Rotherhithe Church: 300th anniversary

This Friday 3 July 2015 there are celebrations to mark the  300th anniversary of St Mary’s Church at Rotherhithe which opened in 1715.

There had been a church there before. The present one stands on medieval foundations incorporating Roman bricks.

The Thames Path passes along the north side of the church and churchyard which has the tomb of Prince Lee Boo who sailed to Rotherhithe from the Pelau Islands in the 1780s.

On Friday there is a Solemn Mass at 7pm with the Bishop of Fulham presiding. The preacher is former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Walkers will usually find the west end of the church open and the main building can be viewed through glass. The very early Georgian church has ships’ masts for pillars and an altar made from the Temeraire painted by Turner as she sailed into the breaker’s yard at the riverside village.

Magna Carta weekend: riverside events

Magna Carta monument on Runnymede
Magna Carta monument on Runnymede

Monday 15 June 2015 is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta being sealed by King John on Runnymede next to the River Thames.

In the morning the Queen is attending a ceremony on the meadow which now has a marquee erected in case of bad weather. Her Majesty is being joined by Prince Philip, the Duke of Cambridge and the Princess Royal.

There will be a big screen for spectators to see the ceremony recalling Archbishop Stephen Langton and the barons witnessing the agreement establishing the rule of law.

The Red Arrows are due to fly over at 12.15pm.

In the afternoon the National Trust is running a free ferry across the Thames to Ankerwycke Priory where Magna Carta might have been sealed in preference to the open field. There will be 30 minute tours of the priory ruins and a chance to see the 2,500 year old yew tree. The last ferry returns at 5pm.

A ferry will run to Ankerwycke Priory from the Thames Path
A ferry will run to Ankerwycke Priory from the Thames Path

But the celebrations begin on the river before the big day.

Over Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 June the Royal barge Gloriana, escorted by 200 rowed craft, will travel downstream from Hurley to Runnymede carrying a facsimile of Magna Carta. Stops will be made to recount the story of the great document.

On Sunday a statue of the Queen will be unveiled at riverside Runnymede Pleasure Grounds.

On Monday not only are the Red Arrows taking 12.15pm as the appropriate moment to salute Magna Carta but it is the hour when we are being invited to raise a glass of beer.

'Magna Carta' ale brewed by the Thames
‘Magna Carta’ ale brewed by the Thames

Ale is mentioned in clause 35 of Magna Carta: “Let there be throughout our kingdom a single measure for wine and a single measure for ale and a single measure for corn, namely the London quarter.”

Upstream at South Stoke near Goring, Ridgeway Brewery has produced Bad King John which is described as ‘a very English black ale’.

Clause 33 stated ‘All fish-weirs are in future to be entirely removed from the Thames’ and is taken as the City’s right to control the river from Staines to the estuary.

The towpath from Runnymede to London on Saturday and Sunday will see walkers from Barnes Church walking back home for their 800th anniversary service attended by Archbishop Langton’s successor Rowan Williams. Langton, returning to Lambeth Palace from Runnymede in 1215, stopped at Barnes to consecrate the new church.

Home Office minister Lord Bates is spending Monday walking the entire way from Runnymede to Westminster. “Each person will want to reflect the significance of Magna Carta’s anniversary in their own way,” he says. “For me that way is walking between two cornerstones of our great country.”

Reading diversion

Reading Bridge with underpass closed
Reading Bridge with underpass closed

The diversion at Reading looks likely to remain in place until the autumn.

Not only is the towpath closed for building of a new bridge across to Christchurch Meadows but the passage under Reading Bridge remains close whilst the structure is repaired. Traffic is crossing the river again as reported on the regional TV stations but work continues with the pavements restricted.

Walkers on the Thames Path find the diversion just after passing Caversham Lock. There is an alternative route indicated down King’s Meadow Road but you can continue ahead past houses to a point nearer Reading Bridge. At this further point go left down a permitted footpath at the side of the Environment Agency building to reach the main road.

As far as you can go on the towpath at Reading
As far as you can go on the towpath at Reading

Here turn right to cross the approach to Reading Bridge. to Thames Water’s Clearwater Court building.

It is possible to go right down to the river but only for a view.

Closed towpath upstream where new footbridge is being built
Closed towpath upstream where new footbridge is being built

The diversion continues along the main road (Vastern Road). Across the dual carriageway can be seen the new entrance to Reading Station in Trooper Potts Way. Go right down Lynmouth Road to reach the towpath.

The new pedestrian/cycle bridge will cross the river just upstream of Fry’s Island.

End of the diversion
End of the diversion
An impression of how the footbridge will appear looking downstream on the towpath
An impression of how the footbridge will appear looking downstream on the towpath

Magna Carta stamp


Tuesday 2 June 2015 sees the issue of a special postage stamp to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta being agreed on the banks of the Thames at Runnymede.

The place to get the ‘authentic’ postmark, rather than the official one, must be Egham Post Office.

The stamp is issued on the 62nd anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. Her Majesty will be at Runnymede on Magna Carta’s actual 800th anniversary Monday 15 June.