Join me on a Historic Shad Thames London SE1 Walk. Shad Thames, London SE1 is an atmospheric and historic part of London. It is bounded by Tower Bridge Road, Tooley Street, St Saviour’s Dock and the River Thames. Shad Thames is also called Butler’s Wharf, and there is a street called Shad Thames. My Historic Shad Thames London SE1 Walk takes you through cobbled streets with 19th-century warehouse buildings which is a Tower Bridge Conservation Area. If you’re looking for Interesting London Walks or Historic London Warehouse Buildings, you will love this part of the capital.
The name Shad Thames maybe because of the Shad Fish in the river, or a reference to St John at Thames and the St John’s Church which used to be in the vicinity. The area was once part of Horselydown and Horseidune which is said to mean ‘hill by the horse marsh’ or ‘horse lie down.’
Historic Shad Thames London SE1 Walk Highlights
View of Shad Thames from Tower Bridge: Start your walk from either London Bridge or Tower Hill station. Before you venture into Shad Thames, I suggest you view the area from Tower Bridge. East of the bridge you will notice an imposing building which is the Courage & Co Ltd Anchor House. Next to this is a collection of buildings called Butler’s Wharf. If the tide is out, you might see a small pebble beach. Just after Tower Bridge, you can take the stairs leading to Shad Thames.
Horseley Down Old Stairs: As you enter the cobbled street of Shad Thames, you will see a sign saying Horseley Down Old Stairs which takes you to the River Thames. When the tide is out, it reveals a gravel ‘beach’ area. The Historic London website lists it as ‘Stone stairs leading down to stone-flagged hard, the name appearing on Rocque’s map of 1746. Approached from the land through the Anchor Brewhouse, via a new flight of steps.’
Courage & Co Ltd Anchor Brewhouse: John Courage founded a brewery here in 1786 which became a large estate. The three parts of the building were the Boilerhouse, Brewhouse and Malt Mill which all had their role to play in the beer brewing process. The building dates back to 1871, and some parts were rebuilt around 1894-5. In 1985-6 the Brewhouse was redeveloped for residential and commercial use. It is now a Grade II Listed Building.
Courage Yard, Brewery Square and Anchor Tap Pub: Opposite the Anchor Brewhouse you can access these two squares. The developments include apartments and businesses with sculptures by the architects and a fountain surrounded by bronze nymphs. At 28 Horsleydown Lane, the Anchor Tap is the site of John Courage’s first pub from the end of the eighteenth century.
Maggie Blake’s Cause: Back to the cobbled Shad Thames Street and you will notice the passageway next to the Anchor Brewhouse Boilerhouse. It is named after Maggie Blake, a local lady who campaigned against developers for the riverfront in Shad Thames to be accessible to the public.
Butler’s Wharf Buildings: Mr Butler was a grain trader who operated his business in the area and rented warehouses from the Thomas family in 1794. The yellow London stock brick Victorian warehouses with cast-iron window frames were built in 1871-3 with rebuilding during the 1880s-1890s. Grain, tea, rubber, sugar, cloves, and cinnamon were traded here which are referenced in the building names. The complex closed in 1971 and artists moved in, you’ll see a blue plaque saying Derek Jarman lived there. The buildings were deemed risky after a fire broke out in 1979. Sir Terrence Conran regenerated the area when he redeveloped six buildings between 1985-1997. Butler’s Wharf and Butler’s Wharf West are now Grade II Listed. Wander along Shad Thames Street and admire the warehouse buildings and overhead gantries. You will notice a string of upmarket restaurants on the left, the fronts of which overlook the River Thames.
Shad Thames River Front: Walk through one of the passageways so you can admire the Butler’s Wharf buildings from the front. The upscale restaurants (Le Pont de la Tour, Butlers Wharf Chop House, Cantina Del Ponte, etc.) have alfresco dining areas overlooking the Thames. The Butler’s Wharf Jetty and Pier are privately owned. Continue along, and you will see where the Design Museum was previously located. There is a collection of sculptures including anchors and boat propellers. The Exotic Cargo pink granite sculpture is by Peter Randall-Page which looks like a fruit split in half. Take in the views of Tower Bridge and the City of London and Canary Wharf from this point.
St Saviour’s Dock Footbridge and Basin The stainless-steel cable bridge over the entrance to the St Saviour’s Dock Basin connects you to Bermondsey Wall West. Stand on the bridge to admire the converted warehouse apartments lining the basin. Sometimes you will see swans and ducks in the water below.
Wheat Wharf: Venture into Maguire Street to see Wheat Wharf, a Grade II Listed former granary.
Shad Thames Pumping Station: Also, on Maguire Street is the Pumping Station. Originally on this site was a drainage system dating back to Tudor times. In 1906-8, the Pumping Station was used for storm drainage.
Shad Thames Continued: If you continue along Shad Thames (Street / Road) which takes you to Tooley Street, you can admire the listed buildings. These include Tea Trade Wharf, Cinnamon Wharf, Java Wharf, Butler’s Colonial Wharf (former rice and oil milling), St Andrew’s Wharf, St Saviours, St George’s Wharf (former four mills), and more.
The Circle and Jacob the Dray Horse: On Queen Elizabeth Street you can view circular shaped buildings by CZWG. These are described as ‘extravagant architectural whims’. The centrepiece of The Circle is the bronze horse by Shirley Pace. The site was once stabling for the dray horses from the Courage Anchor Brewery.
The Flag Store: The flag and tent manufacturing building by Benjamin Edington was built in 1899. At the rear, you will see a contemporary pyramid structure which is used as an office.
Dixon Hotel: On Tooley Street, you can admire the building which was previously a magistrate’s court and police station.
Historic Shad Thames London SE1 Walk Information
The nearest stations to Shad Thames are London Bridge or Tower Hill. I researched the area using information from Shad Thames Wikipedia and the Shad Thames Trail Guide. The walk will take around an hour if you want to explore the side streets in the vicinity. If you want to continue on over St Saviour’s Dock Footbridge, read my London Bridge to Stave Hill article. Enjoy your visit.
Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Homegirl London.
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