The Rotherhithe & Bermondsey Local History Society has named its first two speakers for next year’s Mayflower 400 London Lectures – barely a month after hearing it had received funding for the talks. And they are two of the world’s leading authorities on the subject.

Society president Michael Daniels has announced that Adrian Gray and Nick Bunker which begin the series of events which it is planning for summer and autumn 2020.

The talks and walks will commemorate the 400th anniversary of The Mayflower’s departure from Rotherhithe, the home port and final resting place of the ship and her master.

The five talks are to be staged chronologically, so these first two speakers will provide the context and background to the voyage.

The Long Search for Freedom, on 27 May 2020, is to focus on a group of people from the Midlands and what drove them to embark on an extraordinary voyage across the Atlantic, creating both history and a major step towards religious freedom in the process.

Seafarers, Puritans and Beaver Hats, on 24 June 2020, will provide an insight into how the voyage was financed by trade and negotiations in the City of London.

“Adrian and Nick are two of the most prominent historians in the Mayflower world, and we are delighted that they are coming to share their expert knowledge with us here in Rotherhithe,” said Michael Daniels.

“Their talks will provide a unique opportunity to discover the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of the famous voyage, and many of the themes they will explore are likely to be as relevant today as they were 400 years ago.”

Rita Cruise O’Brien (co-director, Mayflower 400 London Lectures) added: “Adrian Gray is an expert local historian from the Nottinghamshire/Lincolnshire area and will talk of the history of the Trent Valley where the pilgrims first started their journey into exile in Holland in 1607. He will trace the origins of the separatist movement and the long story of non-conformism in this part of England.

“Nick Bunker is author of Making Haste from Babylon, the most outstanding modern book on the pilgrim story. He will consider the role of trade and finance in maritime London and the origins of the Mayflower project. His talk will include his fascinating research which uncovered the significance of the beaver trade in the making of the Plymouth Colony.”

The talks will take place in Rotherhithe and will be open to everyone at affordable admission fees. Further speakers to be announced.

The series is funded by the Southwark Mayflower 400 Grants Fund.

Galleywall Primary City of London Academy in Bermondsey has received a glowing Ofsted report achieving an ‘Outstanding’ rating in every one of the five assessment categories.

The school’s regulator, which visited the Galleywall Road site between 14 and 15 May, said since opening in September 2016, the City of London Academies Trust, governors and leaders have provided inspirational leadership and that their determination and drive for excellence has ensured that pupils develop into successful learners.

Inspectors found that “teachers have high expectations of all pupils; consequently, pupils thrive. Strong, positive relationships and well-established routines mean that pupils become confident and enthusiastic learners.”

The report praised the school’s broad, balanced and rich curriculum, finding that the, “leaders have ensured the curriculum has firm foundations in the school’s values, performing arts and the development of language. The curriculum provides children with a breadth and depth of learning activities.”

Ofsted said that pupils demonstrated consideration towards adults and each other. The inspectors noted that the “‘Galleywall values’ – aspirational, compassionate, enlightened, entrepreneurial and individual – thread through the school and underpin the curriculum.”

The report also stated that the extra funding for pupils with special educational needs, disabilities and children from disadvantage backgrounds, was used effectively and that the early years provision provides children with, “an exceptional start to their education.”

Parents also made comments through the regulator’s online questionnaire, with one saying: “the school provides an incredibly nurturing and holistic approach to learning.” They went onto to say that they were “confident their child is receiving an education which will “enrich and prepare him well for life.”

Sheila Cohring, headteacher of Galleywall Primary, said: “I am delighted that we have been recognised as an outstanding academy in the work we do in serving our young people. This is a phenomenal achievement.”

“I would like to thank everyone involved in its growth, especially our parents who really are ‘pioneers’.

“Their faith, belief and trust in the school and staff has allowed our vision to become a reality. We must also thank our talented children for being such a credit to us.

“The Ofsted inspection has been our first since becoming an academy school and I am exceptionally proud of all the children, staff, governors and parents for their contribution and hard work in making this an outstanding school.”

The second round of The Southwark Mayflower 400 Grants Fund is open to online application until 30 June.

The fund supports events and activities that celebrate the 400th anniversary of The Mayflower sailing and the themes around its historic voyage: migration, tolerance, enterprise and community.

People working on smaller activities and events can bid for up to £1,000, while bigger projects and events will be eligible of over £1,000. All initiatives must include a live event or activity to take place in the lead up to the anniversary of the Mayflower sailing in November 2020. They should also take place within the SE16 area or areas of Mayflower significance in the wider SE1 area.

You can find the application criteria and apply for Mayflower 400 funding at www.ustsc.org.uk/mayflower-400-grants-fund


Transport for London has delayed the next round of public consultation on the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf Bridge as it tries to trim the cost of the scheme, a City Hall committee has been told.

TfL has allocated £330 million to the walking and cycling scheme in its business plan.

Public consultation was due to open last month but has been delayed whilst TfL tries to tweak the scheme to try to keep the cost of the bridge within £330 million.

David Hughes, TfL’s investment delivery planning director, told the London Assembly budget & performance committee: “We’ve deferred the start of the consultation to allow further work on value engineering aspects of the scheme, going back looking at certain of the requirements around alignment [and] the navigation requirements of the Port of London to see if we can take out part of the cost before going to consultation.”

Alex Williams, TfL’s director of city planning, added: “We will seek contributions from the private sector to help deliver it” – but he warned that the amounts to be extracted from Canada Water developers British Land and Canary Wharf Group “are not going to be huge”.

Mr Hughes was unable to give Assembly members a new timetable for the next public consultation on the bridge.

Transport for London has announced that Abellio (owned by the Dutch national rail operator) has retained the contract to run the C10 bus route from March 2020.

The C10 links Canada Water with Victoria via the Rotherhithe peninsula, Bermondsey, Elephant & Castle and Pimlico.

A new fleet of electric single deck buses will be introduced on the route.

TfL is in the process of converting all single deck routes to use electric vehicles.

The new contract calls for a peak requirement of 22 vehicles, up from 20 at the moment, which suggests a small frequency boost could be on the cards.

The Lake Gallery (formerly CGP London)
Dilston Gallery (formerly Dilston Grove)
Marking its 35th anniversary, the contemporary art organisation based in the heart of Southwark Park, known as CGP London (Cafe Gallery Projects) has changed its name to Southwark Park Galleries, comprising the Lake Gallery and Dilston Gallery.

Southwark Park Galleries is set across two contrasting venues: the Lake Gallery is a ‘white cube’ gallery with a community garden, while Dilston Gallery isa Grade 2 listed, cavernous deconsecrated church dating back to 1911.

Commenting on the name change, director Judith Carton said: “After 35 years situated in the heart of London’s beautiful Southwark Park, our trustees, team and gallery family have agreed that now is the time to rename the organisation to better reflect our identity and position within the art world, our unique location, and the longstanding value of the rich offer we provide our local community.

“We have grown from an artist collective and DIY project space into an internationally established centre for progressive commissioning and courageous public engagement, with our continued commitment to free access to cultural excellence for all.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has ‘taken over’ the controversial Biscuit Factory planning application from Southwark Council, with a final decision to be made during a public hearing at City Hall.

Earlier this year Southwark’s planning committee unanimously rejected the 1,300-home scheme put forward by the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor property firm for a development spanning the former Peek Freans biscuit factory and the old Scott Lidgett School site.

Southwark and Grosvenor failed to reach consensus on three key areas:

  • the cost of building the scheme
  • the expected level of rental income from the flats
  • the ongoing costs of managing the completed development

In his formal letter ‘taking over’ the planning application and granting himself the status of local planning authority, Sadiq Khan wrote:

“In making this decision, I must also have regard to targets identified in development plans. As set out in the attached report, I recognise that Southwark Council has taken a positive approach to approving new homes in the borough during the period 2014 to 2017, and is currently securing planning approval for additional housing just below target levels. Notwithstanding this, I note that the proportion of affordable housing secured relative to overall housing consented during this period is significantly below Southwark’s Local Plan target of 35% and represents a significant undersupply of affordable housing in the pipeline.

“Furthermore, and having regard to final delivery of new homes, I note that this is below Southwark’s target levels for both housing and affordable housing, and that this shortfall is particularly acute in the case of affordable housing.

“In my view the proposed development has potential to make an important contribution to housing and affordable housing supply in response to London Plan policies 3.3 and 3.11. Additionally, I am aware of the significant further planning considerations in this case which include but are not limited to; potential educational improvements, employment creation and public realm improvements. Having regard to the above, and noting the potential contribution of the proposed development, I wish to fully consider this case as the local planning authority.”

A date for the City Hall hearing has yet to be set.

Joe Haines, journalist and former press secretary to prime minister Harold Wilson, has recorded his memories of Rotherhithe.

His latest book Kick ‘Em Back is a surprise in containing not just new inside information on Downing Street and Robert Maxwell but equally valuable reminiscences of Rotherhithe.

Joe spent most of his childhood and teens in Rotherhithe. He writes of Sun Alley where the sun rarely shone. Fresh air was to be found in ‘the green magnificence of Southwark Park’.

Pre-war Rotherhithe was docks with dockers looking for work along a rat infested riverside. There were no yuppies or tourists. The Mayflower pub was still The Spread Eagle. 

Although the population rarely strayed far it could be well-informed. Everyone knew when far-flung Riga was frozen because timber did not arrive in Surrey Docks. This meant no work.

His mother Elizabeth was a cleaner at St Olave’s Hospital whilst his older sister Emma had a permanent job at Crosse & Blackwell in Bermondsey’s Crimscott Street.

He recalls moving from a slum to new flats where neighbours included union leader Dick Barrett and Max Bygraves who was then called Wally. 

Life was made better by the trees planted in the streets under the direction of Cllr Ada Salter and the mission to youth of Clare College. 

About this time Joe’s mother took him to his first political meeting at Millpond Bridge, the junction of Paradise Street and West Lane, next to Millpond Estate.

Joe writes that he never deviated from his ambition to escape the drudgery and poverty which was Rotherhithe but adds that leaving Rotherhithe did not mean Rotherhithe left him. He married local girl Irene Lambert from Abbeyfield Road at St Mary’s Church.

The paperback’s title comes from advice given to him as a boy by his mother.

When he landed the top job at 10 Downing Street he received congratulations from old friend Dick Barrett in Guy’s Hospital. Towards the end of the book he raises the prospect that Maxwell had bought a flat in Tooley Street.

On Rotherhithe today, where his Swan Lane has become Swan Street, Joe Haines reflects: “The material gains have been immemse, the community ones are less obvious.”

Kick ‘Em Back: Wilson, Maxwell and Me by Joe Haines (Grosvenor House; £8.95).

This month Surrey Docks Farm started work on Phase 1 of its Riverfront Development, thanks to funding allocated by Southwark Council from levies on local developments. By the end of the year the farm will be offering a range of new and enhanced community facilities with stunning riverfront views looking across to Canary Wharf, providing new activity spaces, lettable rooms and outdoor areas all year round.

Architects PUP have designed the development and act as contract administrator; John Perkins Projects is the contractor; and Hollybrook Homes have kindly funded two cabins for the duration so the Farm can continue to run its education programmes and classes.

The farm’s River Room is being re-designed, upgraded, refitted and extended with a glass orangery to provide a quality, flexible, multi-use space for a wide range of uses – for schools’ programmes, classes, meetings, conferences, birthday parties and events. The adjacent three storey tower, burnt out in an arson attack over a decade ago, is being converted. On the ground floor: a Farm Kitchen providing a training resource for all ages promoting cooking with fresh produce, good diets and healthy eating and a catering resource for events held in the River Room. On the first floor: an office to accommodate the farm’s growing staff team. On the top floor: a calm, flexible activity space with a fine view overlooking the Thames – for meetings, arts and crafts and therapeutic sessions.

To complete the development, the farm is currently fundraising for Phase 2 to open up its river frontage in its unique setting by the Thames. Its new main entrance will then be through the gates onto the Thames Path where the public will be led along widened, paved entrances into the Farm and its new riverfront facilities. There will be new paving, landscaping and gardens providing a special space for sitting out and socialising and for community events. Gates and a retractable trellis fence will be installed to enable all the new riverfront facilities provided in Phase 1 to be available for evening classes as well as day time use by securing the rest of the Farm and its animals.

Cllr Johnson Situ, cabinet Member for growth, development and planning commented: “This is really good news for the borough’s only city farm. Here in Southwark Council we are delighted to have awarded the Farm one of the earliest Community Infrastructure Levy (CILs) amounts to enable them to make all these superb improvements. This award is a great example of the council’s refreshed approach to local CIL which will see the development of Community Investment Plans to support growth across the borough. As part of the award, the Farm will also contribute to Southwark being an Age Friendly borough with further opportunities for older and younger people alike as well as new inter-generational projects”.

Cllr Jasmin Ali, Cabinet Member for children’s and adult services commented: “Speaking personally, I cannot wait to bring my family down there to see the transformation.  We have also granted the Farm a new 35 year lease at a charitable rent so that these new education and community resources are secured for the long term and the Farm can enhance and develop its special offers for residents”.

As the borough’s only city farm, with its gates open seven days a week and free entrance, the farm will provide its 50,000 visitors a year with an enhanced visitor experience and renewed opportunities to learn about and engage with all aspects of a working farm.