July 21, 2015

Rotherhithe: A Riverside Village In The City

The once marshy land of Rotherhithe is well-known for its rich maritime history. But with interesting royal connections, historic tourist attractions and even rare wildlife and wetlands, Rotherhithe has much more to offer than your average city district.

Tourist attractions in Rotherhithe


Rotherhithe and its surrounding areas are steeped in history. In medieval times, it is thought that the monks of Bermondsey Abbey once had an important role in maintaining flood defences on the riverbank at Rotherhithe. In addition, Edward III had a palace here in 1350, the remains of which can still be seen today.


Although you’re more likely to see hordes of commuters than robed Monks roaming the riverbanks these days, it’s unsurprising that the district is home to an abundance of tourist attractions and museums.


The Brunel Museum and Engine House at Rotherhithe houses Brunel’s first project with his father, Sir Marc – the Thames tunnel. This was the first ever tunnel beneath a river and forms the oldest section of the London Underground.


There are many historic pubs to choose from in Rotherhithe too, perhaps the most notable being the Ship – the last pub to be built in London before World War II.


Rotherhithe also offers something completely unique – a mini “country in the city” with a working city farm, the Surrey Docs Farm and the beautiful Russia Dock Woodland nearby.


The Russia Dock Woodland comprises 35 stunning acres of woodland and ponds providing an unexpected inner-City wetland environment filled with rare birds, butterflies, insects and interesting fauna.



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Nautical connections


Of course, it’s impossible to mention Rotherhithe without mentioning its seafaring past. With a long tradition of ship building, the district was once home to many builders and shipbreakers yards.


The first iron ship, the Aaron Manby, was constructed here and Rotherhithe was home to many ship Captains, including Captain Christopher Jones of the Mayflower.


Everywhere you look in Rotherhithe, you can see proud links to its nautical past, even in its very first church, St Mary’s,which was reconstructed in 1715 after flood damage. Rather than the usual stone construction, the Church features unique wooden constructed pillars, thanks to the help of local shipbuilders in its reconstruction.


The Docklands might now be better known for riverside hotels, bars and restaurants, but Greenland Dock in Rotherhithe is the oldest of London’s wet docs (originally known as Howland Great Wet Dock).


It was the largest commercial dock in the western world at the time of its construction in 1693; it was primarily used for whaling and subsequently for timber importation.


Dockland regeneration


In the 1980’s, the docs were transformed into an upmarket residential area, with residential and recreational developments now replacing the many warehouses.


The ongoing gentrification of this nautical corner of London means that Rotherhithe hasn’t escaped the trendy prestige that is the regeneration of the Docklands, but unlike many places in South London, Rotherhithe has somehow managed to also retain a quaint village-like feel, with interesting architecture at every turn and a strong and active community hub.


In Stuart times, Rotherhithe was famous for its Cherry Gardens which were mentioned in Samuel Pepys’s famous diary. The Gardens have long since been demolished, but as a testament to the close community spirit of the locals, residents have begun a campaign to replant Cherry trees in the area.


These can be seen blooming along the edge of the Thames in the summer months – a perfect tribute to Rotherhithe’s charming past and a firm nod to its blossoming future.


Get in touch with our Canary Wharf team if you’re interested in finding out more.

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