On the northern bank of the River Thames across from Rotherhithe is an old area of London called Limehouse. I was interested in walking along the Limehouse Basin that was originally called the Regent’s Canal Dock when it opened in 1820 and seeing the Limehouse Cut that is part of a canal system that barges began navigating in 1769 and still do today. We took the Thames Path around the Limehouse Basin where both canal barges and yachts were safely docked with access to either the canal or the Thames via locks.
As we followed the path along the canal we came into view of St Anne’s Limehouse the church where my great great great grandfather Joseph Mockford married Mary Ann Mussard on 17 October 1824. Joseph was born in Rotherhithe in 1800 and worked in the shipbuilding community that defined the south side of the Thames. But across the river the church tower of St. Anne’s Limehouse stood for a century before his wedding day having been built from 1712 to 1724 and was completed in 1727 with the consecration of the church in 1730. Because of its prominent location on the north side of the Thames the church was a place of registry for sea captains to record the vital events that took place during voyages. Queen Anne noted this important role by giving the church the right to display the White Ensign of the Royal Navy and the church itself was a “sea mark” for navigation on the river. This tradition continues today and we saw the White Ensign flying from the church tower.
The church designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor was better known to the seafaring world than other churches because it was for over a century the first major structure that sailors could see from ships as the came up river to London and it had the highest clock tower of any building in London until the construction of Big Ben, the nickname for the Clock Tower at the Palace of Westminster, that opened in 1859 (renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II). At the time of the construction of Big Ben to the west the church clock tower at St. Anne’s Limehouse had just completed a six year long effort to complete restoration having suffered fire damage in 1850. But by the end of the decade the people of London had two tall clock towers to be seen and heard on the east and west sides of the city. It is still the highest church clock tower in London. However, the development of many tall buildings in the area in recent years prevents a clear view of it from the river and across the river from Rotherhithe as once it must have stood out above all. http://stanneslimehouse.org/history.html
Joseph and Mary Anne’s marriage is recorded in the parish record of St. Anne’s Limehouse but they returned across the river to live their lives in Rotherhithe where we walked in the footsteps of family a week earlier. https://mockford.wordpress.com/2015/07/25/st-marys-rotherhithe-300th-anniversary/
I did not have a chance to go inside the church as we arrived on our walk late in the day. Another visit will be required to see the church and hear the famous organ and a performance of the Docklands Sinfonia that now calls the church their home http://www.docklandssinfonia.co.uk/home