Focus On Rotherhithe: A £34m investment has brought a new town square, library and cultural centre to the Docks

Melissa York
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Greenland Dock at sunset

Rotherhithe, a conservation area in the Docklands in south east London, is one of the prettiest and most rapidly gentrifying places in the capital.

With a long and proud history as a major trade port, it was a working dock right up until the 1970s. It was also home to the first under-river tunnel in the world, the Thames Tunnel, which opened in 1843 running to Wapping on the north bank.

Usually for a London riverside, development also remains resolutely low-rise, making it a picturesque place to pitch up. It wasn’t always this way, though, as it suffered severe casualties during the war.

“Rotherhithe’s warehouses and wharfs meant it was one of London’s most heavily bombed neighbourhoods,” says David Fell, research analyst at Hamptons International. “While a few Victorian pockets survive, over 90 per cent of homes were built during the 1980s as the remaining industry petered out. Rebuilding started much later than in much of London meaning the mistakes of the 1960s and 70s were avoided. Brick, rather than concrete was used, giving the area a suburban rather than city feel.”

The Brunel Museum (photo: Jack Hobhouse)

Perhaps unsurprisingly considering Asian buyers’ penchant for living next to water, Rotherhithe has the biggest Chinese population in Southwark and there’s a strong Scandinavian community, too, with a Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish church still in action.

The arrival of the Jubilee Line at Canada Water in 1999 kick started the area’s rejuvenation and the London Overground at Rotherhithe afterwards, with quick links to Shoreditch High Street, has brought new blood into the area, too.

“Rotherhithe has seen a fantastic amount of investment in the area,” says Christopher Venter, Foxtons’ London Bridge sales manager. “British Land announced a £34m investment and extension to the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre, as well as buying the site of Associated Newspapers printworks for redevelopment. A number of modern apartment blocks are also beibng built in the area, including Barratt Homes’ development of 900 flats – Maple Quays. The latest landmark to appear in Canada Water is a £14m library and cultural centre, designed by Piers Gough.”

The pyramid-shaped building joins Deal Porter Square, a new town centre with restaurants and shops, in symbolising Rotherhithe’s ascendency as a desirable place to live.

In 2014, new builds accounted for 35 per cent of all sales in the area, according to Hamptons International, while first time buyers take 27 per cent of market sales, which is bang on the London average. L&Q’s Quebec Quarter will also provide over 200 new homes, including 69 part-buy, part-rent Shared Ownership ones.

And as Londoners are warming to the idea of living by the river again and looking for greater value, investment looks set to continue. CBRE’s London Living Borough by Borough report says, “Some areas, particularly in the south of the borough, such as Surrey Quays, Rotherhithe, Bermondsey and Old Kent Road remain undervalued, but with further regeneration plans spanning the entire borough, we expect the area to soon realise its true potential.

“Average house prices are already 10 per cent higher than the London average, at £516,675. But we expect this to increase further; our previous research has shown that regeneration can boost local property prices by around 4.7 per cent per annum, over and above wider capital growth.”

On reflection, things are looking rather prosperous along the river.

The new Canada Water library

Area highlights

Claiming to be the oldest pub on the Thames, The Mayflower is on the original 16th century mooring point of the ship of the same name that took the Pilgrim Fathers to what would become the United States of America. Greenland Dock is the oldest of London’s riverside wet docks, and it used to be part of Surrey Commercial Docks before most of it was filled in. Now it’s the site of many new residential developments. The Brunel Museum in the Brunel Engine House celebrates Britain’s finest engineer by commemorating his first and last projects through watercolours, engravings and models and it sits above the oldest tunnel in the Underground. The Yellow House is a funky pub and restaurant on Lower Road, serving a modern British menu with plenty of contemporary artwork to admire. And there are nearly 40 shops to browse nearby at British Land’s Surrey Quays Shopping Centre.

Read more: Focus On Bermondsey – from Victorian slum to foodie fun

Area guide

House prices Source: Zoopla





Transport Source: TfL

Time to Canary Wharf: 2 mins

Time to Liverpool Street: 20 mins

Nearest tube station: Canada Water

Best roads Source: Hamptons International

Most Expensive: Sovereign Court: £924,333

Best Value: Garter Way: £277,294

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