South Dock is in Rotherhithe, SE16. It is the easternmost dock in the former Surrey Commercial Dock network, right on the edge of Lewisham, with its own lock out on to the Thames. Converted into a marina with its own boatyard in the 1990s, and surrounded by a diverse range of attractive modern homes, it successfully combines the role of a working dock and a quiet residential area. It is much loved by local residents.
South Dock in was built in 1811 as part of one of the three competing dock companies that occupied the bend in the river at the top of Rotherhithe. Rotherhithe had a long and very successful ship building past, was the site of London’s first enclosed dock in 1699, and was the home of the Grand Surrey Canal. South Dock was built as a fairly modest enterprise, but was expanded to meet the growing needs of a vast network of docks throughout the 1800s. Although severely damaged during the Second World War, it was drained at that time and used as a workshop to manufacture components for the famous Mulberry Harbours.
South Dock re-opened after the war but times became increasingly difficult until 1970, when the Surrey Commercial Docks closed. Rotherhithe in the 1970s was a desolate industrial wasteland, a patchwork of filled-in docks, ruined warehouses and derelict wharves. In the late 1970s Southwark Council began to buy land with a view to developing it for mixed residential and light industrial use, combined with a shopping centre. In the 1980s the London Dockland Development Corporation (LDDC) built on these plans to transform the peninsula. South Dock, with its large body of water opening directly out onto the Thames, was developed as a marina, accompanying boatyard and a residential oasis. Today it is home to London’s biggest marina and surrounded by attractive and mainly low-rise homes, many of them commissioned specially from award-winning architects. The splendid architectural mix matches the variety of boats of all ages, shapes and sizes resident in the dock itself.
This website has been put together to provide an account of the history of South Dock, reflecting its importance as a major piece of Rotherhithe’s heritage and a haven for both home owners and boat owners. It is much appreciated by both local residents and visitors. South Dock has been transformed from a busy cargo-handling centre to become a marvellously peaceful and enjoyable corner of Rotherhithe, with close links to the Thames and to the other remaining docks. An integral part of Rotherhithe, it also manages to maintain its own separate identity, mingling different lifestyles without effort, and has retained a strong community atmosphere for the last two decades.