Friday, May 31, 2013

The Ebenezer Chapel and the Dockland Settlement Development

I have been trying to find out more about the development that is currently consuming the land that was formerly occupied by the Dockland Settlement, a considerably untidy community project that was a bit of an eyesore, but incorporated what was clearly once a rather nice chapel, the Ebenezer Chapel (a Norwegian place of worship and seamen mission), together with a contemporary two storey house, which was also obviously once very attractive.

It is all happening on the part of Rotherhithe Street that forks right off Salter Road, and is currently still marked on Google Maps as "Docklands Settlement Youth and Community Centre."  Southwark Council has this to say on the subject of the new development:

Planning application reference number 11-AP-2242
Proposal: Demolition of existing buildings, and erection of 28 residential dwellings (6x1 bed; 13x2 bed; 9x3 bed) within a part three, part four storey building at the southern end of the site with associated car parking, cycle storage and amenity spaces.  Erection of a new single storey community building (maximum height approximately 7 metres above ground) on the northern part of the site, accessed from Salter Road, providing general hall, meeting spaces and sports facilities, and a new flood-lit external sports pitch.

The Ebenezer Chapel and the attached house were recorded by archaeologists of the AOC Archaeology Group before it was demolished, and that 33 page report can be found here on the Archaeology Data Service website.:  "This was built in 1871 for the local Norwegian population. This building was recorded to Level 2 standard as defined by English Heritage Guidelines."  The photograph on this post is a screen-grab from that report, showing the Ebenezer Chapel, that stood at the site until recently.  There's a brief but good explanation of the background to the word Ebenezer (not a name, as I ignorantly thought, but from the Hebrew, meaning "stone of help") on the Missouri Conference website: 

If you're interested in the Scandinavian churches in Rotherhithe, there's an article on the subject from The Bridge available online at:

Berkeley Homes planning new development near South Dock

There's a very short report on the Homes and Property website that gives details of one of the upcoming housing developments in Rotherhithe:  It's an extension of the existing Marine Wharf, to the east of South Dock, with 529 new flats built by Berkeley Homes.  I had a look around and more details are available on the Berkeley Homes website.  Both pages have artists' impressions.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Views from Stave Hill

The views from the top of Rotherhithe's Stave Hill are always good. In the winter it is a lot easier to see the London Eye and Tower Bridge (you can just make them out at the far left and far right of the last of these photographs), but even with all the Spring foliage there are always buildings that stand out beyond the woodland - the new Strata Tower at Elephant and Castle (not shown in this set), 30 St Mary Axe (much better known as The Gherkin) and One Canada Square (Canary Wharf).  And now, The Shard is there on the panorama too.  The monstrosity to the immediate left of The Shard in the final photograph is, of course, Guy's Hospital, named for its founder Sir Thomas Guy (it was founded in 1721, so it can be considered some sort of success story, but one does wonder what Sir Thomas would make of it today!).

The building under construction near to the Gherkin in the first photograph is the new building at 122 Leadenhall by Richard Rogers, known locally as the Cheesegrater.  Although it wounds my soul to promote the Daily Mail, there's a rather good photo-story of the sky-scrapers popping up in the Gherkin/Cheesegrater area on the Mail Online website.

The Cheesegrater under construction and The Gherkin

The Shard

One Canada Square and the Isle of Dogs

One Canada Square

The Michael Rizzello sculpture at the
top of Stave Hill

The London Eye, far left, Guy's Hospital, The Shard and,
at far right, Tower Bridge

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A walk in Russia Dock Woodland

At the weekend, on one of the few nice days we have had all year my father, who has been most unwell, thought that a stroll around the park might be a good idea, so we went out to enjoy the sunshine.  Russia Dock Woodland was lovely, full of wild flowers, bright green leaves and some really glossy yellow and cream roses.  On the big green families were enjoying picnics.

The recent work to revitalize the water supply to the ponds and channels has born fruit - I have never seen the water in the channels at this time of year before, and the Yellow Flag irises were clearly thriving on the conditions.  The good care given to the Woodland over the last few years really shows, and it was interesting to see the before-and-after photographs on the noticeboard by the green, which shows the real impact that the work has made.


Monday, May 27, 2013

The St Paul's Chapel (destroyed), Rotherhithe 1850 - 1955

Drawing copyright National Library of New Zealand
The Anglican St Paul's Chapel, a chapel-of-ease to St Mary's Rotherhithe, was built in 1855 by  William Beatson and was badly damaged in the Second World War, perhaps destroyed.  There is some confusion about when it was finally demolished, but although it seems to have been decommissioned in 1955 records indicate that some part of it was in use on the site until the 1970s. 

St Paul's was located at Ram Alley, later Beatson Street, close to Surrey Canal School which later became St Pauls School (TQ360804). Today it is the site of Peter Hills with St Mary and St Paul School. William Beatson's descendents live in New Zealand and the plans of the church are registered with the National Library of New Zealand (rightt). 

Some lovely water-colour diagrams of the Chapel can be found on the National Library of New Zealand website at:

In the 1912 "A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4" it is described as follows:
The church of ST. PAUL in Beatson Street, a chapel of ease to the parish church, consists of a chancel, nave of five bays, north vestry and south porch. It is built of yellow stock brick with stone detail, and is designed in 13th-century style with an effectively high-pitched slated roof and small lancet windows. It was built in 1850. There is an ample churchyard now used as a small park. (

The architect, William Beatson, was a member of the successful shipbuilding company and family business John Beatson, and had shipbuilding interests in his own right.  He sketched the tragic mastless remains of the Temeraire (immortalized in Turner's "Fighting Temeraire") as she sat in Rotherhithe waiting to be broken up by the John Beatson yeard in 1838 (the sketch can be seen on one of my earlier posts here: And in fact, the chapel was renovated in the late 1800s using timbers salvaged from the HMS Temeraire.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bermondsey Yesterday and Today

I've found another local website that appeals to me considerably: Bermondsey Boy.  There are various aspects so the site, but the bit that I particularly like is a section "Bermondsey Yesterday and Today" that compares photographs of Bermondsey in the past, with photographs taken in the same place, often from the same angle, today.

Here's a good example from Rotherhithe's Canon Beck Road (at but do have a look at the rest of the section.  There are dozens of then-and-now photographs to look through, and they are truly fascinating.  A good use of the Google Maps "Street View" feature.  I love the glimpse of a ship over the wall at the end of the road in the earlier photo. So sad that the lovely block of solid housing was demolished to be replaced by one of the low cost but fashionable architectural schemes that characterize parts of Rotherhithe.  Not that they are unattractive, but their predecessors were really quite lovely in many ways.

The future of the Surrey Docks Health Centre

At a rare visit to the Surrey Dock Health Centre during the week, the following information was being stuck to the walls.  This might be of interest for anyone who is registered with the surgery and wants to know what the future holds for it now that the new Downtown development by Barratts is in full swing.  As people concerned with the development will probably already know, provision was made in the planning submission for the existing health centre to be demolished and replaced with a new one that will be incorporated into the Barratts development.

Patient Participation Group

Join us for our Annual General Meeting
Everyone Welcome!
Wednesday 12th June 6.30pm

Information Evening

• Find out more about the New Health Centre from Barrett's
• Find out about what the PPG do
• Informal evening with wine and nibbles
• A chance to meet other patients and members of the practice team

You can find out details from the Surrey Docks Health Centre website at:

The existing health centre, which looked terribly unloved and run down even before Barratts started tearing down trees and bulldozing the site, must have been quite an avant garde structure for a health centre development in its day, with its central courtyard garden, the tall, steeply slanted roof providing natural light for the waiting room and the surrounding outdoor seating areas under the trees.  Never a thing of beauty, it did have some very real virtues and it is a shame that it should have become so very downtrodden.

Northern end of the Rotherhithe Tunnel in 1925

The Rotherhithe Tunnel was the second of the London County Council's road tunnels. It linked Rotherhithe with Shadwell on the north bank. Designed by Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, it was begun in 1904 and opened in 1908.

More on the above page.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Saye's Court - London's Lost Garden

Thanks to the Transpontine blog for this link to The Saye's Court - London Lost Garden  blog, which I hadn't seen before.

Saye's Court was one of the homes of diarist John Evelyn (1620-1706), which came to him through his wife's family on his marriage to her.  Strictly speaking, it's outside the scope of this Rotherhithe-based blog, because Sayes Court was down the road, part way to Deptford, in the immediate vicinity of the former Royal Docks.  But Evelyn's diaries are favourite reading of mine, shedding light on the area as a whole during the period when he lived here. Evelyn was a keen botanist and the Sayes Court gardens were full of plants that he had gathered from far and wide across the planet.  Sayes Court was so conveniently located for the docks that Peter The Great rented the house and its gardens when he came to learn the art of ship building (John Evelyn's accounts about the damage inflicted upon the property by Peter and his retinue make for some splendid reading). 

The London's Lost Garden blog began in February 2010.  I've spent a happy hour reading through previous posts. Here's an excerpt from the first post, which I really liked.

It was one day early in  2005, soon after we’d moved into our flat nearby, that we first discovered Sayes Court Park, adjacent to the currently-disused Thames-side dockyard in Deptford.  I was interested in seeing the wizened mulberry tree at its heart, supposedly planted some three hundred years ago by Czar Peter of Russia, of all people.

Old mulberry tree in Sayes Court Park

I was a bit sceptical of that particular legend even then, and am more so now that I have read the contemporary accounts of Peter’s behaviour during his visit. But I was nonetheless intrigued by the idea of a tree surviving from the greener, pre-industrial landscape in these parts. The gnarled but still vigorous and reportedly fruitful mulberry at least held out the eventual prospect of a taste you can’t buy at Tesco.

 If you ask local people about the park, some will tell you that John Evelyn, a friend of Samuel Pepys, and like him a diarist,  had a famous garden there. His house, and the garden, were indeed called Sayes Court.   The question was, how much, if anything, remained from Evelyn’s day in the modern park?

 Once you’ve got your eye in for it – by archaeological fieldwork, surveying, studying old maps – you develop an almost tangible sense of the past under your feet. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A civic society or urban parish council for Rotherhithe?

Time and Talents has been asked by the Bermondsey and Rotherhithe Community Council to investigate the interest in setting up a civic society or urban parish council for Rotherhithe.  For the purpose of this activity  Rotherhithe is defined according to the historic boundaries of St Mary’s parish, bounded by Southwark Park Road in the west, the river to the north and east and South Dock in the south.

See the above page for more, and to fill in the online survey.

A meeting will be held on 30th May to discuss the results of the survey.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Rotherhtihe Street Names - part 2

Again, just for fun, here is the second part of a look at how the streets in Rotherhithe gained their names. 
Part 1 can be found here:
Part 3 is here:

From Linney 1929
Acorn Walk
Named for the Acorn Pond, which was itself name for a pub that no longer stands.  The Acorn Pond was located where the modern housing development was built at Downtown, incorporating the Surrey Docks Medical Centre.  Its purpose was to float the timber imported from Canada and the Balkans.

Brunswick Quay
When Greenland Dock was extended at the end of the Nineteenth Century it absorbed a yard called the Lower Brunswick Yard. The houses and road that make up Brunswick Quay were built over the edges of the yard, which is marked on the 1896 map of Rotherhithe.  New Brunswick in Canada was one of the many sources of the timber that was processed and stored in the Rotherhithe docks, ponds and yards.

Deal Porters Way
The deal porters were the highly skilled handlers of deal - planks of softwood. Many eventually wore leather hoods with tails which were wrapped over the shoulder for protection. Stacking the planks in piles up to 60ft high was highly skilled. The deal porters worked the Surrey Commercial Docks throughout the early and mid 1900s, a job which was passed down from father to son.

Lady Dock, centre right, in 1921
Lady Dock Path
If you ever catch the 381 bus you'll be accustomed to hearing the stop being spoken by the recorded voice "Lady Dock Path, the Ship York." Lady Dock Path was named for Lady Dock, which is shown on the 1894 map of Rotherhithe, and was connected to the Thames first through Norway Dock, which opened into Greenland Dock, which had lock access to the Thames.  In spite of its name, the current path runs through the site of the old Norway Yard,which ran along the east side of Norway Dock, 

Moodkee St
Although I cannot find out what, if any, the local connection may have been, Moodkee refers to a famous battle that took place in the Punjab area of northweast India.  The first battle in the First Sikh War, the Battle of Moodkee took place on 18th December 1845.  Indian and British troops formed a joint force against the Presidency of Bengal's Punjab army, the Sikhs of the Khalsa.  The battle was named for the Punjab town of Moodkee (which can also be spelled Mudki). For more about the battle see

Elephant Lane
I have been unable to find out why this street was so-named.  The obvious supposition was that there had been a public house of the name, but I can't find any record of one, so I wonder if it wasn't something to do with the above-mentioned Battle of Moodkee.  As part of the preparation for the battle, stores were moved to the Punjab using three hundred camels and sixty elephants. It seems a bit of an unreasonable stretch, even though the two roads are close to each other, so if anyone has a better answer, do let me know!

Odessa Street
In the early Nineteenth Century Odessa was an important Russian port on the Black Sea, exporting grain and flour.  Some of that grain was brought into Rotherhithe docks, including South Dock, and wharves, including Odessa Wharf.  The Odessa Wharf building, near the Ship and Whale public house, is one of the oldest surviving in Rotherhithe, dating to 1810, and was used for the storage of grain imports.  The original brick-built warehouse has now been converted to apartments, and runs along the side of Randall Rents, a right of way that predates it. 

Onega Gate
Named for Onega Yard, which is marked on the Ordnance Survey 1894-96 map. It was located just north of Norway Dock and immediately fronted Commercial Dock Road, part of which is now Redriff Road. It began at the inlet from Norway Dock into Lady Dock where a swingbridge crossed the cut. It extended the full length of Norway Dock to the east of the bridge where a set of large buildings ran across the end of Norway Dock.  Onega was a Russian coastal town, where English industrialists were granted rights to fell timber and set up sawmills for export to English processing depots. The Onega Yard in Rotherhithe was one such timber import yard.

Randall's Rents
Randall's Rents is a slender alley leading up towards the Thames, along the side of the 1810 Odessa Wharf building, one of the oldest remaining buildings in Rotherhithe. Randall's Rents is the only remaining survivor of a whole network of similar passages which connected the dockers' homes with their dockland workplaces. It was originally named Wet Dock Lane when it was laid out by local shipwright John Wells in 1698. The name was changed to commemorate the local shipyard owner, John Randall, who owned houses that he rented to the workers at his yard. The shipyard built many beautiful ships for the Royal Navy, including the HMS Ganges and the HMS Culloden in 1779 and the  HMS Serapis in 1799.  I would love to see what it looked like in those days. 

Ropemaker Road
Rope making was an essential part of ship building activities in the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries.  The bigger the ship, the more rope was required for rigging. Warships and tea clippers were major consumers of rope.  The longer the rope required, the longer the rope-making premises (rope walk) required.  There were various rope walks in the area.  By 1843, the nearest rope walks to Rotherhithe were along the Bermondsey Wall, roughly half way between the Angel public house and St Saviour's Dock. A functional rope walk is still visible in London's Chatham dockyards, which is a quarter of a mile long.  See more about the Chatham rope walk,with photos at

St Paul's Avenue
This road, opposite Globe Wharf, is named for the Nineteenth Century church of St Paul that used to be located here.

Quebec Way
Quebec was one of a number of sources of wood, which was processed and stored in the timber ponds and yards in Rotherhithe.  The 1896 map of Rotherhithe shows a Quebec Pond together with the Quebec Upper and Lower Yards. It is also shown on the 1921 map, above.  The yards ran the length of Russia Dock (now Russia Dock Woodland) on its western side. In the Second World War, on the first day of the London Blitz, the Quebec Yards were bombed by the Luftwaffe. At that time a store for deal timber, the yards burned in an immense fire.  The modern Quebec Way crosses the former site of the pond, where the printing works are also sited.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Dockland and maritime phrases that have survived into colloquial English

Just for fun, here are a few dockland and maritime idioms and phrases that have survived into modern colloquial English.
HMS Victory in 2008.
Photo by Andrea Byrnes

First-rate, second-rate and third-rate

Today if we call something first rate we mean that it is at the top of its class, something really rather special, whereas something third rate is really rather poor.  Originally, these were terms associated with different types of Royal Navy ships of the line that were built in the 16th century at the Deptford Royal Docks, Rotherhithe and elsewhere in Britain.  First-rate ships, which had three decks and around 100 canons, were almost prohibitively expensive to build and maintain, and only a few were in service at any one time.  The HMS Victory, which in preserved in Portsmouth, is the only surviving First-rate ship of the line.   First-rate ships were only built at the Royal docks but third-rate ships could be built at lesser shipyards, including some of those around Rotherhithe.  Each class of ship had its own benefits and a third-rate was not considered to be inferior to a first-rate, so the modern usage of the term has altered the original sense of the rating system.

Nick name given to grain porters in the docks and convicts in the early 1900s. They wrapped the sacking rags around feet and legs to protect themselves against the sharp grain residues. It has passed into the modern vernacular as a somewhat insulting term applied to individuals who are considered to be generally useless or unpleasant.

Dutch Courage
Free Trade Wharf. Photograph by Adrian Pingston
(Public Domain)
Taking a boat ride from Greenwich to St Katharine's Dock I listened to the crew's commentary, which said that the term Dutch Courage (now used to indicate bravery derived from the consumption of alcohol) actually dates to the Great Plague of London in 1665. The City of London was sealed off to prevent the spread of the plague, which effectively cut it off from any food supply. The story was that the only traders brave enough to approach London were the Dutch, who left food on jetties in return for money that was left there for them. The reference to alcohol comes from the story that the Dutch would drink liquor before entering the area, to bolster their courage The Dutch were granted the freedom of the river Thames in return for this life-saving service. According to the boat's guide, they used to travel down the Thames as far as the wharf now located by the brown "lego" building called Free Trade Wharf. I've never actually found a documentary confirmation for this, but it's a good story! Most of the explanations available for Dutch courage refer to a type of gin developed by the Dutch and consumed by troops during the Thirty Years War.

Money for old rope
Rope which had deteriorated to the point where it could no longer be used as rope was sold to prisons and workhouses where it was dismantled into its original fibres. This product was known as "oakum" and was used to seal the gaps in ship decks. The payment for the redundant rope became known as "money for old rope".

Flotsam and Jetsam
Two separate terms for things that were found floating on the sea or river surface in the 16th and 17th Centuries.  Today, the words are used together to indicate that something (or someone) is worthless.  In the past, flotsam referred to items that were released by the action of the sea itself or were accidentally released into the water (like the remains of a sunken ship), and jetsam referred to items that were deliberately thrown overboard from ships. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Thames Circular Walk

St Mary's, Rotherhithe
This looks like a really good circular walk on the Thames Facing East blog, taking in both north and south banks of the river by using the Hilton Hotel's ferry and Tower Bridge.

On the Rotherhithe side it includes the Angel public house, the foundations of Edward III's manor house, the Brunel engine house, the Prince Boo memorial, Rotherhithe village, the Mayflower, before walking to teh Hilton and crossing over the Thames on the ferry to resume the walk.

The walk then proceeds along the Thames Path to Limehouse and Tower Bridge.  It looks like a great walk.  The post has photographs of some of the sites to be seen along the way.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

How the Shard is ushering in Rotherhithe’s next wave of development

The Shard. Photograph by
Ben Griffin, via Wikimedia.

This article kicks off with several paragraphs about Rotherhithe's fascinating history before going on to look at Rotherhithe today and development plans for Surrey Quays shopping centre and the Daily Mail's Harmsworth Quays,

It also suggests that the Shard will see much of these new developments being populated by occupants of the Shard:

Walking around Rotherhithe today, it seems as if it’s about to take yet another leap forward. Just 10 minutes from the Shard, where 10,000 people will eventually work, you can see why property developers are getting enthusiastic about snapping up the few parcels of land that remain.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Willow Warblers and more in Rotherhithe

From the Rotherhithe and Beyond blog, with some lovely photos:

I spent a couple of pleasant hours locally in Rotherhithe this evening. And with the weekend of birding promise ahead, I was in a relaxed mood. So much so that I actually stood for several minutes, just listening to one of the Willow Warblers that currently occupy Russia Dock Woodland. Willow Warblers are just a passage migrant in Central London, so I only really hear the melancholy song for a few days each year.

Walking Rotherhithe Tunnel

Another great post, with photos, on Caroline's Miscellany. 

While Greenwich and Woolwich have pedestrian foot tunnels, nearby Rotherhithe is generally thought of as a tunnel for motorists. In fact, there is pedestrian access as well, with a pavement provided on each side of the roadway. In the interests of tunnel completeness, I decided to take a walk inside.