Visiting London - Southwark

Rotherhithe is in the London Borough of Southwark, on the Southbank of the River Thames. As an internationally-recognised cultural destination, renowned for its vibrant performing and visual  arts, history and heritage, Southwark Council is working with businesses, cultural and community partners to introduce a programme of events and activities building up to 2020.

This will include a specially written performance charting the history of the Mayflower journey, a talks programme and heritage trail taking in significant city landmarks, Captain Christopher Jones Statue in St Mary’s, which represents Jones looking back at England, while the child is looking towards America. Not to mention world-famous attractions by the Thames including Shakespeare’s Globe, Borough Market, Tate Modern and The Shard alongside the heritage of Charles Dickens, John Harvard and the Mayflower.

The programme will culminate in large scale performance on The River Thames to commemorate the 400th anniversary and mark Rotherhithe as the beginning of the Mayflower’s famous voyage in 1620.

The Mayflower 400 programme in Southwark

Southwark has a history of developing brilliant grass-roots cultural activity. This will continue through the Mayflower 400 commemoration, with capital investment in the public realm combining with a community commissioning scheme to create a unique programme of activity for 2020 that reflects the creativity and diversity of the borough. Highlights include:

  • Rotherhithe Illuminate, a free five day festival created by residents, incorporating a range of great community activities including concerts, dances, music, film and exhibitions. This will open and close Southwark’s Mayflower 400 programme in 2020.
  • New trails along the Southbank, incorporating signage and interpretation that will foreground Southwark’s key role in the Mayflower’s journey and link to Southwark’s wider maritime heritage. The trail will point to wider famous landmarks and attractions including Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tate Modern, Southwark Cathedral and Borough Market.
  • A range of bespoke community activity commissioned specifically for Mayflower 400. From theatrical performances and cinematic screening through to talks and visual arts, this will showcase the best of Southwark while providing a range of special experiences for visitors and residents.
  • Mayflower 400 London Lectures, a series of monthly illustrated talks in London’s most historic borough organised by The Rotherhithe & Bermondsey Local History Society. See the full line-up of speakers and subjects for 2020 here.

Southwark and the Mayflower story


The Mayflower story and Southwark’s role in that historic voyage are deeply intertwined. Rotherhithe has a long seafaring and ship building history and was the place where Christopher Jones, the captain and part owner of the ship, and many of the crew lived.

In July 1620 the Mayflower sailed from Rotherhithe to join another ship, the Speedwell, coming from Holland in Southampton. When the Speedwell sprang a serious leak the ships were forced to stop in Plymouth where passengers and provisions were crowded onto the Mayflower. Carrying something like 150 passengers and crew she set off again on 6 September 1620.

The Mayflower carried not only those escaping religious persecution (the “Saints”) but also other people who are perhaps less familiar in the popular imagination.  

The majority of passengers were going for non-religious reasons and were making the journey because they were servants, merchant adventurers or traders, known as the “Strangers”.  All of them were counted as Pilgrims. In addition there was the crew, a few of whom we know for certain were from Rotherhithe but it is likely others were too.

After an arduous journey to America, a terrible winter, sickness and hardship the ship and surviving crew returned to Rotherhithe.

Jones died, worn out by the hardships and was buried at St Mary’s church.  The Mayflower may also have ended her life in Rotherhithe too and was most likely broken up a few years later as Rotherhithe was also a ship breaking port.

Supported by our national sponsors and funding partners

Southwark Mayflower Highlights

  • Events
  • Attractions
  • Accommodation
Mayflower Pub, Rotherhithe

The Mayflower Pub

Food and drink

The Mayflower pub is a hidden gem in the heart of Rotherhithe, London.

Brunel Museum


The Museum is an educational charity run by volunteers and tells the story of one of the world’s great engineering dynasties.

Sands Films

Visitor Attraction

Independent film production facility and venue operating in an 18C listed building


Canada Water Library + Theatre

Visitor Attraction

London’s 2nd busiest library is designed by world renowned architect Piers Gough, partner at CZWG architects, the Canada Water Library opened in November 2011. The library incorporates a range of cultural and community facilities, reflecting Southwark Council’s ambition to put libraries at the heart of community life.

Surrey Docks Farm

Visitor Attraction

Surrey Docks Farm is an Interactive, Free to Enter educational farm on the banks of the Thames, London


Time and Talents

Visitor Attraction

Time & Talents is a local charity based dedicated to creating a place where everyone feels part of a community.


Borough Market

Borough Market's gourmet food market consists of up to more than 100 stalls selling fish, meats, vegetables, ciders, cheeses, breads, coffees, cakes and patisseries


Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral is the oldest gothic church in London, dating from around 1220, and is part of the Diocese of Southwark.


St. Mary’s Church

St Mary's Church, is the local Church of England parish church in Rotherhithe

The Clink Museum

Visitor Attraction

Built upon the original site of The Clink Prison, which dating back to 1144 was one of England’s oldest and most notorious prisons

London Bubble Theatre Company

Adult £9.80 Children £4.20

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge was built over 120 years ago to ease road traffic while maintaining river access to the busy Pool of London docks

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