In its heyday as one of London's busiest ports, Rotherhithe had at least some residential housing; one local boy done good was Maurice Joseph Micklewhite, latterly better known as Michael Caine. But bombing by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War and wholesale changes in the shipping industry spelled the end as going commercial concerns for these docks.
Despite its historical importance, Rotherhithe was developed later, and is less known, than Bermondsey and Shad Thames to the east, and Wapping across the river. Thanks to its relative obscurity, its property is considerably cheaper too.
Rotherhithe today has numerous warehouse conversions and fancy new builds, along with modern town houses and local authority blocks.
Although compact, its peninsular shape means that it commands a long stretch of riverside, offering stunning views of the City and Canary Wharf. Waterside living is also available alongside the few remaining docks in the interior, especially Greenland Dock, which extends to well over a quarter of a mile. It used to be twice as long.
After landing a job at Halifax Bank of Scotland, Richard Gill moved from his family home, in Hertfordshire, to a spanking new flat in Pacific Wharf four years ago. "I work in the City, and I realised that Rotherhithe has the same advantages of Wapping and some additional benefits. Wapping is useful for the City but that is about it. Rotherhithe has the Jubilee Line, which is a few minutes from London Bridge and Eurostar, at Waterloo. It also goes to Bond Street, straight into the West End."
Work got Richard into Rotherhithe in the first place, and now it is taking him away: "My job is transferring overseas, and it breaks my heart to sell," he says. "My flat has a wraparound balcony and I have water in front and on the side. It is a 10-minute walk along the river to Butler's Wharf and Shad Thames, where there are two Conran restaurants that are among the best in London. And it is wondrously quiet, especially on weekends, when many locals go away."
What are the prices like?
James Hyman, of Cluttons, notes that "two-bed flats with river frontage start at about £300,000, but two-bed flats without river frontage cost about £200,000. In addition, Rotherhithe is still more affordable than Wapping, Limehouse and Canary Wharf. In Wapping, two-bed riverside flats start at £500,000."
How tall is Rotherhithe's property ladder?
On the lowest rungs, ex-council flats start at just under £100,000, and a one-bed, private, ground-floor maisonette on Kinburn Street is £159,950 at Kinleigh Folkard Hayward.
At the other extreme, a two-bed, one-reception warehouse conversion with two roof terraces, three secure parking spaces, porter and access to a gym and swimming pool has an asking price of £1.15m at Cluttons. Cheaper and without the panoramic views, but with more space, is a two-storey character warehouse on Ivory Wharf, Elephant Lane, with exposed beams and other original features in its more than 2,700 sq ft; £750,000 at Felicity J Lord.
What's the story with riverside flats?
Richard Gill's first-floor, 932 sq ft flat, with two river-fronted bedrooms and floor-to-ceiling windows, is priced at £434,950, at Cluttons. In the same building, a 740 sq ft two-bedder, with direct river views from all rooms, is selling for £340,000, whereas a 780 sq ft, two-bed flat in a nearby riverside block has a considerably lower asking price of £239,950.
How about houses?
A three-bed, two-reception, riverside townhouse in Pageant Crescent, with conservatory, garden and garage, is £550,000 at Kinleigh. A three-bed townhouse, minus the conservatory and with a smaller patio garden, at Greenland Dock, is £295,000, and a four-storey four-bedder on Elephant Lane is £425,000; both at Winkworth.
South London is poor on transport, no?
Not any more. Rotherhithe is served by Canada Water station on the Jubilee Line, and two stations - Rotherhithe and Surrey Quays - on the East London Line. The Rotherhithe Tunnel and a river ferry also link the south and north banks of the Thames.
How's the shopping?
Surrey Quays on the southern edge of Rotherhithe has supermarkets, a BhS, and a leisure centre with cinema, bowling alley and watering holes. "Everything is at your doorstep," says Richard Gill, who also shops at Canary Wharf and the West End. "Canary Wharf is only one stop, and it takes only about 20 minutes to get to the West End."
And one for the pub quiz?
What is Rotherhithe's link with colonial America?
The Pilgrim fathers who set out for America from Plymouth actually began their journey in Rotherhithe. Mayflower captain Christopher Jones is buried in the graveyard of Rotherhithe's landmark St Mary's Church, a twelfth-century edifice with Georgian pillars that are complete tree trunks encased in plaster.
Cluttons 020 7407 4479; Felicity J Lord, 0207 089 6490; Hastings International, 07000 10 1066; Kinleigh Folkard Hayward, 020 7231 3800; Winkworth 020 7237 9119.
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