Undiscovered London, Butlers Wharf and Shad Thames

(38 customer reviews)

Bermondsey underground station, London

Guided by Aaron or Ann or Chris or Isobel

Walk Times

Day Walk Type Start Time End Time
Wednesday Weekly 10.45 am 12.45 pm Winter Summer Reserve Online

Introduction

Unfamiliar London – memories of the days when Bermondsey was at the heart of the biggest port in the world. Victorian warehouses, old docks – still there but adapting to the C21. See it before it changes.

Walking Tour Practicals

Meeting time: Every Wednesday  at 10.45 am

Meeting point: Bermondsey  Tube Station

Price: £15 per person (full adult)

IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THE GUIDING

Don’t just take it from us…

Itinerary

Leave the traffic and the tube station and within minutes you’re walking along a historic riverside street. It’s still, calm, and there are wonderful views across the Thames to Wapping, downriver to Canary Wharf and Rotherhithe, and upriver to Tower Bridge and the new tall buildings of the City of London. You are only minutes from Central London but it is a world away from its bustle.

Shad Thames

A bridge by the riverfront over St Saviour’s dock takes you to Shad Thames, its warehouses once full of grain and spices, now transformed into expensive apartments. This street is full of history and features dating back to Victorian times, with its Grade II listed warehouses, cobbled street and overhead iron bridges. You will discover how this part of London once was the heart of the trade of the city, where exotic commodities such as tea and coffee were stored.

When in the C20 the new huge container ships couldn’t sail this far up the Thames, the port moved away down river.  But in the 1980s and 1990s the area was regenerated where warehouse conversions became new homes. To help bring back life to the heart of Shad Thames, restaurateur Sir Terence Conran opened well-known restaurants including Le Pont de la Tour and Butler’s Wharf Chop House. For those looking for the Design Museum, its first home is here, but it moved from Shad Thames to Kensington in 2016, to an amazing structural design and should not be missed!

Shad Thames and its criss-cross walkways

Shad Thames and its criss-cross walkways

Butlers Wharf

This brings us to Butlers Wharf and Tea Trade Wharf. Both iconic buildings on the River Thames, overlooking St Katharine Docks. The Butlers Wharf building was completed in 1873 to house goods arriving at Butlers Wharf Pier for distribution all over the United Kingdom. As in much of the rest of the area, these buildings have been converted into luxury flats. As we walk around, you will be transported to a different era, when the south bank of the River Thames was an industrial hub, and Horselydown was the home of a favourite brewery.

Bermondsey

Turn inland to Tooley Street to see more of Bermondsey’s social history, the changes brought by the railway that turned it into ‘London’s larder’. Here are street names to remind you that for centuries Bermondsey’s biggest industry was leather tanning. The smell has gone, the names remain.

Southwark

Come back to the C21 as we pass the Shard, tallest building in London – for now.Its glittering peak dominates the surrounding area by London Bridge. And end just by London Bridge – for centuries the only way of crossing the river. Everyone used the bridge – merchants and visitors, kings and queens. Now you’re at the best place in London for a snack – Borough Market. This is foodie heaven – treat yourself to a toasted cheese sandwich.

Frequently asked questions

What can I do after the tour?

After a little snack at Borough Market, you can visit Southwark Cathedral then continue on to the South Bank, walking past Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tate and all the way to the National Theatre.

What the guide says

One of the reasons I love this walk is that people are always surprised. After all, they know what Buckingham Palace and Westminster look like – but often they have no idea of just how fascinating this part of London is. Bermondsey in its heyday was at the heart of the port of London. Its river banks were crowded with docks and shipping, its lanes with warehouses storing goods brought into the port.

The riverside in Bermondsey is now peaceful, with great views across to the City. The narrow street of Shad Thames seems unchanged since the dockers unloaded sacks of grain, and the magnificent warehouses of Butler’s Wharf stored tea, instead of restaurants.

There’s plenty of history to interest foodies – many household names manufactured jam, biscuits and canned food here. But the early industry was leather tanning, a process guaranteed to turn your stomach. And we’ll tell you all about it.

Dig a little deeper and find out how what was a country village became a slum, over which hung a ‘graveyard smell’. How it was transformed by industry, and how local pressure transformed it yet again – bringing in radical housing policies and pioneering health care long before the days of the NHS.

And to end, we can even offer you a  really good Victorian murder.

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LONDON WALKS PRIVATE WALKS

If you can’t make one of the regularly scheduled, just-turn-up, Undiscovered London, Butlers Wharf and Shad Thames it can always be booked as a private tour. If you go private you can have the Undiscovered London, Butlers Wharf and Shad Thames 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.

LONDON WALKS – STREETS AHEAD!

Don’t just take it from us.

OTHER TOURS YOU MAY LIKE

38 reviews for Undiscovered London, Butlers Wharf and Shad Thames

  1. Ian Williams

    Thank you Ann, a very interesting and informative couple of hours

  2. Ben Lloyd

    Had a lovely tour of Bermondsey with Ann on a windy January morning. She was a great guide and very informative about not only the architecture but also the social and political history of the area. I knew Butler’s Wharf from my childhood but she really opened my eyes to a lot of other unexpected gems, particularly the backstreets and parks on the way to London Bridge. Would highly recommend going on one of Ann’s walks and am planning to do another one soon!

  3. Caroline Jovicevic

    Dress really warmly for this fascinating walk with the knowledgeable guide, Ann, if you do it in winter. The chill factor off the river makes one empathise all the more with the dock workers, tanners and slum dwellers who once lived in this area. It must have been brutal. All the more interesting then to hear how the area developed from slums and bustling docks into the trendy area it is now with smart restaurants and expensive flats with spectacular views. Very worthwhile walk that I topped off with a welcome hot coffee to unfreeze my fingers at the famous Monmouth Coffee shop in Borough Market. Thanks Ann for a great experience. Will be back with my husband on a sunny day!

  4. Katharina O’Grady

    Ann was once again on top form when I took this walk with her in September 2023. I had taken a different walk with her earlier on in the year, and she is so pleasant and knowleadgeable. She knows so much about the area and is able to point out little quirky details that you might otherwise not see. Bermondsey and Shad Thames is not an area I had visited before or can claim to know anything about, so this walk was really interesting. Thank you Ann!

  5. Paul Kowald

    A groups of us did the Butlers Wharf/Shad Thames yesterday. All the arrangements went smoothly and our guide, Ann, was very accommodating in changing the end point of the walk to the pub in Bermondsey I had booked for lunch. As for the tour itself, Ann clearly knows her stuff and was able to communicate her knowledge in a very engaging way. She was open to questions and made sure she stopped in quieter and shaded areas where possible. All of the group said that they had really enjoyed Ann’s tour – her enthusiasm and love of the history of the area shone through. I would add my recommendation for this tour and for Ann as a guide. My wife and I are already looking at some of the other London tours she offers! Many thanks, Ann.

  6. Sarah Johnson

    This was a fantastic walk! Ann was a brilliant guide, full of interesting facts and stories about the area. She was able to answer all of our questions with ease. This is a fascinating part of London and definitely worth a visit to explore the area.

  7. Olivia

    We very much enjoyed our London Walk with Ann. She’s a fantastic guide and the two hours full of interesting and entertaining stories were over in no time. Highly recommend this walk to everyone interested in the lesser known parts of London.

  8. Camilla Thornton

    Being a born and bred Londoner I realised there was a lot I didn’t know about my own city. London Walks are perfect to learn. My guide yesterday was Ann. I loved her enthusiasm for her subject and boy does she know her stuff. Thank you Ann.

  9. Gusta G

    An excellent morning in the company of Ann, an informed and entertaining guide. I am a Londoner but still discovered new places not least the lovely square inside Guys hospital where we ended up. I would highly recommend this walk.

  10. Paul Grice

    A really interesting walk covering some rarely visited areas. Anne was a really good guide with some interesting insights into the area. Thoroughly recommended.

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