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Rotherhithe, Surrey

Historical Description

Rotherhithe (called by the Waterside folk Redriff), a parish and parliamentary borough on the N border of Surrey and in the administrative county of London. It lies on the river Thames between the Pool and Limehouse Reach, on the East London railway, on the South London line of the L.B. & S.C.R., adjacent to the London and Greenwich railway, and on the terminal portion of the Surrey Canal, 2½ miles SE of St Paul's, London, forms a compact portion of the metropolis, and is in the S.E. Postal District. It appears to have gone by the name of Redriff from Anglo-Saxon times, and it is frequently mentioned by Pepys in his " Diary " under this name. Its origin is unknown, but it appears to have originally grown to importance around an ancient village in a marsh. It was the place where Henry IV. stayed to be cured of his leprosy, and it suffered destruction of more than 200 houses by a fire in 1765. Among its natives it numbers Admiral Benbow, Admiral Sir J. Leake, and the singer Dignum. It consists all of low, flat ground, originally marsh, and comprises about 2½ miles of river and wharf frontage. It has for a considerable period been celebrated for its docks, and the great Howland Dock-the first wet dock made in England-has been in existence for two centuries, having been opened in 1696. The most important of the present docks are those belonging to The Surrey Commercial Dock Company. Other docks are the Commercial with the East Country Dock, now incorporated with the Grand Surrey Canal Dock. The chief trade of these docks is in timber, corn, hemp, flax, and tallow, and they include immense timber ponds, huge granaries, and spacious warehouses. There are also numerous boatbuilders' and lighter-builders' wharves, timber basins, a mast yard, and many establishments of other kinds connected with commerce and manufacture. Southwark Park, which contains 62 acres, was laid out and opened in 1869 under the auspices of the Metropolitan Board of Works at a cost of £100,000. It contains a piece of ornamental water, flower gardens, and walks, and a large open space available for games. The parish church of St Mary stands a short distance from the river side, and is a building of brick with stone quoins consisting of chancel, nave, and two aisles, supported with pillars of the Ionic order. It has a western tower, upon which is a stone spire supported by Corinthian columns. In the church there is preserved a portrait of Charles I. in his robes kneeling at a fald-stool and holding a crown of thorns. This painting is an exact copy of the famous Eikon Basilike, and has been in the possession of the parish since the restoration of Charles II. The church has been carefully restored under the direction of Mr W. Butterfield, the eminent architect. In the churchyard there is a monument to Lee Boo, Prince of the Pelew Islands, who died at Rotherhithe from smallpox in 1784. A handsome mural monument to perpetuate his name has been erected by the Secretary of State for India. The ecclesiastical parishes are given under LONDON. Acreage of the parish, 754; population, 39,255. The population of the parliamentary borough (formed out of part of the former borough of Southwark) is 73,915.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountySurrey 
Ecclesiastical parishRotherhithe St. Mary 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records, in association with Surrey History Centre, have images of the Parish Registers for Surrey online.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Rotherhithe from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Surrey is available to browse.


Online maps of Rotherhithe are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Surrey papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Surrey, 1662-1668 is available on the Heraldry page.

CountyGreater London
Postal districtSE16
Post TownLondon