|ROTHERHITHE & SOUTHWARK PARK
[church] [police] [pubs] [pump house] [Dr Salter] [school] [Southwark Park] [Thames Path] [tunnels] [wharves]
Alfred Salter studied medicine at Guy's Hospital and set up in practice in Bermondsey in 1900. He and his wife Ada became involved in local government and politics in an attempt to improve conditions for the poor of the area. Alfred was elected to the council in 1903 and became Bermondsey's MP in 1922. Ada became the first woman counillor in 1910 and Mayor of Bermondsey in 1922. The area around Wilson Grove was rebuilt in 1928 with garden-city cottages to their ideas. Dr Salter set up a health service for Bermondsey 20 years before the National Health Service. Sadly his 9 year old daughter Joyce died of Scarlet Fever. The statue group of the family by Diane Gorvin has been relocated near the Angel Inn (see walk route). The flower garden in Southwark Park is named after Ada Salter.
The Angel Inn was established in 1682 and rebuilt in the early 19thc. The Ship (left) was built on the opposite side of the street in 1865 but was relocated in 1939, just before the war. The Mayflower (right) built c1550 was originally called the Shippe and later rebuilt as the Spread Eagle & Crown. It was reconstructed after WWII damage and renamed after the pilgrim's vessel. At the time when postage stamps could only be bought at post offices they were also available at this pub.
In 1821 law inforcement was provided by a beadle, a constable and 14 watchmen. Those in white carried lanterns and called the hours and weather but others in blue carried cutlasses and searched dark corners! They operated from the watch house in the churchyard (pictured) from where they could also watch new graves in case of body-snatchers. This building had cells below where wrongdoers could be lodged temporarily. The Metropolitan Police was formed in 1829 and the watch house closed. It was replaced with a police station located in a house of 1814 in Paradise Street by 1836. From the river walk there is a view of the River Police headquarters and boat repair yard in Wapping.
From Tudor times ships were required to discharge at legal quays between Billingsgate and the Tower. By the end of the 18thc these could not cope with the volume of traffic and sufferance wharves such as Hopes were added to handle lower value cargoes. Bombay Wharf was used to store flour, dog food & cereal. Grice's Granary dates back to 1796-1800 and utilises ship's timber knees in the interior construction. A gantry walkway links to the riverside wharf c1859 which was used to store skins and pickles. Tunnel Wharf dealt with horse skins. Brandham's Wharf c1870-80 stored paint & vitriol and was converted to flats in the 1980s. Charles Hay & Co established in 1797 were barge builders and repairers.
This was founded in 1613 by Peter Hills, a seafarer and Brother of Trinity House, and Robert Bell who both provided money and property. The school, for the education of 8 sons of seamen, was originally at the east end of the church but was demolished in 1795. To replace it the vestry bought Richard Vidlar's house (c1700) in St Marychurch Street which opened in 1797. It later amalgamated with other local charity schools. The figures of the schoolchildren are of Portland Stone. The building was requisitioned for the fire service in WWII, became part of St Mary's Rectory in the 1970s and has now been converted to offices.
At the start of the 18thc the 400 year old church was in a poor state of repair due to flooding. Two applications to the fund to 'build 50 new churches' were refused so the parish raised money to which Queen Anne contributed. The new church designed by John James of Greenwich and influenced by Wren was begun in 1714. The old tower was demolished in 1746 and replaced in 1748 by a new one designed by Lancelot Dowbiggin. The church has a barrel roof supported on wooden columns encased in plaster. Items of furniture were made from timbers of the Temeraire, a Trafalgar ship broken up at Rotherhithe in 1838. There are memorials to Captain Jones, master of the Mayflower and Peter Hills, co-founder of the parish school. The interior was restyled by William Butterfield in 1873-6.
Construction of the Thames Tunnel, the first under a major navigable river, began in 1825. It used a tunnelling shield designed by Marc Brunel and manufactured by Henry Maudsley. Brunel's son Isabard Kingdom, as the engineer in charge of construction, was almost killed when water broke through (see plaque on site) and the costly project came close to bankrupting Marc Brunel. Work was suspended between 1828 and 1836 and the tunnel was finally completed in 1843. An improved shield and pumping engine had been constructed by John Rennie. The tunnel was only available to pedestrians as there had been no money to build the access ramps required for horses. Lit by gas it was soon lined with stalls but later became rather unsavoury. In 1865 it was adapted to accommodate a railway, a function it retains as the East London line of the Underground now runs through it. At Rotherhithe are the remains of the 80' diameter shaft and the engine house which housed the pumps. This Grade II listed building of c1842 contains the only surviving compound horizontal V steam engine built by Rennie and an exhibition about the construction of the tunnel. It was saved from demolition in 1973 and opened as a museum in 1980 with a replica chimney added in 1993.
ROTHERHITHE ROAD TUNNEL
This was designed by Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice in 1904-8 and renovated in 1979-81. The entrance arches are the cutting edges of the Greathead tunnelling shield used in its construction. The 4860' foot tunnel necessitated much street widening and 3000 people had to be rehoused.
This was built by the London Hydraulic Power Company in 1902-3 to power warehouse machinery and closed in 1977. It has an prominent accumulator tower and cast iron settling tanks.
Scananavian ships would be regular visitors to Rotherhithe & Surrey Docks with their timber cargos. St Olav's Church was designed by John Seaton Dahl in 1927 to serve sailors and now the wider Norweigan community. It has a distinctive spire topped with a model of a Viking ship. The stained glass is by Goddard & Gibbs of Shoreditch. The church is open to visitors from 12-9pm. Tel 020 7740 3900 (answered in Norweigan!). The neighbouring Finnish Church of 1957-9 with a similar social function is by Yorke Rosenberg & Marshall. This has an attractive bell tower (best viewed across the street). It opens 1pm Sat & Sun and 3pm Mon- Fri.
A major programme of restoration work has taken place over the last few years. The 63 acre park was opened in 1869 on land previously market gardens & vineyards and purchased from Sir William Gomm for £56000. It was designed by Alexander McKenzie for the Metropolitan Board of Works and provided much needed recreational space with the provision of a cricket ground in 1871, a gymnasium in 1881, football pitches in 1890 and a bowling green in 1908. The lake was completed in 1885 and adapted for boating in 1908. This was damaged in WWII and largely filled in in the 1960s but has now been re-instated. A lido was available between 1923 and 1985 which is now the site of the children's playground. A new gallery is open adjacent to this. The bandstand came from the grounds of the Royal Horticultural Society in Kensington and was installed in 1884 but was taken away along with railings during WWII. An exact replica has been built as part of the restoration (pictured in header). More information on the park [click here].
A National Trail which follows the Thames for 184 miles from its source in the Cotswolds to the Thames Barrier. It is signposted and in London runs along both banks. There is an official guide book with maps written by David Sharp. website
London Docklands - an Architectural Guide by Williamson & Pevsner
Discover Docklands by S K Al Naib
A Trail Walk Around Old Rotherhithe - Time & Talents publication
© london-footprints.co.uk 2006
[route & what to see] [I K Brunel] [walks list]