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Ever heard the one about the man who fell in to a whale?

A new book detailing weird and wonderful stories – including the tale of a man who fell into a whale – from the historic streets of Rotherhithe has just been released.

Pat Kingwell penned Once Upon A Street in Rotherhithe after he successfully published a book on Bermondsey last year. The book, a collection of stories from Rotherhithe mostly gleaned from newspaper archives, covers a range of topics, explained Pat, from the area’s docks and wharves, crime, pubs and other ‘working class leisure interests’.

Talking about the stories in the book, Pat said: “A couple I’ve picked are in Fulford Street. Back in the early 1800s somebody discovered a pearl in an oyster they’d been served up in the Queen’s Head. Another, in Greenland Dock, way back there was an incident. They brought a whale in, and they used to cut them all up on the side of the dock. Someone fell into a whale! They survived it.”

He added: “Southwark Park over the years has had three aeroplane crashes. In 1920 an aeroplane crashed into a tree and fell into the lake.”

In March 1920 an aeroplane crashed into a tree in Southwark Park and then fell into the lake. The pilot G.P. Olley, and his passenger F.L. Wells, were flying over London for the purposes of photographing the Surrey Docks. Neither man was hurt. The accident was deemed to be due to pilot misjudgement and engine failure

The book also tells of the little-known connection between Rotherhithe and Sir Winston Churchill. “Apparently Winston Churchill gave his maiden speech in Rotherhithe in 1898. He spoke in Rotherhithe Town Hall,” said Pat.

Pat, 68, who used to work for Southwark Council, including in the library and as a project manager, helping to get the lottery money to refurbish Southwark Park, also grew up in the area before moving to Greenwich in 1975. Pat said that a good part of the proceeds from the book will go towards the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.

Once Upon A Street in Rotherhithe is available for £10 from Deli Felice, 40 Albion St, London SE16 7JQ. You can also order a copy to be posted to you for £13 from the author, on


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