Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

Roots

Yesterday, I published a post about identity. I had spent some time thinking about my background and life in London, on the southern banks of the River Thames. When I got up today, I searched through some images, happy to wallow in a little nostalgia. Then it occurred to me to share some with you, a glimpse of a time and place, and a part of London many of you may never have heard of. Rotherhithe.

This house is not my grandparents’ house, but in all other respects, including the corner location, it is identical. Their house survived the nearby bombing in WW2, though many in that street did not. Such houses had outside toilets, tiny back gardens, and life was mainly lived in the ‘back room’, next to a small kitchen known as ‘the scullery’. It was usual for someone else to live in the upstairs rooms, and my aunt and uncle lived up there, with my cousin. My grandparents’ house still stands, and is now considered to be a ‘trendy and desirable’ property.

Close to the river, rows of low-rise flats had been built. This shot is from the early 1960s, which I can easily tell from the cars parked on the street.

Tower blocks soon became popular in the area. This is Addy House, built in 1963, and thought to be very smart and modern at the time. At sixteen stories, it would have been one of the tallest buildings in the borough then.

When I was young, the River Thames was still a busy and vibrant workplace. The docks and wharves on both sides were full of ships, and many local men worked as dockers, or on barges. You can see how close the area is to Tower Bridge, which was a short walk from where I grew up.

That area is also famous for a road and pedestrian tunnel under the river, the Rotherhithe Tunnel. Used as an alternative to Tower Bridge, (which opened several times a day to allow ships to pass) this was opened in 1908, and is still just as busy today.

One of the features of living so close to the river was the amount of riverside pubs in the area. This is one of the most famous, The Mayflower. It was originally called The Shippe, and dates from 1550, making it one of the oldest buildings still standing in the area. The current pub was erected on the site in 1620, named after the fact that the Pilgrim Fathers tied up their ship of that name there, before leaving to explore America. It is very popular with both tourists and locals, and has a very good restaurant upstairs, as well as riverside seating at the back. I had my second wedding reception there, in 1989.

If traffic was bad, and we wanted to get into the centre of the city, we would sometimes use the small tube (subway) line. This only took us to Aldgate, in East London, and from there we could change lines to get to the shopping areas of Oxford Street and Regent Street. This is the station today, unchanged since it was built, in 1869.

I hope that you have enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me. If you ever visit London, don’t forget that many of the most interesting parts of the city are south of The Thames, away from the more familiar tourist traps.

60 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

    1. Thanks, Lloyd. I always loved Tower Bridge. I used to watch it go up and down, as the ships passed. Even in later life, I still regarded it as the best thing in London, and enjoyed going to the visitor experience there.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Pete, this was a pleasure read! For those of us who a) enjoy nostalgia, b) aren’t familiar with your area, and c) aren’t familiar with your country, this was a terrific trip. Loved seeing where the Mayflower docked before it arrived here in Massachusetts. Best to you, Pete.

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  2. Well done Pete, you have the knack of making me both nostalgic and homesick (having been born in Stepney, bought up in Forest Gate ) although I dare say the place has changed since 1993 when I left for NZ
    More like this please…

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    1. Hi Bobby. Stepney has had a lot of gentrification of course. A 2-bed flat there would cost up to £700,000 now, and a small house in E7 will fetch £500,000+. Since 1993, many buildings have changed use, but if you came back and drove around the East End, I am sure it would still be familiar to you.
      Cheers, Pete.

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  3. Thank you, Pete, for this nostalgic tour through an area in London, where you grew up. It’s good a thing to have some old photos handy to give you the feel that goes with the distant past you experienced as a child.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Peter. None of those photos are mine. I didn’t have a camera back then. I got these images from various sites online, and thought they were good to use to illustrate the chronology.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the pictures and the memories, Pete. I’ve stayed in London at times (only for a few weeks or months), and visited often, but never lived there for any long length of time. I wasn’t familiar with that part of London. I’ve spent more time in the North West of London as my relatives lived in Kilburn (now my cousin has rented the house out and he is living in Luton). I’ve always loved going for a walk either by the riverside or the sea. Not sure I’d be happy in a place that didn’t have one of them at least…

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    1. I moved back there in 1985, and lived just across the road from the river. I was always walking beside it, and enjoying the views across to Canary Wharf, as I watched the many riverboats going back and forth. (I also know Kilburn well, as it was close to where I worked, in Ladbroke Grove.)
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  5. A terrific bit of history, Pete! I shot a television special in London in 2009, and we filmed some stuff in front of Tower Bridge because of its iconic status. A great city, love the classic old pub!

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  6. Absolutely fascinating! I particularly liked the Rotherhithe Tunnel and subway station photos. I Googled the pronunciation of Rotherhithe, expecting it be pronounced differently than my best guess, but it turned out that I guessed correctly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, David. If you actually came from Rotherhithe, and had a south London accent, then you would know that the real pronunciation is ‘Rovver-ive’. 🙂 No ‘th’ where I come from. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I found this post very interesting. I was born in East Dulwich in 1951, in a similar house. My uncle and aunt lived downstairs and my parents, sister and I lived upstairs. We were blessed with a very long back garden. There were very few cars on our street then. We played outside a lot and a favourite game was cowboys and indians, complete with toy guns and bows and arrows.

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    1. Sounds much the same as my youth, Pam. (Born 1952) I know East Dulwich very well, and still have relatives in Dulwich Village, and the surrounding areas like Forest Hill, and Peckham.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for this wonderful trip down your memory lane, thoroughly enjoyed it. The last I saw of teh Thames was in May 1965 as my parents took us off to Orstralia 🙂 from Tilbury

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      1. I’m not really properly back. I did a ‘holding’ post to let folk know I am still here and took the opportunity to read a couple of posts. It’s head down again but the end is in sight – just:)

        Liked by 1 person

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