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Wapping area guide

Wapping | E1W

Area Guide

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Wapping Area Info

Wapping Area Info

On the north bank of the River Thames, directly opposite Rotherhithe, lays Wapping, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Once a thriving part of London’s Docklands, the area went into steep decline after the devastation reeked by World War Two. However, in the 1980s redevelopment began apace, with the old disused warehouses and factories cleverly converted into luxury dwellings. Since then, Wapping has not looked back, becoming synonymous with the ultimate riverside lifestyle.

But there’s a lot more to this area than sleek new developments and expensive yachts - Wapping has been a major part of London’s maritime history for hundreds of years. This can be evidenced in the old wharves and cobbled streets that give the area a real ‘Dickensian’ feel. However, alongside the old, happily sits the new, with modern Neon emblazoned bars and trendy cafés also very much part of the area’s make up.

What makes Wapping so unique is undoubtedly its wharves, which stretch all the way along the Thames from Wapping, past St Katherine’s Dock, to Tower Bridge and Shad Thames. The development of these riverside buildings has been truly sympathetic, retaining all of their charm and appeal while breathing much-needed life and character into the area.

While these spacious warehouse conversions are much in demand, attracting affluent city workers as well as the odd celebrity (both Sir Alec Guinness and Cher once owned apartments in the grand Olivers Wharf evidently) you’ll find plenty of alternative options. Grand period homes, modern terrace houses and smart contemporary apartments can also all be found here, making it a popular destination for families too.

Transport links, as you would expect, are excellent, with Wapping and Shadwell on the Overground while Shadwell DLR is close by. The nearest tube is Tower Hill station on the Circle and District lines. Families looking to move to this area have a choice between six primary schools in Wapping itself, including St Peter’s London Docks, that get’s an outstanding Ofsted rating. The nearest secondary is Wapping High School, which is rated good.

Things To Do In Wapping

Wapping has a good quota of destination pubs, the most famous being the Prospect of Whitby. Dating from 16th century, this riverside inn was once the haunt of pirates and ne’er-do-wells and still retains much of its original features, including the flagstone floor and gallows that famously sit outside. The Town of Ramsgate is also well worth a visit, with the inside of this lovely, historic boozer resembling that of an old tea clipper.

Music and theatre lovers should head to Wilton’s Music Hall on Grace’s Alley, famed for being the world’s oldest surviving grand music hall. Once threatened with demolition, the building was saved by a group of artistes whose campaign raised enough funds to restore it to its former glory. As well as a theatre, there’s a gallery and the Mahogany Bar (worth a visit even if you don’t see a show), and the venue carries a varied programme of performance, cabaret and pop-ups.

If, however, you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle, then Wapping Woods is the place for you. A tranquil, quiet oasis amid the cacophony of the surrounding area, it’s the perfect spot for whiling away a sunny afternoon reading a book or enjoying a picnic.


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History of Wapping

Wapping became famous in the 1980’s when troubled newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoch relocated his print works to a more modern site, prompting what would eventually be an unsuccessful year-long strike by workers. The result of the failed strike signalled a weakening in the influence of Trade Unions in the UK and a move away from “hot metal” printing in the area to more modern newspaper technology.

Wapping was originally the home of heavy industry and the regeneration has been sympathetic to its history as freight and trade docks with many of the ironworks, cranes and waterways retained. For years, the river, docks and waterways were bustling with freight containers, barges and vessels loading and unloading their payloads and the Wharfs and factories turning out their trades. Silk and fabrics, tobacco, jewellery, fruit and vegetables and meats were offloaded by largely unskilled and underpaid dock workers.

The war years brought massive devastation to the area and destroyed many of the original buildings, leading to the trades gradually deserting the area. What was left remained abandoned and derelict until the 1980’s when the London Docklands Development Corporation stepped in and the gentrification process began, with particular attention to the painstakingly accurate detail. You’ll still see parts of the cranes looming large by the river, and on the outside of some of the Wharfs you’ll see the winch mechanisms, wooden doors and freight landing platforms remaining.

St Catherines Dock - London
St Catherines Dock - London

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