This is now an important transport interchange, as it connects the London Overground (formerly East London line) and the Jubilee line of the London Underground, as well as having a bus station. This station is at the centre of a major regeneration project, with rapid construction of new flats. Other nearby stations are Bermondsey (also on the Jubilee line), South Bermondsey railway station to the south west, and London Bridge railway station to the west.
- Walking and cycling
The riverbank is path of the Richmond to Thames Barrier (28 miles – 45 km) section of the Thames Path through London. Most of the riverbank is accessible, apart from sections where warehouses and estates have established rights to the riverside.
- River boat service piers
- Greenland Dock Pier serviced by Thames Clippers'
- Hilton Docklands Pier for Canary Wharf – Rotherhithe Ferry only
|Preceding station||London River Services||Following station|
|Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf Service||Terminus|
toward Embankment Pier
toward Woolwich Arsenal Pier
- A Dictionary of British Place-Names, A.D. Mills Rotherhithe, Oxford University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-19-283131-3
- BBC London, A Thames Tour of Rotherhithe
- John Wells’s phonetic blog, Redriff, 31 October 2007
- Shipbuilding in Rotherhithe – An historical introduction by Stuart Rankin
- Sustrans London Route News accessed 4 July 2007
- Henden, Stephen. "V1 & V2 logs SE16 Rotherhithe and Bermondsey". Retrieved october 2011.
- Blackman, James (28 May 2009). "Bring the statues back home to Rotherhithe". Southwark News.
- Norwegian Church and Seamen's Mission, St Olav's Church accessed 4 July 2007
- The Finnish Church in London accessed 4 July 2007
- The Swedish Church in London accessed 4 July 2007
- Greenland Passage development accessed 4 July 2007
- Canada Water Campaign and Canada Water Consultative Forum accessed 4 July 2007
- www.mayflower.com Route and Maps of the Voyage
- "Mayflower". pubs.com. Retrieved 21 January 2009.
- Wagner, Leopold (1921). A new book about London: a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore. London: Allen & Unwin. pp. 190,191.
- Beck, Edward Josselyn; Bonney, Thomas George (1907). Memorials to serve for a history of the parish of St. Mary, Rotherhithe in the county of Surrey and in the administrative county of London. Cambridge University Press. pp. Appendix 259,260.
- Stansky, Peter (2007). The first day of the blitz: September 7, 1940 (illustrated ed.). Yale University Press. p. 81. ISBN 0-300-12556-9.
- Blackman 2009.
- The Diocese of Southwark, The Bridge, December 2009 - January 2010: Scandinavia in Rotherhithe
- [Original Letters from India (New York: NYRB, 2010 ). Edited by E. M. Forster. ISBN 1-59017-336-7]
- "Buses from Rotherhithe". TfL. Retrieved 05/03/2013.
- BBC London Coast – Rotherhithe Walk
- Canada Water Campaign
- Friends of Russia Dock Woodland
- LDDC Completion Booklets Surrey Docks
- London Voices Rotherhithe, Surrey Docks, Surrey Quays, London SE16
- Londonist Discovers Rotherhithe Picture Research Library
- Maritime Rotherhithe Walk A: Transport, Industry and the Docks by Stuart Rankin, Southwark, 2004, ISBN 0-905849-36-X
- Maritime Rotherhithe Walk B: Shipyards, Granaries and Wharves by Stuart Rankin, Southwark, 2004, ISBN ISBN 0-905849-37-X
- Save King's Stairs Gardens Campaign
- The Finnish Church in London
- The National Archives database record for St Olave's Hospital
- British History Online The Environs of London: volume 1, Rotherhithe, County of Surrey, pp. 470–477, Daniel Lysons, 1792
- British History Online Old and New London: Volume 6, Rotherhithe, pp. 134–142, Edward Walford, 1878
- British History Online A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4, Parishes: Rotherhithe, pp. 83–92, H.E. Malden (editor), 1912,
- Henden, Stephen. "V1 & V2 logs SE16 Rotherhithe and Bermondsey". Flying Bombs and Rockets. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
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