In 1720 Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels was published, and Rotherhithe, under its alternative name Redriff, gained some slight publicity because in the story it was Lemuel Gulliver's home village. It does not, however, have a large part to play in the tale!
In the 1720s Mayflower Street was an elegant road of sea captain's homes. Sadly these are long gone and in their place are now modern office blocks. I often visit a village on the west Wales coast called Aberdovey where the original sea captains' homes survive - they are substantial and very attractive. It would be lovely to know how the buildings would compare with those that once existed in Mayflower Street.
Few Londoners, at first sight, would suspect Rotherhithe of having a soil or situation well suited to the growth of vines; but such would appear to have been once the case, if we may believe Hughson, who tells us, in his "History and Survey of London and its Suburbs," that an attempt was made in 1725, in East Lane, within this parish, to restore the cultivation of the vine, which, whether from the inauspicious climate of our island, or from want of skill in the cultivation, was at that time nearly lost, though there are authentic documents to prove that vineyards (fn. 2) did flourish in this country in ancient times. It appears that about the time indicated a gentleman named Warner, observing that the Burgundy grapes ripened early, and conceiving that they might be grown in England, obtained some cuttings, which he planted here as standards; and Hughson records the fact that though the soil was not particularly suited, yet, by care and skill, he was rewarded by success, and that his crop was so ample that it afforded him upwards of one hundred gallons annually, and that he was enabled to supply cuttings of his vines for cultivation in many other parts of this island.
The Chesterfield was a Fourth Rate warship of the line with 44 guns, launched in December 1743 from the yard of John quallet at Pitcher's Point, which Humphery says is opposte todays Amos Estate on Rotherhithe.
The Sphynx was a sloop (a single-masted sailing vessel) with 24 guns, built at Allen's shipyard and launched in 1747/8.
The Tartar was a 6th rate, or Flower Class, with 28 guns, and was launched in April 1756 from Randall's shipyard. Her first captain was Captain Lockhart. She was wrecked off San Domingo in 1797.
Randall's (Randall, Randall and Brent, Samuel and Daniel Brent and Randall and Brent at different times), was one of the most important ship building companies on Rotherhithe, with three separate yeards of which only Nelson Dock survives. Amongst many commissions for the Royal Navy and the East India Company they build third rate ships of the line with 74 guns, the largest every to be built by private shipyards.
Here are other Rotherhithe-built ships, just as examples. The Minerva was built by John Quallet, Rotherhithe and launched: in January 1759. She was captured by the French in 1778, retaken in 1781, and renamed The Recovery in the same year. The
In 1755 a second charity school was built, called the United Society's School, located on the east of Rotherhithe.
In the 1760s the Wells family took over Commercial Wharf from Thomas Stanton, and purchased it from the Bedford estate. At the shipyard they constructed the Cornwall in 1760, the True Briton, also in 1760, and over 70 East Indiamen.
In 1765 a major fire in Princes Street on Rotherhithe was caused by the spillage from a pitch kettle which overboiled. Over 200 houses and warehouses, burned down. As with the Great Fire of London, the speed with which the fire spread was probably caused by both construction methods and the proximity of the buildings to each other.
The expeditions of Captain Cook to the Antipodes between 1769 and 1774 led to the establishment of trade between Great Britain and Austarlia and New Zealand. William Pitt became Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1783. The slave trade continued to be of considerable economic importance to Britain which had coastal holdings in Africa, and the West Indies provided both staple and exotic items (imports of wheat, leather, cotton, rum, fruit juice, sugar, tobacco and mahogany, amongst other commodities) for an increasingly demanding western world. In the late1700s the increase in trade with the New World (
In 1789 a barge building and repair yard was established in Rotherhithe. by Charles Hay and Sons Ltd. However only a later building belonging to the company, dating to the Nineteenth Century, survives today.
War with France broke out in 1793, and Marc Brunel fled Paris, going to America to make his name as an architect and engineer. He came to the UK in 1799. His impact on Rotherhithe was to be considerable in the 1800s.
Bellamy's Wharf, today known as King and Queen Wharf, near Rotherhithe Village, was built by French prisoners during the Napoleonic Wars in the 1790’s.
In 1792 the first deaf and dumb school in the
It was only at the very end of the 1700s that ambitious plans for the development of new docks in Rotherhithe were made. In 1796 the surveyor Charles Cracklow proposed a new dock system, and William Vaughan, Director of Royal Exchange Assurance Corporation (founded in 1720) and spokesman for the West India Merchants, identified Rotherhithe, Wapping and the Isle of Dogs as suitable riverside sites for potential expansion of dockland areas. The new docks were proposed in order to meet the challenge of London's ambitions to become a global centre for trade. The following dockland developments were staggering, with architects and engineers hired to plan and build new docks in the late 1700s, many of which opened in the first years of the 1800s.
The earliest part of Grice's Granary on Tunnel Road (now the Sands Film Studio and Rotherhithe Picture Library) dates to 1796-1800. It was extended at least once, but the oldest part consists of three section which are topped by three kingpost roofs. Kingposts are vertical wooden posts which sit on horizontal cross beams. The top of the kingpost forms the apex of the roofing rafter. The Grice family owned the building until 1857, but the name was apparently retained even after it changed hands.
In 1796 the Wells family, who had played such an important role in Rotherhithe ship building, purchased a share in a shipyard in Blackwall (Perry and Green) and ceased to operate in Rotherhithe.