This is a bit late (the article was published in the FT on July 18th) but I didn’t post about it then and it is still very much of interest. Here’s a short extract but see the above page for the full story which took up three quarters of a full FT page:
“One of the joys of moving to a new city is that you have no ingrained prejudices about where to live. You can settle in a neighbourhood simply because it is likable, not because it is close to family or friends or because of the social signals the choice sends out.
On moving to London four years ago I landed in a temporary flat chosen by my employers in an unfashionable neighbourhood named Rotherhithe on the south bank of the Thames. I spent several frustrating weekends travelling west, north and south searching for a permanent home before a radical thought struck me. What was wrong with staying put?
Located in a crook of the river between Bermondsey and Deptford in the borough of Southwark, Rotherhithe has an illustrious history, mostly due to its seafaring connections. It was once known as Redriff, which, according to historian Peter Ackroyd, might refer either to “red reef” or derive from redhra, the Saxon word for sailor, and hythe, for haven. “In that case it has been connected with sailors and shipping for more than a thousand years,” he writes in his book Thames: Sacred River.
The area was one of the departure points for the Mayflower in 1620 as the Pilgrim Fathers sailed off to begin new lives in the New World and three of the ship’s four owners are buried on the site of the first local church, St Mary’s.
During the second world war much of Rotherhithe was bombed and destroyed and, after its docks were closed in the 1960s and 1970s, extensive rebuilding by the Docklands Development Corporation left it riddled with bland brick houses and apartment blocks. But hasty development has not erased all traces of its charm. Although I ended up settling in Bermondsey and have now lived in London long enough to have visited many of its nicest neighbourhoods, I think parts of Rotherhithe hold a genuine village atmosphere that is hard to find elsewhere in the capital.
While much of the Thames’s southern bank swarms on weekends with non-locals visiting the London Eye and Royal Festival Hall, shopping for food at Borough Market and dining at the restaurants that sit in the shadow of Tower Bridge, Rotherhithe remains very much a hidden treasure.”
See the above page for the full story.
With photos, a map and details of local estate agents. Financial Times, July 18/19 2009, House and Home section, p. 2.