The High Street

The Watch House

Redriff’s 24-hour greasy spoon has an unusual history to match it’s unusual name.  The Watch House was originally built as exactly what the name entails, in 1821.  It was built specifically to enable a watch to be kept on the nearby St Mary’s churchyard, following a spate of grave-robbing in the area.  Sadly, it was not successful in it’s purpose, despite the repeated attestations of the watch-house staff that they watched the graveyard all night, and saw not a soul enter, graves continued to be found disturbed and disinterred at intervals for years to come.

The phenomenon persisted at sporadic intervals until the 1830s, and it’s generally believed to have been the work of particularly cunning resurrection men, selling to the staff of St Guy’s, but the Watch House was decommissioned as an actual “watch house” in 1829, following the founding of the Metropolitan Police.

The building has served a number of functions over the years, but since the late 70s, it’s been a greasy spoon, serving surprisingly good coffee and fried food at all hours to the area’s shiftworkers and other night owls, as well the more conventional daytime punters.  The Watch House has been open 24 hours a day 365 days a year since it was founded, something Annie, the current manager is very proud of and keen to maintain.

Dyer’s Funeral Home

The Dyers claim that their family have been taking care of the dead in the area for over 500 years – as clergy, as doctors, and as funeral directors.  They say it takes a Dyer to lay someone out safely in Redriff, and it’s certainly true that the area has more funeral customs and superstitions than just about anywhere else.  Of course, not everyone believes in all of them, but still you can bet the Dyers know them all, and a few more besides.

Still there are a number of local peculiarities to funeral customs that most people observe, some of which are getting harder to follow.  Clocks are generally kept stopped, and mirrors covered while a body is in the house, and the night before a funeral, most people make sure every door and window in the house where the deceased lived is left unlocked.

Strangely, the local criminal element don’t seem to take advantage of this.  Legend has it that a minor member of the O’Malley family did once, back in the 80s, and when he died, a decade or so later, still young, following an altercation outside The Europa, the Dyers refused to bury him.  Everyone agrees this means something important.  No-one seems to be sure quite what.  The Dyers are active in the Community Action Group.

St Olav’s Church

In the 18th and 19th centuries, a lot of the cargo coming through the Redriff dockyards was Scandinavian lumber, and the area was home to a large, if transient population of Danes, Norwegians and other Scandinavians.  St Olav’s was erected first as a temporary mission, for these sailors, although it saw use by a wide variety of people – James “Cunning” Murrell, the mystic and fraudster who was often referred to as “the last Cunning Man of England” who lived for a time in the area was married at the original St Olav’s in 1832.

The current building dates back only as far as the 1920s, and has been attended by Norwegian Royalty on state visits to the UK.  The weathervane atop the church spire is a longboat, said to be that of St Olav, who pulled down London Bridge to help protect the city. Locals remark that it sometimes seen to move against the wind, and the old folk say that bad times come in on the breeze that St Olav stands against.

The Bowling Club

The Redriff Bowling Club is London’s only bowling club dedicated to Crown Green Bowls, and has, even by the standards of that sport (where the green is not a flat grass surface), an extremely strange L-shaped green, with a variety of hummocks and cover areas of lawn.  There area number of urban legends that suggest that there are corpses, or even stranger things buried under the bowling green, but of course no-one takes them seriously.

Bonclark’s Bric-a-brac

Casual visitors to the area might mistake this shop for either a charity shop, a house clearance store, or perhaps a very poor antique shop.  Henry Bonclark is quick to correct such assumptions when he hears them, as he’s very particular that he sells “your genuine, carefully selected bric-a-brac”.  At which point, he’ll trap the unwary into a lecture about the origins of the term, it’s relationship to antiques, and so on.  The short version is that he sells “curios and trinkets of modest value, of the sort that decorate and add character and curiousity to a home”.  Henry’s a shopkeeper, an amateur historian and member of the Resident’s Association.

The Cartee Salon

The Cartee Salon is only one of a number of beauty salons on the estate, but it’s definitely the place to go if you’re looking to get the latest looks.  They offer hairdressing, nails, and beauty treatments of all kinds, and is generally considered the place to do before a big do.

The place is a licensed premises, as they sell alcohol to people having treatements or their hair done, and the place is available for hire after normal trading hours to local organisations that might want a private drink or two – it’s popular with a couple of different local book groups and a life drawing class.