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Rotherhithe ( ) is a district of central south-east Londonmarker in the London Borough of Southwarkmarker, Englandmarker. It is located on a peninsula on the south bank of the Thames, facing Wappingmarker and the Isle of Dogsmarker on the north bank, and is a part of the Docklandsmarker area.

Rotherhithe has been a port since the 12th century or earlier, and a shipyard since Elizabethan times.


Rotherhithe is joined to the north bank of the Thames by three tunnels. The Thames Tunnelmarker to Wappingmarker was the first underwater tunnel in the world. Built by the Brunels originally to carry cross river freight, it became a pedestrian tunnel, due to the money running out to build the necessary ramps. It is now occupied by the East London Line of the London Underground, which since 23 December 2007 has been closed for conversion to become part of the London Overground network by summer 2010. The later Rotherhithe Tunnelmarker (opened 1908) carries a two-lane road to Limehousemarker. The Jubilee Line extension (opened 1999) has a railway tunnel to Canary Wharfmarker in the Isle of Dogsmarker.

Rotherhithe is part of the SE16 postal district. Electorally, the western half is Rotherhithe ward and the eastern half Surrey Docks ward.

As much of Rotherhithe was covered by the now-defunct Surrey Commercial Docksmarker, the district is sometimes referred to as Surrey Docks or (since the late 1980s) Surrey Quaysmarker, though the latter name tends to be used more for the southern half of the peninsula. An eastern part, which became in effect an island when the docks were in use and locks open, is called "Downtown". This name was never related to the idea of a "downtown" in the American sense, and indeed this part of Rotherhithe has since the 1980s been quiet and suburban in nature.



The name "Rotherhithe" derives from Anglo-Saxon hryðer-hȳð = "Landing-place for cattle" or from redhra-hyð = "Sailor haven". The first recorded use of this name is circa 1105, as Rederheia In the past Rotherhithe has also been known as the cognate "Redriff".


Although the docks were closed and largely filled in during the 1980s, and have now been replaced by modern housing and commercial facilities, Rotherhithe is still given a large part of its character by its former maritime heritage. The largest surviving dock on the south bank, Greenland Dockmarker, is the focal point for the southern part of the district, while there are many preserved wharves along the riverside at the north end of Rotherhithe. St. Mary's Churchmarker is at the centre of the old town of Rotherhithe village, which contains various historic buildings including the Brunel Engine Housemarker at the south end of the Thames Tunnel.
Albion Channel linking Canada Water with Surrey Water
Rotherhithe had its own general hospital, St Olave's Hospitalmarker, in Lower Road. Built originally in the early 1870s on land adjoining Rotherhithe Workhouse, it became the infirmary of St Olave's Union in 1875, and was renamed St Olave's Hospitalmarker in 1930. Subsequently becoming part of the Guy's Hospital Teaching Group in 1966, it closed in 1985 and the site has been redeveloped into the residential Ann Moss Way.

When the roundabout facing the Rotherhithe Tunnel was redeveloped in the early 1980s, several nineteenth century buildings were demolished including a school and a nunnery. A public house described in an early twentieth century history of the area as one its oldest, was also demolished.

Rotherhithe is the traditional home of the football team, Fisher Athletic F.C., although the team currently ground-shares with Dulwich Hamlet.

The sustainable transport charity Sustrans has proposed the construction of a bicycle and pedestrian swing bridge from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharfmarker, and cost-benefit and feasibility studies were undertaken. In January 2009 the London Mayor Boris Johnson said he would not fund the bridge, citing budget cuts due to the credit crunch, with the result that the project is effectively on ice for the time being.

Scandinavian connection

The Finnish Church, Albion Street
Because much of the former Surrey Docksmarker had strong trade links to Scandinavia and the Baltic region the area is still home to a thriving Scandinavian community. During World War II, in fact, it housed the Norwegian Government-in-Exile. Originally established as seafarers' missions, Rotherhithe is home to a Norwegian, a Finnish and a Swedish church. The Finnish Church and the Norwegian Church are both located in Albion Street; they were built in 1958 and 1927 respectively (Rotherhithe Library is located between them). There are also a number of "community centres" for the Nordic community in London, including hostels, shops and cafés and even a sauna, mostly linked closely to the churches.

Some of the redeveloped areas were built by Nordic architects, such as the Greenland Passage development by Danish Company Kjaer & Richter. This gives some areas a distinctly "Nordic" feel in terms of house and street design.

The relationship with Scandinavia and the Baltic is also reflected in the names of some of the buildings (such as the King Frederik IX Tower), the street names (e.g. Finland Street, Sweden Gate, Baltic Quaymarker, Norway Gate, Helsinki Square) or other place names (e.g. Greenland Dockmarker). Another major influence factor was trade with Russiamarker and Canadamarker (mainly timber), reflected in names such as Canada Watermarker and the Russia Dockmarker Woodland.

Other connections include with the Indian subcontinent, with wharves being named Bombay Court and East India court. A neo-Indian community has also now found root here with many young upcoming Indian professionals moving to London to work in the technology, financial services and legal professions. The proximity to the City and Canary Wharf has made this a convenient choice and hub for graduates from the Indian Institutes of Technology.


The ship, the Mayflower sailed from Rotherhithe for Massachusetts in 1620 with the group of emigrants that later became known as the "Pilgrim Fathers". The ship's captain, Christopher Jones, died shortly after his return in 1621 and he is buried in an unmarked grave at St Mary's Church. The Mayflower sailed from near the Shippe public house in Rotherhithe Street, which was substantially rebuilt in the 18th century and is now named the Mayflower.Several buildings and areas pay tribute to this journey and the connection it establishes with different parts of the New World and with Holland. Among these is Leydon Close, named after Leiden in Holland, where the pilgrims lived before the Mayflower voyage.

Notable people associated with Rotherhithe

  • Max Bygraves was born in Rotherhithe
  • Michael Caine was born on 14 March 1933 as Maurice Joseph Micklewhite.
  • Princess Margaret met her husband-to-be, photographer Tony Armstrong-Jones, in a house in Rotherhithe.
  • Alfred Hitchcock filmed scenes for his first film as director, Number 13 (1922), in Rotherhithe before it was pulled from production.
  • Malcolm Hardee lived on a houseboat in Greenland Dock, Rotherhithe, and owned and ran the Wibbley Wobbley pub-boat on the same dock. He drowned in the same dock in 2005.
  • Myleene Klass lived in Rotherhithe in the early 2000s.

Cultural references

  • In the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, Harmsworth Quays Printing was used as the scene for Carver's print works.
  • Redriff was the fictional birthplace of Jonathan Swift's character Lemuel Gulliver, of Gulliver's Travels fame, and where his family waited for him.
  • Rotherhithe is alluded to in the British Sea Power song Carrion and the Elvis Costello song New Amsterdam.
  • Adam Carter from Spooks supposedly lives in Canada Wharf on Rotherhithe Street, and much of the series is filmed on locations around Rotherhithe and the Docklands.
  • In the ending chapter of Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist there is a lively depiction of a Rotherhithe slum district of the mid 19th century.
  • The famous Gujarati poem, 'Rajashahi Ghodi', talks about a bicycle, allegorically a royal steed as it passes by the narrow by-lanes of Rotherhithe every morning, describing landmarks and monuments like the Mayflower Pub, the Picture Library and Southwark Park, along it's way.
  • A period costumier, picture library and minor film producer Sands Films is located at Rotherhithe Street, close to the Mayflower pub.
  • Long-running ITV series London's Burning was based at local fire station Dockhead for the first few series, with most scenes filmed in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. For example, leading character 'Vaseline' was filmed drowning in Greenland Dock, and another leading character, Bert, campaigned to save the local city farm, filmed at Surrey Docks Farm in Rotherhithe.
  • 2004-5 ITV drama series "The Brief" often filmed in Rotherhithe, with internal scenes filmed at the Mayflower pub and lead character Henry Farmer, played by Alan Davies, lived a few doors away.
  • 2007 film "The Riddle", starring Vinnie Jones and Derek Jacobi, was largely filmed on location in Rotherhithe. It features the interior and exterior of the genuine Blacksmiths Arms, Rotherhithe, although the rear of the pub in the film was a temporary set built adjacent to the Downtown nightclub, close to the Surrey Docks Farm.

Main sights


Areas of Southwark

Rotherhithe is served by three stations. Rotherhithemarker was formerly a London Underground station, and is currently being re-built as a London Overground station, and is likely to re-open in March 2010, together with Surrey Quays on the southern side of Rotherhithe. In between lies Canada Water tube stationmarker, which lies on the London Underground Jubilee line, and forms an interchange with the East London line, lying between Rotherhithe and Surrey Quays. Other nearby stations are Bermondsey London Underground station (also Jubilee line), South Bermondsey national rail station, and London Bridge railway stationmarker to the west.

Walking and cycling
The riverbank is path of the Richmondmarker to Thames Barriermarker (28 miles – 45 km) section of the Thames Pathmarker through London. Most of the riverbank is accessible, apart from sections where warehouses and estates have established rights to the riverside.
River boat service piers


Image:Rotherhithe_Mayflower.jpg|Historic Mayflower PubImage:Rotherhithe_Albion.jpg|Albion ChannelImage:Rotherhithe_Riverside.jpg|Riverside DevelopmentsImage:Stave_Hill_View_Docklands.jpg|View from Stave Hill over Canary WharfImage:Stave-Hill-Scene.jpg|Russia Dock woodland


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