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).

Michael Parkinson’s Thames Path films

Eighty-one year old Michael Parkinson of Nottingham was one of the first to suffer from Covid in March last year.

Having recovered he published his book Thames Path Walk which he had been working on since 2014.

It began with a desire to see water at the source of the Thames in Gloucestershire.

Having seen that rare sight Michael Parkinson began walking upstream from London in small sections.

His book has 190 photographs and brief mentions of odd encounters, one with a bull, but the best aspect is stated on the cover: ‘All stages linked to YouTube videos’.

These films are a welcome reminder of the route whilst we plan for when lockdown and other restrictions are fully lifted.

Those who heard Clare Balding’s recent Ramblings walk from Pangbourne to Goring will find Michael’s film of that section most rewarding.

Included is the toll bridge and a visit inside Whitchurch church. The Thames Path runs through the churchyard.

Michael Parkinson’s project took has taken so long that the controversial fencing on this section by Coombe Park does not feature in the film.

Also, there is better news upstream: no need now to follow the main road after Inglesham as the path by the river is open.

The Thames Path is always changing as does the countryside everywhere but his films remain a window and reference.

The Thames Path Walk by Michael Parkinson (The other one) is published by Paragon (£8.99).

Reading Abbey 900

The 900th anniversary of Reading Abbey’s foundation by Henry I is next June.

Will we be able to walk into Reading from the Thames Path in June?

Or up the Kennet from Horseshoe Bridge?

Marooned at home during these winter months gives us an opportunity to discover more about the heritage along the river and also plan a visit in better times.

June will be the first of many Abbey anniversaries. The strategically placed monastery, between the Thames and the River Kennet, had its charter proclaimed in 1125.

A year later the Hand of St James, which should have been with the rest of St James the Great’s body in the pilgrim city of Santiago, was given to Reading Abbey.

Archbishop Thomas Becket consecrated the Abbey Church in 1164.

Later it was the seat of Parliament.

It is still, many believe, where Henry I is buried -probably behind today’s church in a corner of the site.

The background to how Reading got an abbey can be found in a new book Henry I and his Abbey by Lindsay Mullaney who probably knows more about the abbey site than anyone else.

Henry I and his Abbey is available from Scallop ShellPress.


Convoys Wharf which replaced a field and Grinling Gibbons thatched cottage

Anniversaries in 2021 include the tercentenary of Grinling Gibbons’ death.

Sculptor and wood carver Gibbons is famous for his limewood foliage carving with cascades of lifelike flowers, fruit and leaves.

His exceptionally delicate work is found in Hampton Court, Windsor Castle and Oxford as well as many London churches.

He first came to notice when living in an isolated thatched cottage by the River Thames at Deptford where he was being employed to carve ships’ figureheads.

One winter night, probably in January 1671, John Evelyn who lived at nearby Sayes Court looked through the cottage window.

“I perceived him carving that large cartoon or crucifix of Tintoretto , a copy of which I had brought from Venice,” records Evelyn in his famous diary.

Although Gibbons had chosen the cottage so as to be able to work without interruption he welcomed Evelyn who recommended him to Charles II.

Gibbons’ work in Deptford’s St Nicholas Church was destroyed during the Second World War but the present carved reredos is in style of Gibbons.

The site of Gibbons’ cottage is now part of Convoys Wharf. The garden of Sayes Court survives as Sayes Court Park on the Thames Path.

The anniversary of Grinling Gibbons death is Tuesday 3 August when a programme of celebration for 2021-2 will begin.

St Nicholas Church in the corner of Deptford Green and next to Stowage
Part of Convoys Wharf from the river

NT 125 on Thames path

The Thames Path passes through the gates of Sayes Court Park

This year is the 125th anniversary of the National Trust’s foundation and 400 years this autumn since John Evelyn was born.

The virus has dampened planned celebrations. Indeed the NT is facing a financial and membership crisis.

Last February, just as Covid was appearing, the National Trust joined in a tree planting morning in Deptford’s Sayes Court Park to mark the John Evelyn anniversary.

The Thames Path runs through the park which is all that remains of John Evelyn’s garden.

In 1884 Octavia Hill, who was to co-found the National Trust, took part in discussions about opening Evelyn’s house and garden to the public. Sadly, by the time the NT was formed in 1895 the opportunity at Deptford had passed.

The National Trust now cares for property and land all along the Thames. The first after Deptford is The George Inn at Southwark .Another is Cock Marsh near Cookham in Berkshire.

Diarist John Evelyn spent a lot of time working in his Sayes Court garden during the interregnum following the execution of Charles I which he had witnessed .

After the Restoration in 1660 he continued to live there and encourage other landowners to plant trees as he did in Deptford.

The oldest tree in the park is a mulberry dating from 1698.

Sayes Court mulberry tree.

Much of the Sayes Court site is now covered by Convoys Wharf where until the start of this century rolls of newsprint were landed from Scandinavia. The local community awaits much discussed redevelopment which should deliver a riverside route for the Thames Path.

At present the compensation for briefly diverting from the river is not just walking through Evelyn’s garden but passing The Dog & Bell in a traffic-free street.

From the Sea to the Source