Saturday, 23 August 2014

"Quick! We're on TV again!": Why are Bermondsey and Rotherhithe always the stars of TV, documentaries and films?

What does a car chase in EastEnders involving Phil Mitchell, Lionel Bart’s 1968 musical Oliver! and the pilot episode of smash-hit seventies police series The Sweeney all have in common?  The answer is simple: they’ve all used Bermondsey and Rotherhithe locations as backdrops for filming.  But, just what is it about the arches and alleyways of this quintessentially British quarter of South East London that make them so desperately sought after by TV producers and filmmakers?
John Thaw and Dennis Waterman starred in The Sweeney
Forged by generations of working class hard graft, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe are easily the most photogenic and charming areas in London. Steeped in history dating back to way before the Anglo-Saxon and Norman periods, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe have been the home and playground of kings and princesses: from Edward III’s manor house built close to the Thames in  1353, to the bohemian warehouses used by Antony Armstrong-Jones (later to become the 1st Earl of Snowdon) for many a moonlit tryst with Princess Margaret in the sixties.

Ruins of King Edward III Manor House (Image from
Let’s be clear: together Bermondsey and Rotherhithe are a location scout’s dream.  Boasting history, docks, wharves, green open spaces, Victorian and Georgian homes and of course, a wealth of contemporary architecture including the Shard, City Hall and sprawling 20th century council estates, we have it all!   Don’t believe it?  Local blogger Bermondsey Boy has compiled an insightful directory of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe based TV dramas, films, music videos and documentaries.  Here are some of the highlights:

BBC's New Tricks: Series 11 Episode 1 'Bermondsey Boy' filmed in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe

EastEnders - car chase with Phil Mitchell under Dockley Road bridge)

Doctor Who – BBC drama series: The Doctor (Peter Davison) pushes a Dalek out of a Shad Thames warehouse window

London’s Burning – an ITV weekly soap that ran from 1988 to 2002)

London Bridge – a twice-weekly Carlton ITV soap broadcast in the 1990s 

The Sweeney – pilot episode filmed on the Rotherhithe foreshore


Oliver! – Lionel Bart’s 1968 toe-tapping musical

Three Hats for Lisa – starring Sid James belting out the classic anthem ‘Bermondsey’


The Secret History of our Streets: Reverdy Road, BBC Television 2013

We Was All One – Ken Ashton’s iconic seventies fly on the wall of old Bermondsey and its people

A house on Victorian Reverdy Road SE1, star of the 2012 BBC documentary

Music videos

‘No more lonely nights’ by Paul McCartney – filmed at the Old Justice pub on Bermondsey Wall East and Chambers Wharf SE16

‘Got to have you back’ by The Undertones – filmed on Jamaica Road and St Olave’s Hospital
Paul McCartney woz 'ere! (image from
You see, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe have appeared on the small and silver screens more than the average London location.  In fact, The Shard, Tower Bridge and of course City Hall can be admired pretty much daily on local and national news programmes.

Wondering where to begin?  Start by exploring how the area has changed from the 1970s to the present day.  And the best way to do this?  By settling down with a Bermondsey brew and watching a double-bill of the must see seventies documentary We Was All One, followed swiftly by episode 1 from season 11 of BBC crime drama New Tricks, filmed at St Mary’s Rotherhithe and along the Queen’s Walk and Bermondsey Wall; you’re in for a real treat.  Oh, and don’t worry – Dennis Waterman only sings the theme tune in one of them…
St Mary's, Rotherhithe
More information:

Bermondsey Boy Blog (including links to TV, film and documentaries)

'We Was All One' - 1970s documentary (parts 1 - 5) 

'New Tricks: Bermondsey Boy' - Series 11 Episode 1 - BBC Television 

Sid James singing 'Bermondsey' from Three Hats for Lisa 

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