N.B. this walk will not take place on the following dates:
Where is Rotherhithe Village in London?
A village in South East London with a community feeling. As one of our walkers said, “The centre of Rotherhithe Village really feels like a quiet village – can’t believe it’s so close to the City of London.” Tower Bridge is just a short stroll away – a few minutes’ walk along the Thames Path.
Rotherhithe is London SE16 on the south bank of the River Thames, neighbouring Bermondseyand the Isle of Dogs. Over the water on the north bank, you’ll find Wapping and Limehouse. Rotherhithe is part of the Docklands area, but it’s distinctly different from those glittering business districts like Canary Wharf.
A short history of Rotherhithe Village
Our guide Tim says, “The cobbled streets, pubs and warehouses of old Rotherhithe tell a unique story. For centuries the riverbank heaved with mighty sailing ships from all over the world and like every dockside there was vice and violence.”
Rotherhithe Village is defined by its history as a port. The working dockyards were operating from the Elizabethan era to the 1970s. In the 1980s the area began to transform – think warehouse conversions and new developments and the start of a revived Docklands area.
A lot of history happened before Rotherhithe Village got to where it is today. By way of example, Edward III built a palace in a wilderness of reed beds for his falcons in the 14th century. In the Victorian era, Charles Dickens frequented Rotherhithe’s dark and dangerous streets to see poverty up close. Smell and feel and hear it. Rotherhithe’s Old Mortuary figures in the first chapter of his last and (according to David) greatest novel, Our Mutual Friend.
The Mayflower: what is it and what’s it got to do with Rotherhithe?
In 1620 “The Mayflower” set sail from Rotherhithe Village and changed history. They crossed the Atlantic. They were The Pilgrim Fathers. They founded the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts. The ship’s captain Christopher Jones lies at peace, his memorial a stone keel at St Mary’s Church. The Mayflower Pub in Rotherhithe Village is on the very bit of shore where where the Pilgrim Fathers boarded the Mayflower and cast anchor and set sail across the seas to America. The oldest pub on the river, it’s a rare delicacy. On the outside: time-honoured in the most inviting way; and it gets better, because inside, well, it looks and feels like an old ship; for good measure, it rejoices in unrivalled views across the liquid history that is the River Thames. Plus, it serves a cracking pint of ale. And serves up some of the best pub grub in London.
About our Rotherhithe Village Walk
With its cobbled streets and old pubs… Well, threading our way through ancient Rotherhithe Village we’re stepping back in history.
We salute those Pilgrim Fathers of 1620, along with the East India fleets, adventurers and settlers. We rub elbows with Dickens and the influence of social reformers. Let alone any number of other colourful characters who have trodden these paths.
Here’s a taste of what you’ll see – and see into (compliments of the stories we regale you with).
Yes, the legendary, the platonic ideal of an ancient riverside pub: The Mayflower.
Behind it on St Marychurch Street, Sands Films which has become a centre of excellence for feature films and the making of historical costumes.
We’ll meet “the difference makers” Alfred and Ada Salter.
And of course, hugely important: that astonishing engineering project, Brunel’s Thames Tunnel. Impossible to gainsay its importance. Not just to London but to modern cities everywhere. The tales of those who worked on it are jaw-dropping.
Then there’s the Thames Path. It runs for over 180 miles from source to sea. An important section of it goes through Rotherhithe. We take survey of it.
And it’s not just the blue of the water and the rich palette – the reds and browns and blacks and whites – of the wharves and docks and pubs and dwellings and the grey sabres of the London skyline in the near distance and whatever the London sky flaps above us on any given day… Wait for it (it’s worth waiting for), Rotherhithe, this ancient, Thames-moored, urban village, also does greenery. Spectacularly so. Consider Exhibit A: Southwark Park. And Exhibit B: Stave Hill Ecological Park. The verges, as it were, of the village.
IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THE GUIDING
Practical tips for our Rotherhithe Village London Walk
Ahoy! The Mayflower Village takes place at 2:30 pmevery Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. November 1 – April 30. To be on the safe side check the date on the calendar. Or heed the top-level announcements that read: Click for dates this walk does not take place.
Meet outside the exit of Bermondsey underground station, Jamaica Road, London SE16. Bermondsey tube is on the Jubilee Line, with quick connections to London Bridge, Canada Water and Canary Wharf.
The team of Mayflower Village guides is headed up by Robert. Ably assisted by local superstar Tim, he of Four Weddings and a Funeral fame.
Robert is Mr Mayflower Village himself. He lives locally; he’s extremely well connected; he’s the distinguished retired Curator of the Brunel Museum; he’s a boon companion of the Landlord of The Mayflower, “the oldest pub on the river.”
LONDON WALKS PRIVATE WALKS
If you can’t make one of the regularly scheduled, just-turn-up, Ahoy! Mayflower & the Ships of Rotherhithe it can always be booked as a private tour. If you go private you can have the Ahoy! Mayflower & the Ships of Rotherhithe walk – or any other London Walk – on a day and at a time that suits your convenience. We’ll tailor it to your requirements. Ring Fiona or Mary on 020 7624 3978 or email us at [email protected] and we’ll set it up and make it happen for you. A private London Walk – they’re good value for an individual or couple and sensational value for a group – makes an ideal group or educational or birthday party or office (team-building) or club outing.
GIVE THE GIFT OF LONDON WALKS
A private London Walk makes a fab gift – be it a birthday or anniversary or Christmas present or whatever. Merchandise schmerchandise (gift wrapped or not) – but giving someone an experience, now that’s special. Memories make us rich.