Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rotherhithe street names - Part 1

Brunel's tunnel
Just for fun, this is the first in a series of posts about how Rotherhithe streets got their names.   Some of them, like Brunel Road, are very easy to explain.  Others are much less obvious.

Part 2 of this short series can be found here:
Part 3 is at:

Brunel Road
No prizes for guessing that this road was named for Sir Marc Brunel, architect and engineer of the Thames Tunnel, the world's first tunnel to pass under a river. Marc Brunel was supported in the project during its earliest stages by his better known son, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The Brunel Engine House is now a museum in Rotherhithe village, and part of the tunnel which has been available for public viewing should be open again in 2010 when the East London line re-opens.

Gataker Street
Named after Thomas Gataker who was a Puritan and the rector of St Mary's in Rotherhithe village from 1611-54. There's a biography of him on the A Puritan's Mind website.

Lower Road
This was formerly called Deptford Lower Road and was the lower (most southerly) of two roads available to take from Deptford to London Bridge. Rotherhithe Street, the longest road in London, followed the line of the Thames and, at least when Samuel Pepys was frequenting the area, was considered a fairly dangerous route for the wealthy to travel alone.  This was the upper road.  A new second route, which was simply known as the lower of the two roads was safer and shorter, following a line from Deptford that bypassed the need to go around the perimeter of Rotherhithe. 

Paradise Street
The palace of Edward III was referred to as "paradise," and seems to refer to an enclosed property. The ruins remain visible outside the Angel public house, at Bermondsey Wall East.

Rotherhithe 1911
Redriff Road
The term Redriff is another name for Rotherhithe. There are a number of theories about where the name comes from. One is that older maps mark red gravel beds, so the name might have meant "red reef".

Rupack Street
This is connected to the story of Prince Lee Boo, who was brought back to England from the Pelau Islands to be educated. The story is shown on an earlier post. Prince Lee Boo's father was the island's king or, in the local language "rupack".

Salter Road
This road was named after Dr Albert Salter. Dr Salter started work at Guy's Hospital in the late 1880s but was so shocked by the poverty of patients that he was treating in the Bermondsey area that decided to devote his energies to improving conditions in the area. He moved into Bermondsey (his house can still be seen in Wilson Grove) and established several institutions to support local people including an insurance society, a home for convalescing patients in Kent and a school on Sunday mornings for adults. He continued to work as a doctor, charging a minimal fee for patient visits. Dr Salter's wife Ada was London's first female mayor. Their only daughter, Joyce, died in 1910 of Scarlet Feaver at the age of eight.

Teredo Street
The Teredo is actually a bivalve mollusc, but its more common name is a shipworm because it appears worm-like due to its elongated body and reduced trilobed shell, which is specialised for wood boring. The Teredo was an absolute plague to the builders of wooden ships and other submerged wooden items like piers, pilings and docks. From the late fifteenth century attempts were made to protect wooden hulls from this sort of invasion by the application of copper sheathing.  A good example of hull sheathing can be seen today on the Cutty Sark in Greenwich, following her restoration.  The Teredo was also the inspiration behind Marc Brunel's design for the manufacture of Rotherhithe's Thames Tunnel.

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