Rotherhithe, London: a few notes by a one-time resident
Rotherhithe is an area of London a few miles from the centre, which because of its location in the underdeveloped south-east of the city doesn't really feature on many people's radar. Until the Jubilee Line station opened at Canada Water in late 1999 its only connection to the Underground was the East London Line station. Rotherhithe is located on the first oxbow peninsula formed by the Thames' meanderings toward the sea just west of the Isle Of Dogs, though on the south side of the river.
The area is not going to make it onto any tourist tours any time soon but it does have a fairly interesting local history, if you like that kind of thing. The name is Anglo-Saxon for cow-port and it remained a part of London's docks all the way into the twentieth century, up until the ships stopped coming. Our American friends will no doubt be interested to hear that Rotherhithe was the Mayflower's home port, setting sail from here on its journey west with the Pilgrim Fathers on board. The grave of the ship's captain can be found in St Mary's Churchyard not far from the Mayflower pub, which dates from that time.
Along with the rest of London's Docklands, Rotherhithe became a byword first for the decline of London's industries then for successful urban regeneration thanks to the London Docklands Development Corporation. To appreciate what the LDDC did for Rotherhithe you have to realise that thirty years ago it was three-quarters underwater. The river's oxbow had been hollowed out over the years to form docks and staging area for the ships that were unloaded there. The LDDC was given a free hand and went to work filling it all in, and then building houses on it or sculpting the rather overgrown park that now occupies the middle of the oxbow
If you are ever in the area go and climb Stave Hill and after you've admired the view look at the sculpture/map at the top: it's Rotherhithe 1890, complete with rainwater filling the docks. The LDDC had the sense to not fill in everywhere so we still have Greenland Dock and waterways leading to it to walk along on sunny evenings.
There is not a lot else to tell. If it is bustling nightlife you are after - or simply people around during the day - then you should probably look elsewhere. There are still a lot of families living in the area, but with the opening of the Jubilee Line Extension putting it one stop from the new financial district across the river at Canary Wharf the area is becoming more popular with young professionals willing to trade local amenities for lower house prices.
And there you have it.