Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund


Surrey Docks Farm has been awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out a new project exploring the history of the Farm’s site, and we are inviting volunteers to get involved.

This follows on from our successful project in 2013-14, in which we researched the history of the site over the last three centuries and created a history trail.

In this new project, we will focus on events between 1883 – 1940, during which time the site was a Receiving Station for transporting smallpox and fever patients to isolation hospitals downriver. We will also look at how this came to a dramatic end in the Blitz, when the site also served as a wartime River Fire Station.

The project’s activities will include:

  • Compiling a full year-by-year account of events at the Receiving Station, using the extensive Metropolitan Asylums Board archives. We aim to learn more about how the Receiving Station operated, and discover the human stories of the staff who worked and lived here and the patients who passed through here. The resulting document will be an ongoing resource for ourselves and other researchers.
  • Reassembling a Metropolitan Asylums Board teaset from the numerous broken crockery fragments that have been found on the Farm’s foreshore. We also have many 1930s fragments from the foreshore that were probably shattered in the Blitz, and will also piece together as many of these as possible.
  • Researching the recently-rediscovered accounts of heroic rescues from the site during the Blitz, for which several individuals were awarded bravery and gallantry medals, and presenting these stories on a display board.
  • Creating a mosaic with young people from the Farm’s youth clubs, inspired by the stories we find from the site’s history.
  • Working with local senior citizens’ groups to explore memories and share new findings and information of how the Blitz affected the site and this area of Rotherhithe.


The project will run from October 2016 until October 2017, and we are looking for volunteers of all ages and abilities to help with the following tasks: 
  • Researching and compiling the full history of the Receiving Station, as well as events on the site during the Blitz. This will involve regular visits to the London Metropolitan Archives, Southwark Local History Library and Wellcome Library. Tasks will include researching, reading, deciphering, editing and typing. Suitable for adults of all ages, from students to senior citizens. 
  • Searching the Farm’s foreshore for fragments of crockery from the Receiving Station. Training will be provided, and searching will be done in small groups at arranged times on both weekends and weekdays. Suitable especially for people living locally. We would also particularly welcome licensed mudlarkers / holders of foreshore permits to help check the farm’s foreshore, either as part of the group or at their own convenience.
  • Reassembling the crockery fragments. This will be done as a monthly group activity, and is suitable for adults, with accompanied children aged 8+ also welcome.

No knowledge or experience is necessary for any of the above – full training and guidance will be provided, and most activities will be done in small groups. There are also many opportunities for those with relevant skills and experience, or those who like to work independently. Sessions and activities will be at flexible times to fit in with volunteers’ availability, and you can participate as much or as little as you like.  

If interested, please contact:

Germander Speedwell (Project Co-ordinator):


Tel: 07955 089936

For updates on the project’s progress, subscribe to the Farm’s Newsletter  or follow the Farm on Twitter 

crockery from Metropolitan Asylums Board
farm foreshore at low tide on the thames
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