The life of London’s old docklands is fast becoming a distant memory, so it is easy to forget that the area we now know as Surrey Quays in south-east London was once a network of working waterways, with docks and canals crowded with heavily laden ships from every corner of the globe.
Before the Surrey Docks closed in 1969, the peninsula that sits across the Thames from Wapping, Limehouse and Canary Wharf consisted of nine large docks, six timber “ponds” and a once-bustling canal. The names of these docks — Greenland, Finland, Russia, Canada — indicated the origin of cargos unloaded in them, from timber and hides to whale oil.
Today, only Greenland Dock and a small part of Canada Dock survive.
In the Seventies almost all the docks were filled in and for a decade until the Eighties the land lay largely derelict and unloved.
Today, Surrey Quays has the feel of an entirely new town, with more than 5,500 new homes built during the Eighties and Nineties when the population expanded from less than 6,000 to over 16,000. And now Surrey Quays is to get a second burst of building with regeneration around Canada Water.
Already there is a fine new library and public square overlooking Canada Water and designed by renowned architect Piers Gough of CZWG, while 2,700 new homes are planned, including Barratt’s Maple Quays development, now partly completed. And there will be more to come to replace the 14-acre Associated Newspapers printworks, where this paper was once printed.
What there is to buy in Surrey Quays
Surrey Quays is a good place to look for modern houses and flats. For period homes the St Mary’s, Rotherhithe conservation area is particularly sought after. Here there is a Dickensian maze of streets, an 18th-century church and a riverside pub, The Mayflower, near the spot where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for America in 1620.
This is where large 19th-century warehouse conversions can be found. The most expensive home currently on sale is a three-bedroom riverside loft in Hays Court, Rotherhithe Street — being marketed for £1.6 million through
Cluttons (020 7407 3669).
Who moves here and who stays?
There is a strong local market, with many old docklands families remaining in the area. However, since the reopening of the East London line in 2010, it now has excellent connections with the City as well as Canary Wharf.
According to Carl Davenport at the Tower Bridge office of Chesterton Humberts, Surrey Quays is also popular with Hong Kong Chinese who bought new homes during the run-up to the handover of the territory to China. Flats are more highly valued, in price per square foot terms, than houses, so in Surrey Quays the move from a flat to a house is usually affordable.
What there is to rent in Surrey Quays
Surrey Quays is a hit with young professional sharers who can find a three-bedroom house for between £400 and £500 a week.
Postcode: Surrey Quays is in the Rotherhithe, SE16 postcode.
Best roads: Rotherhithe Village around St Mary’s Church is the most sought after, although according to Davenport the success of Maple Quays is driving prices higher close to Canada Water. Plover Way is a small stretch of water north of Greenland Dock where the houses appear to float; they currently sell for between £550,000 and £600,000.
What’s new: Maple Quays (020 7237 9311) is a Barratt Homes development of 900 flats, of which 234 are affordable. Flats in the fourth phase, Brampton House and Victoria House, are on sale off-plan for completion in June next year with prices starting at £299,000 for a one-bedroom flat.
Ontario Point, the landmark 24-storey tower, will be launched off-plan on July 26 with prices starting at £324,000 for a one-bedroom flat. There are two two-bedroom shared-ownership flats available through housing association Affinity Sutton (0300 100 0303) in Vancouver House and Ottawa House, with prices starting at £99,950 for a 25 per cent share in a flat with a market value of £398,000 and monthly outgoings around £1,300.
More change is afoot around Canada Water. Property company British Land has promised a £34 million investment and extension to the Surrey Quays shopping centre, and it recently announced that it has bought the Associated Newspapers printworks.
There are also plans to redevelop the Decathlon site overlooking Canada Water. The site was bought by Shard developer Sellar, and a planning application for a mixed-use scheme with 1,000 new homes is expected in the autumn.
Getting an education
Surrey Quays and Rotherhithe has three primary schools judged outstanding by education watchdog Ofsted: Redriff in Salter Road, which was recently converted to an academy, Albion in Albion Street and St Joseph’s RC in Gomm Road. The following are judged good: St John’s RC in St Elmo’s Road and Alfred Salter in Quebec Way.
The local comprehensive, Bacon’s College (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) now an academy sponsored by Lord Harris in Timber Pond Road gets above-average results at GCSE but is only judged satisfactory by Ofsted. St Michael’s Catholic College (co-ed ages 11 to 18) in Llewellyn Road is judged outstanding, while City of London Academy (co-ed ages 11 to 18) sponsored by the City of London in Lynton Road is judged good.
There are two top-performing private schools in the City: City of London School (boys ages 10 to 18) in Queen Victoria Street and City of London Girls (ages seven to 18) in the Barbican.
Shops and restaurants
The Surrey Quays shopping centre has a 24-hour Tesco and a branch of Bhs along with other high street names. The centre is now looking tired — although it is kept spotlessly clean — and a revamp is planned. Surrey Quays is a culinary desert, although people travel from afar to sample the Vietnamese food at Café East in the Surrey Quays Leisure Centre. There is, though, a big concentration of restaurants, including Le Pont de la Tour and the Blueprint Café, in nearby Shad Thames.
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The route of the riverside Thames Path is obstructed in places around Rotherhithe by buildings. The Stave Hill Ecology Park and adjoining Russia Dock Woodland are managed for wildlife and enjoyed by residents. Sheep, goats, cows, ducks, geese and turkeys can be found at the Surrey Docks City Farm on the eastern side of the Rotherhithe Peninsula.
Leisure and the arts
The Surrey Docks Watersports Centre offers sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and raft building in Greenland Dock.
The nearest council-owned swimming pool is at the Seven Islands Leisure Centre in Lower Road and there is a Odeon cinema complex and tenpin bowling at the Surrey Quays Leisure Centre in Redriff Road.
The Brunel Museum in Railway Avenue tells the story of Marc and Isambard Brunel’s Thames Tunnel, while in Lavender Road, the Pumphouse Museum houses the Rotherhithe Heritage Museum.
Travel: Surrey Quays, Canada Water and Rotherhithe are all on the newly extended East London line with trains to the City at Whitechapel and Shoreditch High Street.
Canada Water is on the Jubilee line, which is one stop away from Canary Wharf and six stops from Green Park. All stations are in Zone 2 and an annual travelcard to Zone 1 costs £1,168.
Council: Southwark (Labour-controlled). Band D council tax for the 2012/2013 year is £ 1,218.86
Buying in Surrey Quays
One-bedroom flat £240,000
Two-bedroom flat £346,000
Two-bedroom house £400,000
Three-bedroom house £521,000
Four-bedroom house £530,000
Renting in Surrey Quays
One-bedroom flat £260 to £1,130 a week
Two-bedroom flat £360 to £1,560 a week
Two-bedroom house £300 to £1,300 a week
Three-bedroom house £450 to £1,950 a week
Four-bedroom house £500 to £2,170 a week
Source: Chesterton Humberts
Photographs: Graham Hussey