Book 3, Ch. 2: Rotherhithe, Newington Butts and Lambeth

Pages 690-694

A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


In this section


The villages of Rotherhithe, Newington Butts, and Lambeth.

These though contiguous to the borough of Southwark, so as to form one large straggling town, yet being villages distinct from the borough they require distinction in the order of their being mentioned.


Rotherhithe, vulgarly called Rederiff, and which is deduced from Red-rosehithe, because there was the sign of the Red Rose there (fn. 1), though Maitland, perhaps on better grounds, supposed the name to have a Saxon origin; is a village now joined to Southwark, and extends down the south bank of the Thames toward Deptford. This village is principally inhabited by masters of ships, sea-fating men, with artificers and tradesmen depending upon navigation. The streets are in general narrow, which occasions fires to make great ravages when they happen among the combustibles in which the inhabitants in general deal. But these disasters prove the means of more substantial improved buildings being erected in the stead of those destroyed.

St. Mary Rotherhithe church.

The church of St. Mary Rotherhithe is situated near the bank of the river, about 300 yards to the east of Prince's street. In 1736 the church, then above 200 years old, was taken down, and a new one built by parliamentary authority (fn. 2), which was finished in 1739, of brick ornamented with stone.

This is a neat church, consisting of a plain body and a well proportioned tower. It is enlightened by a double range of windows, and the corners, both in the tower and body, are strengthened with a handsome rustic. The tower consists of two stages; in the lower are a door and window, in the upper a window and dial, and the whole is terminated by a balustrade, from which rises a circular base that supports a kind of lanthorn, very elegantly constructed with corinthian columns; over these are urns with flames; and from the roof of this lanthorn rises a well-constructed spire ending with a ball and vane.

This church is a rectory in the gift of a lay patron.

Newington Butts.

Newington Butts is a village extending from the south end of Blackmanstreet toward Kennington-common; and is thought to receive the addition of Butts from the exercise of shooting at butts formerly practised here, and in other parts of the kingdom, to train men to archery: though another derivation is assigned from the family of Butts of Norfolk having had an estate here. The peaches now termed Newington peaches are said to have obtained that distinction from their having been first planted at this place. The company of Fishmongers have an elegant sett of alms-houses here; but those charities have not hitherto been specified, as a table will be formed of them at the end of the work.

St. Mary Newington Butts.

On the west side of the town stands the parish church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary; the antiquity of which is traced to about the year 1530, but whether the church then built was a new foundation or not is not known. It is an extremely plain, though very decent and convenient church; but if there is no attempt at ornament in its construction, there is nothing bad in it. It is a peculiar of the archbishop of Canterbury's, in the gift of the bishop of Winchester,


Lambeth, antiently Lambhythe, is a village situated along the Thames, between Southwark and Battersea, extending southward from the east end of Westminster bridge; and chiefly inhabited by glass blowers, potters, fishermen, and watermen. The parish is divided into 4 liberties, and these again are subdivided into 8 precincts, which are thus distinguished. 1. The bishop's, 2. The prince's, 3. Vauxhall, 4. Kennington, 5. Marsh, 6. Wall, 7. Stockwell, 8. The Dean's: the whole circumference of which amounts to about 16½ miles (fn. 3). The only building of any consideration in this village is the palace of the archbishops of Canterbury.

Lambeth Palace.

In the year 1188, Baldwin, archbishop of Canterbury, had formed an intention of building a college at Hackington near Canterbury; but the monks of Christ's church procured the pope's mandate to prohibit the undertaking. Baldwin upon this disappointment removed the materials to a piece of ground at Lambeth, which he purchased of the bishop and convent of Rochester; and there built his collegiate church, with apartments for his canons. Whether an archiepiscopal palace was built at that time is not known; but it must have been built before the year 1250, when Boniface, archbishop of Canterbury, who had incensed the citizens of London, retired thither for the safety of his person. The stately gate of this palace was erected by cardinal Reginald Pole, about the year 1557; the great hall by archbishop Juxon, about the year 1662, and the handsome building between the hall and gate, by the archbishops Sancroft and Tillotson. The cloister is thought to have been added by archbishop Herbert. The Lollard's tower, which was so named from a room in it prepared for the imprisonment of the followers of Wickliff, the first British reformer, who were called Lollards, was finished by Chichely, and remains a lasting memorial of his antichristian spirit. This is a small room, twelve feet broad and nine long, planked with elm; and there still remain eight rings and staples, which were used to confine the bodies of such refractory christians as had dared to set their minds at liberty from the shackles of superstition.

Figure 30:

Lambeth Palace and Westminster hall

In a building of successive growth, the several parts of which were erected by different archbishops, uniformity is not to be expected. This palace, though old, is in most parts strong; the corners are faced with rustic, and the top surrounded with battlements: but the principal apartments are well proportioned, and well enlightened. Some of the inner rooms are indeed too close and confined; but there are many others open and pleasant in themselves, with the advantage of being convenient, and of affording very agreeable prospects (fn. 4). This palace contains a very fine library founded in the year 1610, by archbishop Sancroft, who left by will all his books, for the use of his successors in the archiepiscopal see of Canterbury. This has been greatly increased by the benefactions of the archbishops Abbot, Sheldon, and Tennison, and consists of 617 volumes in manuscript, and above 14,500 printed books.

Lambeth palace, with the rows of trees before it, and the parish church adjoining, look very agreeable in prospect from the river, and from the opposite shore of Westminster and Millbank.

At the south east angle of the archbishop's palace stands the parish church of St. Mary Lambeth, which is probably as ancient as the palace. The tower is square, and both that and the body of the church are crowned with battlements. The advowson of the living is in the bishop of Winchester. In the south-east window of the middle isle there is a picture of a pedlar and his dog painted on glass, in memory of a pedlar, who gave to this parish a piece of ground at Lambeth-wall measuring an acre and 19 poles, and called to this day Pedlar's-acre.

Vauxhall garden.

About three quarters of a mile southward of Lambeth palace, in the hamlet of Vauxhall, is that famous public garden so much frequented as a place of genteel evening amusement by the inhabitants of the metropolis during the summer season. Decent company are admitted into this garden on paying a shilling each person, and may afterward procure whatever refreshments of liquors or suppers they chuse. The principal gravel walk in this garden is planted on each side with very lofty trees, which form a fine vista; it leads from the great gate, and is terminated by a landscape of the country, a beautiful lawn of meadow ground, and a grand Gothic obelisk. On the right hand of this walk, a little after entering the garden, is a square; which, from the number of trees planted in it, is called the Grove: in the middle of it is a magnificent orchestra of Gothic construction, ornamented with carvings, niches, &c. the dome of which is surmounted with a plume of feathers, the crest of the prince of Wales. At the back part of this orchestra, a very fine organ is erected, and at the foot of it are seats and desks for the musicians, placed in a semi-circular form, leaving a vacancy at the front for the vocal performers. The concert is opened with instrumental music, at six o'clock, and several songs are performed, with sonatas, or concertos between each, till the close of the entertainment, which is generally about ten o'clock. As a provision against rainy weather there is a rotunda and a ball room furnished with an orchestra; so that a wet evening does not prevent the customary entertainments of the place: the walls are decorated with descriptive and emblematical paintings by Hayman, the subjects of which are the victories gained by the British arms in the last war.

Some of the walks terminate in views of ruins, others in a prospect of the adjacent country; and some are adorned with painted representation of triumphal arches. There are here also several statues, and in particular a good one in marble by Mr. Roubiliac of the late Mr. Handel playing on a lyre in the character of Orpheus.

In most of the boxes are pictures painted from the designs of Mr. Hayman, on subjects admirably adapted to the place. But there are in the grand pavilion four pictures of his own hand from the historical plays of Shakespear that are universally admired.

When it grows dark the garden near the orchestra is illuminated, almost in an instant, with about 1500 glass lamps, which glitter among the trees, and render it exceeding light and brilliant. The decorations and entertainments are varied, if not improved, almost every season; of late years a pleasing piece of machinery has been exhibited when the evening grows dark, on the inside of one of the hedges near the entrance into the vistas. By removing a curtain, is shewn a very fine landscape, illuminated by concealed lights, in which the principal objects are a cascade or waterfall, and a miller's-house. The water is seen flowing down a declivity, and turning the wheel of the mill; and the liveliness of the representation, with the imitation of the noise of the water, have a very pleasing effect on the spectator.


  • 1. Parish Clerks Remarks, p. 243.
  • 2. Stat. 11 Geo. II. c. 13.
  • 3. Parish Clerks Remarks, p. 236.
  • 4. English Architure, p. 61.