Ahoy! The Mayflower Village

(12 customer reviews)

Bermondsey tube station, London

Guided by Maribeth or Martin or Michael or Tim

Walk Times

Day Walk Type Start Time End Time
Friday Weekly 2.30 pm 4.30 pm Winter Summer Reserve Online
Saturday Weekly 2.30 pm 4.30 pm Winter Summer Reserve Online
Sunday Weekly 2.30 pm 4.30 pm Winter Summer Reserve Online
Thursday Weekly 2.30 pm 4.30 pm Winter Summer Reserve Online

N.B. this walk will not take place on the following dates:

24-12-2022 25-12-2022 31-12-2022 23-04-2023

Here’s what guide Tim Thomas says about this walk…

“I live in Rotherhithe. It’s my adopted village. My heart is there.

“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. There was grinding poverty and disease. People survived through piracy, prostitution and theft. The village had a fearful reputation. It was the underbelly of the great city. The rapacious East India Company built much of it – the fruits of evil. You can sense it in the air. Vestiges of the port remain. Then came the blitz. There were bomb sites everywhere. Finally the docks closed because of the new-fangled containers and everybody ended up unemployed. By 1970 the local borough was the poorest in Britain. It badly needed some luck. (Persevere, dear reader).

“Despite these haunting shadows, amazing things had come to pass. Edward III built a palace in a wilderness of reed-beds for his falcons in the fourteenth century. In 1620 “The Mayflower” set sail from the back of a local pub and changed history.

“Later Prince Lee Boo arrived from the distant Pacific and caused a sensation – no-one had ever seen a South Sea Islander before. Sadly, he died six months later and is buried in the local church, now a place of pilgrimage for people 12,000 miles away. In 1825 Marc Isambard Brunel started the gargantuan task of building the first tunnel under a river anywhere in the world. By hazard it ended up as “The Eighth Wonder of the World”, a subterranean fun-palace. Charles Dickens frequented Rotherhithe’s dark and dangerous streets to experience the poverty first hand. He mentioned The Old Mortuary by name in the first chapter of Our Mutual Friend. At the beginning of the twentieth century Dr Alfred Salter and his formidable wife Ada arrived to try to alleviate the poverty. Both Quakers and socialists, their efforts mark them out as giants of British social reform. Their statues by the river attest to this.

“So what about the much-needed luck mentioned earlier? Around 1980 an ill-defined transformation sidled in. The process gathered momentum. Artists took over the empty warehouses. The bomb sites were steadily cleared. The unoccupied council flats gained a dizzying variety of tenants and now it is an extraordinary community, a hidden gem near the heart of London. A bemused visitor recently asked me, ‘Why is everybody smiling round here…?'”


All about where this walk goes…

1. In the mists of time a wilderness of marshes and reed-beds stretched across the area, yet Edward III built a mini-palace here in the fourteenth century for his falcons.

2. From a rowdy pub in a fast-developing port the Mayflower set sail on its epic voyage to the New World in 1620. History was re-written

3. Meanwhile, Rotherhithe was being built by the East India Company, a cornerstone of the British Empire, a byword for an utterly ruthless approach to business; the wages of sin.

4. At the end of the eighteenth century the charismatic, handsome young Prince Lee Boo arrived from the tropical island of Pelew. He caused a sensation, no-one had ever seen anyone like him before. His brilliant life was cut short by the diseases of London. His grave in St Marychurch is now a place of pilgrimage for South Sea Islanders.

5. Rotherhithe was relentlessly becoming the soft underbelly of London, the roughest, toughest locality, haunt of pirates and prostitutes (called “Winchester Geese” because the Bishop of Winchester ran the whole vice racket). The village developed a fearsome reputation for violence and criminality. Charles Dickens was drawn here to observe poverty and degradation close-up. This reputation lasted almost to the present day. 

6. Dr Alfred Salter and Ada Salter, two of Britain’s foremost social reformers (both Quakers and socialists) wrestled with the disease, poverty and drunkenness endemic in the community. Their statues stand proudly by the river.

7. Today a transformation is turning this formerly accursed place into one of London’s most extraordinary and desirable neighbourhoods – a colourful, bohemian community, a hidden gem, a lively village just twenty minutes walk from Tower Bridge.

Ahoy! The Mayflower Village – The Practicals

Ahoy! The Mayflower Village takes place at 2:30 pm every* 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.

The meeting point is just outside the exit of  Bermondsey Tube station.

The team of Mayflower Village guides is headed up by Robert.

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.”



Short read: 1620 salute, time-honoured village, oldest pub on the river.

Epigraph read: The Mayflower, Sea to Shining Sea, Ancient Riverside Village… And for good measure Gulliver’s Travels and the tunnel that made modern cities possible.

Long read: Once upon a time… yes, 400 hundred years ago the Pilgrims sailed from here. And a world-changing voyage away, the ship limped back for salvage. Here’s a school endowed by sailors, ringed by houses built from ships. Here the captain lies at peace, his memorial a stone keel. Here the Fighting Temaire’s a bishop’s chair – and an altar. Here’s a church with masts for pillars, with a roof that’s an upturned ship. Here the Golden Hinde returns with round flanks full of treasure (but the Erebus and Terror are still lost).

Here names flash like jewels in the night of time… Adventurers and settlers; kings’ ships and ships of men; captains, admirals and generals of East India fleets; gold-seekers or pursuers of fame… All went out on that stream. The dreams of men, the seed of commonwealths, the germs of empire. We are all pilgrims, we all sail and we return to the Mayflower on the river. The oldest pub on the river, it looks like, feels like the inside of an old ship – quarter deck and quarter gallery and forecastle and foredeck and stem and hold and bulwark and tumblehome. And it serves good ale.

Now the curtain rises on a different scene. 1st Miracle: we’re only a 10-minute tube and Overground ride from the Houses of Parliament. 2nd Miracle: we’re 500 years away. 3rd Miracle: this place still looks like – feels like – what it once was. 4th Miracle: the Mayflower – the Pilgrim Father’s pub – is here (let alone a king’s palace, a Dickensian mortuary, a villain’s gibbet, a prince’s tomb and a pirate’s pub). Coda anyone? River-lulled in ancient Rotherhithe we’ll hear the cool lapse of hours pass, until the centuries blend and blur. In Rotherhithe, in Rotherhithe…


If you can’t make one of the regularly scheduled, just-turn-up, Ahoy! The Mayflower Village it can always be booked as a private tour. If you go private you can have the Ahoy! The Mayflower Village 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 Noel 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.


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.


Don’t just take it from us.


12 reviews for Ahoy! The Mayflower Village

  1. Dylan

    Fascinating tour. So much history and character. Tim tells a great story.
    South of the City is where the action is.
    What are you doing reading this…get down there!

  2. Jenny Lowing

    Thoroughly recommend this walk. We were fortunate to have Robert as our guide and he gave an extremely informative, interesting and entertaining commentary. As well as a lot of historical information we were also treated to many amusing anecdotes about the area.

  3. Sarah Ireland

    Tim was lovely, funny and incredibly knowledgeable about the area, living in the heart of the Rotherhithe himself. I do enjoy these walks and Tim’s was one of the best. Thank you!

  4. Catherine Randall

    Fascinating walk around a part of London we had never visited before despite living in and around London for years. The centre of Rotherhithe really feels like a quiet village – can’t believe it’s so close to the City. It was a privilege to be guided by Tim who is clearly well known in the area, extremely knowledgeable, and very good at conveying that knowledge in an interesting and entertaining way. We learned so much – it’s a great area. We will definitely be back.

  5. Peter Dargue

    I met Tim for the Saturday afternoon walk around Rotherhithe on the 9th of July. It turned out I was the only one who turned up and therefore had a personal tour around this underrated and fascinating area of London. Tim was a charming and knowledgeable guide who is fortunate enough to live locally. I really enjoyed the walk thanks to Tim and was left as always wanting to learn more about the various historical figures and buildings he described. These walks are fast becoming part of my London day out menu as they are such good value and stimulate the mind much more than my previous aimless West End wanderings.

  6. Victoria White

    Fascinating walk – led by Tim. Learned so much about an area I thought I knew well!

  7. Catherine Ward

    Great walk with a lovely guide Tim ThomasVery interesting,entertaining and funny.Most enjoyable afternoon out

  8. Lorraine Roth

    Thoroughly enjoyed the walk today guided by Tim. He gave us so much information about the history of the area. He is a excellent guide and his personality added to the enjoyment of this intetesting area. The time went too quickly. Highly recommended

  9. Katherine

    So glad we chose this walk!
    Learned to love an area we wouldn’t have even known to check out (or how to spell).

  10. Peter Lawless

    an interesting tour in a part of London I had never visited before , Maribeth is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide, great views of the London skyline over the river Thames particularly from the Angel pub , which is well worth a visit after the walk is over. Before the walk started I called in at the Mayflower pub and had fish and chips , very nice. A very enjoyable walk.

  11. Vivien Marno

    This was such an interesting walk. We learned so much. Michael was very well informed. He told us wonderful stories with a gentle sense of humour. He peeled back the layers of this area of London and helped us see it through different eyes; his love and enthusiasm for this are was obvious and contagious. Thank you so much Michael.

  12. Allison

    What a great tour! Did this walk with Tim on 17 October and thoroughly enjoyed it. His connection to the area is clear and he entertains while still informing. Loved his stories not only about his history in the area, but everything he had to share about a very fascinating village that is so near to the city, but so far away. Thank you, Tim! GREAT walk.

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