Quiet end on the THames to Mayflower Year

An Anglo-American flag flies from The Excelsior’s mast at Rotherhithe

The Anglo-American Mayflower anniversary celebrations came to a quiet end on the River Thames in central London on Friday.

By coincidence this was the same day as President Biden was Britain agreeing a New Atlantic Charter.

A much reduced flotilla escorted the Edwardian from Rotherhithe to the Houses of Parliament to deliver a copy of the Mayflower Compact which had arrived in Rotherhithe on board The Excelsior, representing The Mayflower.

The Excelsior at Rotherhithe

A rare sight of vessels beyond the buoys outside the Palace of Westminster
The Edwardian arrives at Westminster.

Shipmates from Deptford’s Ahoy Centre transferred the Mayflower Compact from the Edwardian to the Houses of Parliament to presented to Mr Speaker and Lord West of Spithead representing the Lord Speaker..

A band played on the deck of the Princess Rose.
The event closed with a salute by the London Fire Service.
The Edwardian, in front of St Thomas’ Hospital and the Covid memorial wall on the Thames Path, returning to Rotherhithe with the Mayor of Southwark, Rector of Rotherhithe and others on board.

Mayflower 400 year climax at Rotherhithe

The Mayflower pub in Rotherhithe.

As Joe Biden begins his first visit to Britain as President of the United States of America there will be a ceremony on the River Thames to mark the 400th anniversary of The Mayflower returning to Rotherhithe.

Last year, despite the Covid restrictions, there were several low-key events to mark the 400th anniversary of The Mayflower sailing from Rotherhithe to America carrying the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’.

An illuminated scroll signed by the Speaker of the House of Commons was taken by water to Rotherhithe before being forwarded to Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Washington.

Next Friday afternoon 11 June a ‘message from the Settlers’ will be delivered to the Houses of Parliament in the form of a copy of The Mayflower Compact, the Founding Fathers agreement for governance which was signed on board The Mayflower in autumn 1620.

The Compact is considered a foundation of the US Constitution which also embraces democratic principles debated at Putney’s riverside church in 1647.

The message is being brought into London on board sailing-smack Excelsior which will be representing The Mayflower.

This year the sail training vessel is celebrating her centenary during which she rescued the entire population of Bodo in north Norway from the Nazis in 1940.

Excelsior is expected to moor outside the riverside Mayflower public house in Rotherhithe for 48 hours and be lit up at night.

Shortly after 2pm on Friday afternoon the Mayflower Compact copy will be transferred from the Excelsior to MV Edwardian to be taken upstream to Westminster.

MV Edwardian, with an escort of Metropolitan Police Marine Unit, RNLI and London Fire Brigade launches, is expected to pass under Westminster Bridge at 3.25pm.

The Speaker and Admiral Lord West, representing the Lord Speaker of the upper chamber, will be waiting on the Commons terrace with the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs of the City of London.

Rotherhithe’s Church Stairs, leading to the beach, next to The Mayflower pub.

Southwark Bridge is 100 years old

Southwark Bridge seen from the Thames Path in this weekend’s sunshine.

A hundred years ago today, on Tuesday 7 June, George V accompanied by Queen Mary arrived by carriage with a mounted escort to open Southwark Bridge.

The spans were designed to line up with those of London and Blackfriars Bridges.

Work on pulling down the first bridge, designed by John Rennie with just three arches, had begun six years before its centenary in 1919. However, the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 slowed progress and by 1917 all work had been halted.

The new bridge was designed by Basil Mott but the distinctive windows were added by Sir Ernest George who was present at the opening.

The Royal carriage drove over the bridge south from the City to Southwark and returned to Buckingham Palace by way of Westminster Bridge.

London SE1 news website has Tweeted a film of the 1921 opening and the anniversary lighting.

The first bridge, a toll crossing, was declared open in the middle of the night because of the company’s lack of funds.


Woolwich diversion still in place

Notice next to Woolwich Ferry

Mast Quay in Woolwich has two 14-storey buildings erected in 2004 and after much delay a third block of flats at the downstream end is under construction.

The Thames Path diversion from Woolwich Ferry to the side of Jigger Mast House will probably remain in place for some time. Weeds are growing on the fenced-off path.

On crossing the ferry approach one must follow Woolwich Church Street from the roundabout to go behind Mast Quay.

Take the very first turning on the right which is a double bend access to the two existing blocks. Head to the upstream side of Jigger Mast House to walk along the side of the drawdock. At the river go left.

Barriers on Thames Path after a few yards.
The twenty-two storey flats will be higher than nearby Woolwich church and become a landmark from the ferry.
Looking inland over the drawback. The diversion runs along the left (downstream) side.

The Mayflower makes it

The Mayflower merits several pictures

Election Day 6 May is the 400th anniversary of The Mayflower returning from America to Rotherhithe.

This year and last, when it was the 400th anniversary of The Mayflower sailing, should have been big moments for Rotherhithe’s Mayflower pub.

But the Pilgrim Fathers’ celebrations have been muted by the virus on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Mayflower pub in Rotherhithe is featured the just published book An Opinionated Guide to London Pubs.

The opinions are those of Matthew Curtis and Harry Adès who have also been affected by the virus having to write part of their book in lockdown.

The authors describe the inn as ‘a 16th-century pub in an 18th-century building on a cobbled backstreet’.

The backstreet is the Thames Path and but there has been a pub on the site since the 16th century.

However, they are right about the pub being called The Mayflower only since 1957.

‘A maritime masterpiece overlooking the Thames’ is the verdict.

The pub merits, unlike some other entries, extra pictures by the book’s photographer Orlando Gill.

Some claim that the anniversary of the Mayflower’s return is really a few days later on 16 May, the day before the pub will fully reopen.

Riverside Rotherhithe residents are planning to mark the return of The Mayflower later this summer so the pub might still have its big day.

The Mayflower pub in Rotherhithe.
Mayflower captain drank here…

Covid memorial on Thames path

The long red line.

Members of Parliament looking across the river from the refreshment tent on the Commons terrace may not enjoy the view as much as in the past.

There is now a long red line running across the bottom of St Thomas’ Hospital. It is a reminder of the pandemic dead.

During the Easter recess, the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group began painting tiny red hearts on the hospital wall along the Thames Path.

Each heart represents a Covid death and there are so many, 100,000 and rising, that the long red blur has been created.

It runs for five hundred and thirty yards from Westminster Bridge to Lambeth Palace. Will it have to follow the wall round the corner into Lambeth Palace Road?

The hospital boundary wall dates from the 1870s and the legal status of the instant memorial is uncertain.

However, it has been visited by the Leader of the Opposition Kier Starmer, Lambeth Council Leader Jack Hopkins and Lambeth MP Florence Eshalomi.

Mayor of Lambeth Philip Normal, who visited wearing his chain of office, said: ‘It was incredibly moving to observe the completion of the wall, and then walk its full length.’

The red paint looks likely to stay allowing the hearts to fade into ghosts reminding us of our loss during 2020-1.

The red wall is along the Thames Path behind the river wall.

The wall now carries boards identifying it as the national memorial.
Flowers are beginning to appear.

enderby House: New Greenwich pub

The restored Enderby House this week.
Enderby House in 2009.

Riverside Enderby House on the Greenwich Peninsula opens today Tuesday 13 April as a Young’s pub.

The Enderby family, whalers who gave their name to Enderby Land in the Antartic, first occupied the Enderby’s Wharf site in 1776.

Enderby House was built on the wharf about 1835 with an upstairs angled bay-window giving a view of approaching vessels from the sea.

In 1884 General Gordon, a relative, spent his last night in England at the house.

The Enderby Hemp and Rope Works was succeeded in 1857 by cable manufacture which later included the first and second transatlantic telegraph cables.

Cable winding machinery can still be seen on the pier outside the house.

Submarine cables continued to be made on the wharf by a succession of companies until 1975. The last owners were Northern Telecom and Alcatel.

Only the new pub terrace at the side will be open at first. The house is expected to open its doors next month on Monday 17 May.

Local Meantime ales are available with a menu which includes Dorset crab and lamb. This could be a nod to nearby Granite Wharf which once belonged to John Mowlem of Swanage in Dorset.

Enderby House is on Enderby’s Wharf, SE10 0TH, 3 miles from the Thames Barrier and half a mile before Greenwich.

Enderby House angled bay-window room (left) during restoration in 2020 with a view across the river to Cubitt Town Wharf on the Isle of Dogs.


The new Enderby House pub sign, featuring cables, alongside the Thames Path.
Crowded walls in the dining room below the bay-window room.
Cable winding machinery on Enderby’s Wharf.

Enderby House from the river.



Hammersmith Ferry starts this summer

Planned Harrods Wharf refurbishment for the ferry service

Thames Clippers will be operating the Hammersmith ferry from later this summer.

The TfL ferry is a replacement crossing for Hammersmith Bridge which is closed and unlikely to be repaired for some time.

The ferry will cross downstream of the bridge from Harrods Wharf on the right bank.

Operating hours will be 6am to 10pm daily.

Thames Log: Chloe Dewe Mathews photographs

Thames Log

With lockdown keeping us from the River Thames it’s probably the best time to catch up on books about the river to plan ahead.

One of the loveliest new ones is Chloe Dewe Mathews’ Thames Log where her photographs speak for themselves. The only writing is the foreword by Marina Warner.

The pictures in this unusual fold-out book, larger than a Christmas annual, depict the river from the infant stream to the estuary.

Chloe catches a coracle turning at the Round House in Inglesham where navigation begins and a palm tree mobbed by seagulls at the North Sea end.

A strong theme is how the river is a draw for people of many faiths.

Well-known is the annual blessing of the Thames from London Bridge every January on Baptism Sunday which is featured in a number of arresting shots.

One shows the wooden cross to be cast upon the water being carried under a dark London Bridge passage.

Upstream St Ebbe’s Church holds a mass baptism from the bank of Port Meadow.

At Richmond we are reminded that the Thames is considered a sacred river by Hindus in Britain. They also appear at Southend.

But at Southend there is also both Islamic prayer and Pentecostal baptism.

Other rituals recorded include those which are more personal and even private such the scattering of ashes.

The book helps to remind us that the Thames Path is not just in London (which may surprise some people) and has a mainly rural feel.

To record these special places and rare moments the photographer has needed careful planning over several years.

This is an expensive book but unusual in design and feel.

The typeface is a digital revival of the Doves Press type retrieved from the the riverbed at Hammersmith.

Thames Log could be a collector’s item.

Thames Log by Chloe Dewe Mathews is published by Loose Joints (£40).

Thames Log open at an upstream page

St Sampson at Cricklade & Dol

St Sampson’s tower at Cricklade (photo: Explore Churches)

The Tablet reports that best-selling novelist Ken Follett is donating all earnings from his book Notre-Dame: A Short History of the Meaning of Cathedrals to a cathedral in Brittany.

Sales of the book will help to save St Samson cathedral in Dol where St Samson, who died in 565, is buried.

One of the few other churches dedicated to St Samson is the parish church at Cricklade which is well-known to walkers on the Thames Path.

Glimpses of its distant tall tower are a welcome sight when Castle Eaton is behind you and refreshment at Cricklade awaits.

The Cricklade tower is Tudor and paid for, according to William Morris who noted an allusion to playing cards inside, by a successful gamble.

But more mysterious is the unusual Sampson dedication (with a p here) from much earlier times.

Samson was Welsh. There is church dedicated to him in Cardiff.

Also some in the west country including Fowey at the end of the north-south pilgrim track across Cornwall used by Welsh travellers to Brittany avoiding shipwreck at Land’s End.

Guernsey, a staging post for Brittany, has a St Sampson church.

Cricklade church has evidence of a very late 9th-century building.

Notre-Dame: A Short History of the Meaning of Cathedrals by Ken Follett is published by Pan (£9.99).

From the Sea to the Source