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.

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


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).

With a year to go, the partnership of Southwark Council, British Land and United St Saviour’s Charity has started awarding grants to local organisations for commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailing. 

Rotherhithe and North Southwark has a long seafaring and ship building history and was the place where Christopher Jones, the captain and part owner of the ship, and many of the crew of the Mayflower lived. 

So far, part of the £140,000 programme has gone to such diverse projects as Club Herop’s photojournalism initiative, Bermondsey  Artist Group’s two year community multi-media programme, the Illuminate Rotherhithe festival, Art in the Park’s schools programme, an intergenerational theatre piece run by London Bubble and a number of local historical talks and events.

Michael Daniels, President of Rotherhithe and Bermondsey Local History Society said he was delighted to be awarded a grant. He commented: ‘Our Local History Society organises illustrated monthly talks on fascinating subjects.  During the summer of 2020 we will stage a mini-series of talks and walks about the Mayflower here in Rotherhithe’.

Naomi N Dibum, Project Manager at Club Herop said: ‘By receiving this grant, every young person will create a range of work that represents the learning of their peers and understand the relevance of the Mayflower narrative today and the difficulties faced by the migrants during their journey’.

Cllr Rebecca Lury, Deputy Leader of Southwark Council said she was really pleased by the range and quality of the applications received so far.

‘We have had a very impressive list of applicants, but the good news is we still have over £60,000 in grants to award as part of stage two and three.  Therefore, I would encourage any local group, school or other interested party who have a project which is connected to the Mayflower, and use the application process on the Council’s website to apply for a grant’.

Sarah Thurman, Head of Community Investments, United St Saviour’s Charity said: ‘We are delighted to support eight exciting community led projects that celebrate the story of the Mayflower. United St Saviour’s was 80 years young when the Mayflower set sail from Rotherhithe, eventually for the New World.  Now 400 years later, it is great to remember Southwark’s connection to the historic voyage with our partners Southwark Council and British Land’.

Eleanor Wright, Head of Community At Canada Water, at British Land said: ‘It was fantastic to see the first round bids and see the local Mayflower 2020 programme really taking shape. Congratulations to all the successful bids and thankyou everyone who took the time to submit entries’.

The PowerPoint presentation shown at the service

St James’s Church in Bermondsey held a special celebration on Sunday to mark the completion of £600,000 of restoration works to the historic building.

The Mayor of Southwark, Cllr Catherine Rose, was among the special guests at the event.

St James’s vicar Canon Gary Jenkins shares more detail and photos on his blog here and here.

Southwark Council has served an enforcement notice on the owners of the Old Justice Pub on Bermondsey Wall East after work was carried out on the grade II listed building.

Meanwhile applications for planning permission (19/AP/0438) and listed building consent (19/AP/0439) have now been submitted to the council for works to create a roof extension to accommodate a new flat.

With a year to go until the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from Rotherhithe, a £140,000 fund has been launched to help local people to get involved with the commemorations.

The Mayflower set sail for America from Rotherhithe in July 1620. Captain Jones and many of his crew also lived there, making London central to the historic voyage.

global programme of events is being organised for the lead up to the anniversary, this will run from November 2019 to November 2020 and include a programme of activities taking place across the UK, the Netherlands and America.

Southwark Council, United St Saviour’s Charity and British Land have worked together to establish a Southwark Mayflower 400 Grants Fund, making £140,000 available to local projects celebrating the themes of migration, tolerance, enterprise and community, for the international Mayflower commemoration event. 

Cllr Rebecca Lury, Deputy Leader of Southwark Council, said: “I am delighted to open the first round of Mayflower 400 funding and welcome local people to join the global celebration of Southwark’s history with the Mayflower. 

“I believe the pursuit of the universal concepts of freedom, liberty and justice are just as relevant now as they were when the ship’s Captain, Christopher Jones, sailed the Mayflower from his home in Rotherhithe, carrying people escaping persecution to America in 1620.

“We hope this funding will help bring the story of the Mayflower to generations to come and that the community connections established throughout Southwark’s celebrations, will form the foundation of many friendships and future activities.”

The council is inviting community groups, tenant and resident associations, faith based organisations, schools and arts, cultural and heritage organisations in SE16, to consider how they could use the Mayflower’s heritage to create meaningful and exciting projects that enhance and highlight its stories for a local and international audience. Projects from groups in SE1 and those based outside the immediate area may also be considered.

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 here: https://www.ustsc.org.uk/mayflower-400-grants-fund/

Plans to light up some of Rotherhithe’s landmark buildings to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower in 2020 have moved a step closer.

More than £30,000 has been raised to allow a feasibility study to be undertaken. £20,000 has been contributed by the Greater London Authority with the balance coming from local people, businesses and organisations.

WE HIT OUR TARGET TODAY – 3 DAYS BEFORE MONDAY’S DEADLINE – AND WE’VE EXCEEDED IT!  We never believed for a moment that it would be possible to raise such a significant sum in such a relatively short space of time, but thanks to YOU and all the other 176 generous pledgers we have actually managed to achieve our goal.  
 
We are now in overfunding mode!  This is a wonderful – and very unexpected – position to be in.  It will still be possible to make a pledge for the next couple of weeks, and as stated on our Spacehive project page all the additional funds will be held in reserve to put towards the cost of the installation of the lighting scheme later on, after the technical feasibility study has been completed.  

It’s been suggested that there is potentially funding available in another mayoral funding pot to cover part of the cost of the installation, and last week I was given a promise of corporate financial support for the installation, which is very exciting! But there is lots more work to do.

We want to move the process forward as quickly as we can now, and we are still hoping that there might be time for this legacy lighting scheme to be installed by July 2020 when the Mayflower 400 celebrations/commemorations begin.  We have already arranged to meet with the conservation architect and the lighting designer in January to discuss next steps.  And if you would like to learn more about the proposed scheme, evening lighting demonstrations will be available for local friends and neighbours – and for anyone else who’s interested – before design development.
 
Please help us by sharing this good news with all your networks and your social media.  
 
THANK YOU AGAIN for your support and for your enthusiasm and for making it possible for us to take our exciting vision forward to the next stage.
 
Festive greetings and very best wishes for 2019.
 
Clare and the Illuminate Rotherhithe! campaign team

Here’s the update that Clare Armstrong – who devised the project – shared with backers on the Spacehive crowdfunding site:

Pupils at Redriff Primary City of London Academy have been taking part in activities to mark 100 years since the end of World War One.

Children from nursery age to Year 6 have been involved in a wide range of activities, building up to the school’s Remembrance Assembly today and finally culminating in the unveiling of the school’s memorial garden.

The memorial garden has a steel solider inscribed with the words ‘Redriff Remembers 1918-2018’ including crosses, placed by the children, bearing the names of the 600 soldiers from Rotherhithe who were killed in the war.

Also featuring in the garden is a silhouette, which has been supplied by the charity Remembered as part of its 2018 Armistice project –There But Not There.

The children have also constructed a poppy made from stones on which they have written the names of each solider.

The poppy will remain as a permanent feature in the school’s playground.

The garden will be completed on Friday during the Remembrance Assembly when the final crosses will be planted.

Mickey Kelly, executive headteacher of Redriff Primary, said:

“This week has been a moving experience for all the students and staff at the school.

“The children have really grasped the importance of Armistice Day and World War One.

“Teachers have held workshops for the children on what life was like in the trenches and the different aspects of the War, from roles animals played to the impact of the War on women’s lives.”

Today’s assembly saw staff and children observe a two-minute silence.