The station was originally opened on 7 December 1869, when the first section of the East London Railway was opened. On 1 October 1884, the Metropolitan and District Railways began running services along the East London Railway, which called at Rotherhithe. It was served by electric passenger trains from 31 March 1913, when the line was electrified. Steam-hauled goods trains from Liverpool Street station continued to pass through until April 1966. The name "Rotherhithe" derives from the Anglo-Saxon Hryðer-hyð meaning "landing-place for cattle". The first recorded use of this name was in about 1105, as Rederheia. In the past Rotherhithe was also known as Redriff or Redriffe, however until the early 19th century, this name was applied to the whole river front from St Saviour's Dock to Bull Head Dock, this near the entrance to Surrey Water. Because much of the former Surrey Docks had strong trade links to Scandinavia and the Baltic region the area is still home to a thriving Scandinavian community. During World War II, in fact, it housed the Norwegian Government-in-Exile. Originally established as seafarers' missions, Rotherhithe is home to a Norwegian, a Finnish and a Swedish church. The Finnish Church and the Norwegian Church are both located in Albion Street; they were built in 1958 and 1927 respectively (Rotherhithe Library is located between them). There are also a number of "community centres" for the Nordic community in London, including hostels, shops and cafés and even a sauna, mostly linked closely to the churches.
The original station entrance was located in Albion Street, which meant that access to platforms was at the opposite end of the platforms from the present access. Decorative vitreous enamel panels were added to the platforms. The station was then closed between 1995 and 1998 due to repair work on the Thames Tunnel and from 22 December 2007 to 27 April 2010 for the extension of the East London Line. The present surface building is located a short distance to the south of the original entrance shaft to the Thames Tunnel. It was extensively remodelled between March 1995 and March 1998, in conjunction with the renovation of the East London Line. The building was heavily refurbished for the re-opening of the ELL, with the entrance being enlarged by replacing two of the windows with arches. Rotherhithe station has two platforms (northbound and southbound) and is accessed by two escalators (one up, one down) and a flight of stairs to a landing, then stairs only to platform level. There are ticket barriers in the ticket office controlling access to the platforms. The station platforms are situated close to the southern end of the 1843 Thames Tunnel built by the Brunels, and some of the tunnel's original brickwork can be seen from the north end of the platforms. A better view of the Thames Tunnel portals can be seen from the platforms at Wapping railway station on the opposite side of the river. At the southern end of the Rotherhithe station platforms, the approach ramp for the 1908 Rotherhithe Tunnel passes above the railway on a low and angled road bridge which is highly unusual for being located below water level. The bridge structure is easily visible and is currently painted blue. The Rotherhithe Tunnel portal is also visible when looking up from the southern end of the northbound platform.The station is in Travelcard Zone 2 and has wi-fi, escalators and help points but no toilets.
Connections: London Buses routes 381 and C10 and night route N381 serve the station.