Old Rotherhithe on the Thames

Take a short walk along the Thames Path east from Tower Bridge along the south bank of the Thames and you will be rewarded with fantastic views.

You will arrive at Rotherhithe, an area that used to be a centre of London’s Docklands, but is now full of luxury flats in the Victorian wharf side buildings with spectacular views both over the river to the city and upriver towards the West End.

But if you can stop taking in the views, there is so much more to see in this historical part of London.  This is where the Mayflower set sail for America in 1620.  Think of Capitan Jones with the first wave of intrepid passengers and have a drink on the jetty of the Mayflower pub to celebrate this huge historic voyage.

Other gems include the foundations of a 14th century manor house built by Edward111.  It is believed to have been used as a hunting lodge surrounded on 3 sides by a moat and the 4th side opening onto the river.

Living conditions used to be tough for the dockers, seafarers and their families.  Statues on the river path known as Doctor Salter’s Daydream play tribute to Doctor Salter and his wife Ada who dedicated their lives in the early 20th century to helping the poor of Rotherhithe and Bermondsey.  They treated poor patients for free and campaigned tirelessly for better housing and improvements in the urban environment.

Beside the church of St Mary Rotherhithe, where Captain Jones is buried, spot the charming building that housed St Mary Rotherhithe’s Free School, founded in 1613 to educate the sons of seafarers.  It has statues of a boy and girl over the entrance.  It is a reminder of Old Rotherhithe.

Close by is an incredible example of Victorian engineering.  Walk around the Engine House of a tunnel built in the first half of 19th century by Marc Brunel and his son Isambard that took foot passengers under the river from Rotherhithe to Wapping on the north side.  The tunnel was the world’s first underwater tunnel and today it is now part of the East London line.

Much of Rotherhithe was destroyed in the WW2 bombings, but it remains a fascinating area to walk through and discover its history.

Mayflower Pub

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