Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
rebuilding has inevitably caused a severe loss of character and interest. Much of Jamaica
Road from Dockhead to the Queen Charlotte is lined with empty property at the time of
writing, all of it awaiting demolition. Jamaica Road, by the way, takes its name from an inn
called The Jamaica, which stood in Cherry Garden Street; Pepys refers to it in his Diary ,
as well as the Cherry Garden itself. Small one-man businesses flourish here - newsagents,
dairies, and there are a few old-fashioned drapery stores, ironmongers, and fruiterers, and
in the area between the Jamaica Road and Grange Road are some hundreds of little streets,
most of them lined with trees. In the bay windows of parlours, aspidistras loom large in
the opening between the lace curtains. Many of these Bermondsey aspidistras are of ad-
vanced age, having been handed down as part of the household goods, and their leaves
are kept shiny by the regular application of milk. The way to see Rotherhithe is to follow
Paradise Street from the War Memorial opposite the Queen Charlotte and turn into Rother-
hithe Street, following it all the way to St Mary's Church, and then, where the warehouses
close in again, carrying on along the street as far as Deptford. Paradise Street had some
ancient, battered houses, somewhat French in appearance, but the most unusual sight still
remaining is the early nineteenth-century police station of London stock brick and very
handsome. It was, no doubt, a private residence at one time, and it has some good iron-
work at the front. Police stations might form a study for those in search of off-beat Lon-
don. Some of the most interesting are unfortunately disappearing - the century-old one at
Sydenham, for example, and the forbidding one in Albany Street.
On the edge of the river in Rotherhithe Street, adjoining the Angel, was a small group of
old houses constituting almost the last of those on this part of the river. Although altered,
they dated from the middle of the eighteenth century, and belonged originally to ships'
captains and the like. The two most interesting were The Jolly Waterman, a public house
up to the late 1920s, and The Little Midshipman, once my London studio, and later, after I
left, the riverside pied-à-terre of Mr Antony Armstrong-Jones, as he was then. The Little
Midshipman, which I christened after the old house in Dombey and Son , had its moments
of popular glory at the time of Princess Margaret's wedding. When I acquired the house,
it had served for many years as the offices of a shipping company. All these houses had
curious old rooms, odd staircases, and so on, most of all The Little Midshipman - Num-
ber 59 - which had, in addition to a three-bay window perched over the river, some mid-
eighteenth-century rooms with pine panelled walls, and as it stood rather higher than the
others, was the only house in which the Thames failed to make its way during the floods
of January 1953, when Rotherhithe was awash. A walk of a short distance between the
warehouses, at this point smelling of flour, brings one to St Mary's Rotherhithe, already
mentioned. The church comes suddenly into view, surrounded by trees, a nice old-fash-
ioned rural effect like an old drawing, and near the church is the pretty school house, with
quaint figures of a boy and girl, a building belonging to the middle of the eighteenth cen-
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