(Note: This Booklet has been reproduced
by kind permission of the Commission for the New Towns now known as English
Partnerships. It is published for general interest and research purposes
only and may not be reproduced for other purposes except with the permission
of English Partnerships who now hold the copyright of LDDC publications)
The LDDC has much to be proud of in the Surrey Docks. Today it is a balanced
community with some of ondon's most attractive housing and more green
space than most other parts of the capital. It has an excellent shopping
centre which not only serves a large catchment area south of the river
but also provides many local jobs. The opening of the Jubilee Line Extension
with its station at Canada Water, by the end of 1998, along with the current
and planned expansion of shopping and leisure facilities on the peninsula,
will complete the development jigsaw in what is now a most sought after
residential location in London.
A trip to the top of Stave Hill at the heart of the peninsula provides
perhaps the single most impressive demonstration of what has been achieved
since the LDDC was passed the regeneration responsibility for the area
in 1981. Then, employment was sparse and the housing run down. Now, looking
north-west towards the City of London, south towards Greenland Dock and
south-west towards Canada Water, the emphasis in on high quality design
and landscaping, a variety of homes for sale and for rent and new facilities
such as Bacon's College, Alfred Salter Primary School, the Surrey Docks
Watersports Centre and a number of ecology initiatives.
The Corporation completed its remit on the Surrey Docks peninsula on
20 December 1996, handing on its regeneration task to Southwark Council.
With the completion of our work in Bermondsey Riverside in October 1994,
the Corporation is confident that regeneration south of the river will
be carried forward by the Council and that the future of the Surrey Docks
has been secured. When the Jubilee Line opens major centres of employment
such as the City, West End and Canary Wharf will be only minutes away.
The future of the Surrey Docks is very bright.
Neil Spence Roger Squire
Joint Chief Executives - LDDC
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Surrey Docks in History
The pre-dock history of Surrey Docks peninsula lies in
the historic village of Rotherhithe, a name which probably comes from
the Saxon redhra (sailor) hyth (haven). Certainly, it has provided a haven
for plenty of sailors over the centuries. It was also at times called
Redriffe: Samuel Pepys refers to it as such, and Redriffe is also the
fictitious home of Gulliver in Jonathan Swift's travels. The word comes
from the distinctive red gravel visible at low tide in the Thames, which
was originally called red reed. Rotherhithe Street, on the western side
of the peninsula, is one of London's longest streets. The street was a
wall against the river, and probably begun in Roman times.
Long associated with ship building, in the 14th century
a fleet was fitted out at Rotherhithe for the Black Prince and John of
Gaunt. But the village's greatest claim to fame came in 1620, when the
Mayflower sailed for America carrying the Pilgrim Fathers from a pub then
called The Shippe - and now renamed The Mayflower. St Mary's Church nearby
was built in 1715 on the remains of a church dating back to Saxon times.
The local shipbuilders who built it left their mark by putting in tree
trunk pillars and by shaping the vaulting in the manner of an upturned
the peninsula was wet marshland and unsuitable for farming, but an ideal
location for docks resulting from pressure of ship repairing work at the
Royal Dockyard at Deptford next door. Howland Great Wet Dock, named after
the family who owned the land, was dug out in 1696. It was the largest
commercial dock of its time, able to accommodate 120 sailing ships.
By the middle of the 18th century the dock had been taken
over as a base for Arctic whalers and renamed Greenland Dock. However,
by the beginning of the 19th century the needs of the Scandinavian and
Baltic timber, and Canadian grain, cheese and bacon trades, proved more
urgent, and it was mainly these products that the docks were devoted to
for the rest of their productive lives. More and more docks were dug out
and named after the countries from which their cargoes came, such as Russia.
Eventually, 85% of the peninsula, an area of 460 acres, was covered by
a system of nine docks, six timber ponds and a canal that was three and
a half miles long - the latter associated with the Grand Surrey Docks
and Canal Company. This company's commercial interest was not international:
it shipped garden produce up from Surrey to the London market. Nevertheless,
it is by the shortened version of that company's name that the entire
peninsula came to be known.
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The end of the docks
The docks continued to thrive well into the 20th Century with, for example,
Sir John Wolfe Barry enlarging Greenland Dock in 1904 to accommodate larger
ships. During the Second World War the Surrey Docks suffered the most
extensive bomb damage of any dock system in Britain. They fought back:
South Dock was pumped dry, and used to build the concrete caissons for
the Mulberry Harbours (named after Mulberry Quay in the docks) used in
the D-Day landings.
Surrey Docks had a distinctive type of docker, with their own slang and
their own forms of entertainment (the Blacksmith's Arms in Rotherhithe
Street still houses a local docker's game called "Down the Slot").
They also had special hats for carrying planks of wood. Picturesque as
these were they were no match to containers in transporting timber and
other goods. Containers needed bigger ships. The Surrey Docks could not
handle them. They closed in 1969.
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Filling in the docks
In the decade following their closure, the Port of London
Authority and the London Borough of Southwark infilled 423 of the peninsula's
460 acres of dock waters. In Rotherhithe Street the riverside warehouses
The Council built a new distributor road around the peninsula,
began some warehousing and residential developments, planted a new woodland
open space on what had been Russia Dock, and built a new sports pavilion
with playing fields.
The 1976 Greater London Development Plan envisaged Rotherhithe
as a residential, and not an industrial area. However at the end of the
1970s there was little incentive for developers to build these new homes.
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What the area was like in 1981
When the London Docklands Development Corporation was set up in 1981,
it faced an enormous challenge in the Surrey Docks. The overall appearance
of the area reflected its isolation from the mainstream economy and life
of London. The population was 5,923, living in 2,346 homes, only 42 of
which were owner occupied: 81% of households rented their homes from the
Council, and 17% privately or from a housing association. 63% of households
did not have a car.
area was characterised by vast tracts of vacant development land on the
infilled docks, a collection of temporary industrial and storage uses
on short term leases around the remaining docks, the vestiges of some
wharfage related activities on privately owned sites around the riverside
and a ring of local authority housing, much of which was in a poor state
of repair. Rotherhithe Village on the west site of the peninsula included
some industry and more local authority housing in urgent need of refurbishment.
Few jobs had been created in the 12 years since the closure of the Surrey
Docks. Unemployment was a severe problem - 5,821 people worked for 287
firms across the whole of the Docklands area south of the Thames, including
Bermondsey Riverside. Basic social and community facilities were available
with some shops and services in the small district centre on Lower Road,
the boundary of the Urban Development Area (UDA).
There was a library and three primary schools, but no secondary school.
Most of the doctors were based outside the UDA. However, a number of well
established community centres, such as the Dockland Settlement, served
the local population.
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The LDDC's approach
In the Surrey Docks, as elsewhere, the LDDC's task was
to create incentives for developers to carry out the essential work of
regeneration. Development plans inherited by the LDDC contained few such
incentives. Rotherhithe was defined as a residential area, but almost
exclusively for local authority housing. By contrast, the LDDC which inherited
277 acres of development land from the Port of London Authority in 1981
vigorously pursued a policy of marketing sites for private housing in
the early years, enticing developers with new roads and serviced sites
on the peninsula.
Two principal development areas - the Southwark Site
on the peninsula and Greenland and South Dock - were the subject of development
framework plans prepared in 1983 and 1984. The LDDC commissioned Conran
Roche to draw up a development framework for Greenland Dock and South
Dock, the largest remaining areas of water in the peninsula. The brief,
amply reflected in the result, was to integrate new development with existing
communities, create the framework for attractive mixed developments of
squares and streets, with plenty of attention paid to pedestrian links.
Buildings heights were regulated, as were the materials which could be
used and the density of housing.
In 1983, to encourage new housing and jobs, the LDDC
held a national competition for developers to design and build new homes
and offices at Elephant Lane on the west side of the peninsula.
Greenland Dock the LDDC also introduced a new element of competition with
competitive tenders for sites determined not just on the basis of money
but on the architectural merits of the proposed developments. The quality
of the 1,250 homes built at Greenland Dock between 1984 and 1990 provide
an eloquent tribute to the wisdom of this policy.
The architecture of new housing development in the Surrey
Docks sought to bridge the gap between suburban and inner city building,
to create a new urban environment in the heart of the capital.
Development in Surrey Docks was created around a strong
landscape infrastructure, with the masterplan drawn up by landscape designers
Brian Clouston and Partners. The backbone of this is a series of new canals,
walkways and open space linking the Thames with refurbished quaysides
around the former dock water areas.
Stave Hill, with its height and its views, became a pivotal
point, with the infilled bare terrain of Russia Dock continuing to be
planted with woodlands to create an ecological corridor south to Greenland
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1981-1996: a radical transformation
Between 1981 and 1996 the Docklands population south
of the Thames increased to over 16,000. Housing has seen a major transformation
in numbers, in quality and in types of tenure. Owner occupation has risen
to more than 40%. The peninsula is now a very attractive place in which
to live, and many of the housing schemes have won design awards.
the 5,500 new homes built in the Surrey Docks over 4,000 of them have
been on land previously owned by the LDDC. This enabled the Corporation
to secure a priority period for local residents to have first choice of
the new homes for sale at a discounted price. For example, local people
literally queued overnight for new homes at Broseley's Nelson Reach in
Downtown on the eastern side of the peninsula. In 1985 more than 90% of
the 118 new homes were taken up by locals and a similar proportion were
snapped up at Lovell Urban Renewals Lady Dock scheme in Rotherhithe, also
completed in 1985. At Lavender Quay the builders didn't even bother to
finish the show home as most of the units were gone in two months a quarter
of them to local tenants.
As well as encouraging home ownership the Corporation
worked with Southwark Council, housing associations and private developers
to provide more homes for rent by local people. In 1985 the Corporation
agreed the "Downtown Package" with Southwark Council, a number
of housing associations and developers. The Corporation paid the Council
£3 million for seven derelict and rundown estates enabling the Council
to spend the cash on much needed refurbishment of other estates in the
area. The blocks were transformed into high-quality, modern housing for
rent, shared ownership, discounted and open-market sale.
Together with a further LDDC/housing association initiative
on the Redriffe Estate in 1989, well over 800 homes in Downtown were rescued
and returned to local housing stock. The Redriffe Initiative also secured
new-build rented housing nearby at Norway Yard, Barnards Wharf and Finland
In total the Corporation has contributed £7.1 million
towards 240 homes for rent and 291 for shared ownership, along with over
£14 million towards council housing refurbishment schemes in the Surrey
Docks. This work has benefited 2,350 homes across the peninsula.
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With Russia Dock Woodland and its ecology park at Stave
Hill, Southwark Park and other open spaces developed since the closure
of the docks, the Surrey Docks has more than five acres of parks and three
acres of enclosed water. As elsewhere the LDDC reversed the previous policy
of denying access to the river and dock sides, encouraging access to this
unique characteristic of London Docklands, with riverside and dockside
walkways being opened up and linked in to the Countryside Commission's
Over 840,000 sq ft of commercial and industrial floorspace
has been completed on the peninsula. A key year was 1988, when the 280,000
sq ft Surrey Quays Shopping Centre opened with a large Tesco, and branches
of major name stores such as BHS, Boots and Dixons.
1994, the Corporation followed up the success of the Shopping Centre by
bringing a further 8.3 acres adjacent to it on to the market. Developers
PSIT Ltd started work in 1996 on a 105,000 sq ft retail park, expanding
the existing centre and scheduled for completion by the end of 1997. On
the eight acre Canada Yard site close by, owned by Southwark Council a
joint venture of London and Bath Estates plc and AR & V Investments
Ltd have started construction of a 135,000 sq.ft leisure development with
a nine screen cinema, bingo and social club, restaurants and a pub. Together
with the new Associated Newspapers printing plant which opened in 1989,
there are some 1,000 jobs in the new commercial and employment heart of
the peninsula. This has been supplemented by the small business units
at St Olav's Court and the Mulberry Business Park. The development of
small businesses in the area has also been helped over the last 10 years
by the setting up of the Docklands Enterprise Centre in Marshalsea Road
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South Dock now houses London's largest working marina,
with berths for over 200 vessels. It is staffed 24 hours a day - an important
point for visiting vessels, as is the fact that the marina has its own
crane and boat hardstanding. Busy sailors can also leave the task of berthing
and preparing their vessels for departure to the marine staff. The Corporation
acquired the marina from the receivers in 1994, and spent £550,000 on
rationalising and improving its land based facilities.
Greenland Dock the Surrey Docks Watersports Centre opened in 1990 with
over £1.2 million funding from the LDDC whilst private investment led
to the opening in the same year of The Moby Dick, an attractive new pub
on two floors with waterside views.
The peninsula acquired its own 390-bedroom four star
hotel in 1991 with the opening of the Scandic Crown Hotel (now Holiday
Inn Nelson Dock). It occupies the converted and listed Columbia Wharf
as well as two new buildings. The Youth Hostel Association has added further
to the area's hospitality potential with the opening of a major family
Also in the field of leisure and recreation, the LDDC
has given £355,000 to relocate Surrey Docks Farm into new buildings and
£405,000 to establish Surrey Docks Play Association. It has given £374,000
to Seven Islands Leisure Centre, Surrey Docks Stadium has received £86,000,
and Barnard's Wharf Walkway £332,000. An all weather community sports
pitch and the play area at Neptune Street have also been made possible
by LDDC funding.
Among the hidden delights of the area along the riverside
or by the ponds in the Surrey Docks is a charming series of sculptures
by established artists, commissioned by the LDDC and each specifically
linked with the history or attractions of the area. At Cumberland Wharf,
near the Mayflower pub, "The Bermondsey Lad and The Sunbeam Weekly",
a series of three bronze figures - a Pilgrim Father, a small boy and a
bull terrier - by Peter McLean refers to the Pilgrim Fathers who set sail
for the New World from here in 1620. Philip Bews' Deal Porters at Canada
Water recalls the agile men who unloaded deal (timber) from the ships
in the local docks while on the top of Stave Hill a Bas Relief by Michael
Rizzello depicts the Surrey Commercial Docks as they were in 1896 - after
a shower of rain the "docks" fill with water. At Barnards Wharf
a cavalcade of farmyard animals by a variety of artists including pigs,
a donkey, goats, geese, an owl and a mouse parades along the riverside
towards Surrey Docks Urban Farm.
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Investing in the Community
In education, Surrey Docks has received one of the LDDC's
largest single grants with £3.5million towards Bacon's College, the first
new build City Technology College which opened in 1991. A further £200,000
was granted in 1996 to increase Sixth Form provision. The Surrey Quays
Annex to Southwark College, the largest post-16 provider in the borough,
was assisted with a grant of £439,000 from the Corporation. LDDC grants
to younger age schooling include £500,000 to Alfred Salter Primary School,
£277,000 to Redriff Primary School, £256,000 to St. John's R.C. Primary
School, £77,000 to Peter Hill Primary School and £13,000 to Albion Primary
The Corporation has always attached the greatest importance
to encouraging training. Grants in this field include £480,000 to Skillnet,
£223,000 to Mari Training and another £223,000 to Jarvis Construction
Training, the first construction training centre in London Docklands.
Youth, play and childcare in the area have also benefited
from LDDC grants. The Surrey Docks Play Association has received £405,000,
and other grants have gone to Lavender Playgroup, Newpin, the Playgroup
at Bacon's College, Playshack, St Mary's Parent and Toddler Group, Time
and Talents Playgroup and Trinity Childcare.
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The LDDC paid a quarter of the £600,000 spent to build
a new extension to Albion Street Health Centre. This opened in 1996, allowing
the practice to expand from three to five GPs. Earlier, the Corporation
had given a grant of £117,000 to improve Surrey Docks Health Centre. The
LDDC's plans to ensure that by 1998 all Docklands residents are served
by a new or refurbished health centre, integrating GP and community health
services in modern, flexible premises, able to respond to local needs
well into the next century, is on target.
The Corporation's record of funding for community projects
of all types and sizes is well upheld in the peninsula with voluntary
groups helped in a wide variety of ways, including money for fund raising
consultancies to help secure continuity for groups supported by the Corporation.
Major existing community facilities that have received
LDDC grants for refurbishment include Holy Trinity (£224,000), Dockland
Settlement (£188,000) and Time and Talents Association (£112,000). The
LDDC has also contributed to creating community facilities at Bacon's
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Emphasis on ecology
The LDDC has contributed substantially to improving the
ecology of the Surrey Docks peninsula and creating a new green environment.
Lavender Pond, the first ecology park in London Docklands,
was created in 1981 as a joint initiative between Southwark Council and
the Trust for Urban Ecology. The LDDC funded the restoration of the pumping
house as an Environmental Studies Centre. LDDC grants to Lavender Pond
Nature Park total £278,000.
Stave Hill is a major example of ongoing LDDC concern
for the environment. In 1986, the Corporation relocated the former William
Curtis Ecology Park from its original site at Hay's Wharf in Bermondsey
to Stave Hill. The Trust for Urban Ecology has turned this seven acre
site into one of London's most popular ecology parks. In 1992, the LDDC
paid to establish the UK's first ever designated urban butterfly sanctuary
here, and came back again in 1994 to install a 12m high wind turbine to
feed the park's man-made ponds and canals with natural water.
At Canada Water, LDDC grants of £1 million created a
soft ecological edge and funded a low-speed wind turbine drawing fresh
spring water from a depth of 80 metres to constantly feed the dock. Russia
Dock Woodland has received £60,000 and Pearson Park £200,000.
A strong and distinctive landscape structure now exists
in Surrey Docks. In addition to the many ecological improvements, riverside,
canalside and dockside walkways have been created and greenlinks and cycle
paths now traverse the peninsula. More than 6.4km of quay and riverside
walks have been created. Albion Channel, a canal linking Canada Water
and Surrey Water, was created out of the infilled Albion Dock.
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future of the area
Public transport access to the Surrey Docks peninsula
will be revolutionised by the opening of the Jubilee Line Extension, with
a station at Canada Water which includes an interchange with the East
London Line. London Transport are funding a bus station to become part
of the integrated Canada Water Station and will also carry out road improvements,
including pedestrian crossing facilities.
Prior to the handover of the area to London Borough of
Southwark the Corporation spent approximately £1.5 million on projects
to facilitate the area's continued maintenance, including repair works
to docks and river walls, improve the flow of water at Canada Water, Albion
Channel and Surrey Water and refurbish Albion Street play space.
There will be a final phase of new building at Surrey
Quays and Canada Yard in the next few years to add to jobs, leisure and
housing in the area. Already the Surrey Docks is thought to be one of
the most pleasant places to live and work in Docklands. Continuing improvements
are expected on traffic schemes, pedestrian routes and the environment
of the area by the London Borough of Southwark, which will enhance its
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in this series, all published in
1997/98, are as follows
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Annual Reports and Accounts
As with most organisations the Annual Reports and Accounts of the LDDDC are a good source of chronological information about the work of the Corporation and how it spent its money. Altogether these reports contain more than 1000 pages of information. These have been scanned and reproduced as zip files on our Annual Reports and Accounts page
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