Shad Thames is a historic riverside street next to Tower Bridge in Bermondsey and is also an informal name for the surrounding area. The name is a corruption of “St John at Thames”, a reference to the Knights of St John, the former landowners. The parish church of Horselydown was dedicated to St. John when it was built in 1728. Horselydown was the medieval name for this area but has now faded from use. In Victorian times, this stretch of the shoreline became the core of Bermondsey and Southwark’s “larder of London”, dominated by the tea, coffee, spice and dried fruit warehouses of Butler’s Wharf, which were completed in 1873. The warehouses housed huge quantities of imported commodities, which were unloaded and loaded onto river boats. The dockers would gather at Shad Thames twice a day in the hope of being hired for a half-day’s work ferrying the spices, tea and coffee in barrows from the riverside wharfs into the warehouses, further inland. An 1878 book says:
“Shad Thames, and, indeed, the whole river-side, contain extensive granaries and storehouses for the supply of the metropolis. Indeed, from Morgan’s Lane — a turning about the middle of Tooley Street, on the north side, to St. Saviour’s (once called Savory) Dock, the whole line of street — called in one part Pickle Herring Street, and in another Shad Thames — exhibits an uninterrupted series of wharves, warehouses, mills, and factories, on both sides of the narrow and crowded roadway.”
During the 20th century the area went into decline as congestion forced shipping to unload goods further east, and the last warehouses closed in 1972, leaving the area forgotten and derelict. However, Shad Thames was regenerated in the 1980s and 1990s, when the disused but picturesque warehouses throughout the area were converted into expensive apartments with names that reflect the use of the original use of the properties for the storage of imported goods. Here you can find names like Cayenne Court or Vanilla & Sesame Court, Saffron Wharf, Tea Trade Wharf, Spice Quay Heights, Cinnamon Wharf, Wheat Wharf, Anise Building, Tamarind Court, Caraway Apartments, Cashmere House, Fennel Building. Many of the old buildings still have the original lettering on the walls.
Shad Thames is still criss-crossed by the overhead goods gantries that linked the warehouses, many of which retain interior fitments too.
Another early morning in the city underground. Different station, different views. I can see a new project coming along.