Wapping to Limehouse a free walk for tourists, going through the old docklands areas of Wapping, Shadwell and into Limehouse which lie immediately east of the City, and past Numerous old London pubs, and real 1800's warehouses The walk starts at the Tower of London, then via St Katharine's Dock passing Tower Bridge. Through  Wapping High Street and Pier Head follow; then Wapping Wall, Shadwell Basin and Park, Narrow Street, Limehouse Basin and the Limehouse parish church of St Anne's.

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Location: Start is 3 miles (approx 5 kilometres) east of Charing Cross .

This walk goes almost straight along and roughly follows the path of the river Thames, through the old dockland areas of Wapping, Shadwell and into Limehouse which lie immediately east of the City, and past Numerous old London pubs, and real 1800's warehouses cleaned up! but first through some redeveloped area's shaped for the tourist.

These districts are all at various stages of redevelopment some finished, others work in progress, following the closing of London 's famous docks in the late 1960s and early 1970’s. The walk starts at the Tower of London, then via St Katharine's Dock passing Tower Bridge. Through  Wapping High Street and Pier Head follow; then Wapping Wall, Shadwell Basin and Park, Narrow Street, Limehouse Basin and the Limehouse parish church of St Anne's. Featuring three old docklands pubs and views of the river from stairs, wharves fronts and parks.

Start: Tower Hill Station District and Circle Underground lines;  
and both
Fenchurch Street
British Rail Station and
Tower Gateway
Station on the Docklands Light Railway are close by.

Finish: Westferry Station Docklands Light Railway;

Length: 3 1/2 miles (5.2 kilometres).

Time: 3 hours.

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Turn left out of Tower Hill Station and then right down the steps into the subway note: the section of the old city wall on your left. When you get to the ruins of the old postern gate in the wall, turn left along the side of the Tower moat, following the signs to St Katharine's Dock. Go under the next road and then branch right across the small bridge into the water garden.

Turn left by the World Trade Centre into Commodity Quay, which fronts the basins in St Katharine's Dock, this used to be a bustling area, full of lorries and cranes working non-stop. A hospital, a medieval church and one hundreds of houses were demolished to make room for this dock, which opening in 1828. Tea, rubber, wool, marble, sugar, tallow, and ivory were all unloaded at the quays and stored in the dock's six-storey warehouses supported on thick iron columns.

At the end of Commodity Quay, turn right along the flagged terrace in front of the new shops in the ground floor of the warehouse. Go through the archway into the entrance basin connecting with the river. Turn right here and then cross the bridge by the Coronarium - a small, chapel built with some old warehouse pillars and marking,  the position of the demolished older St Katharine's Church.

Go to the left under the Tower Hotel and then left again over the red painted bridge across the entrance to the dock.

The entrance was relatively small compared with other docks and could not accommodate the really big ships. This was one reason why St Katharine's was never a great commercial success. It survived; however, along with London 's other wet docks until competition from the new container ports further downstream forced them all to close in the 1960s.

Keep to the left along the dockside, where the old Nore lightship is moored this is from it’s former location near Sheppey in the Thames Estuary, on the way to the English channel , and then turn right round the end of the Dickens Inn a theme resturant. then left behind the row of houses facing the basin.

Go left again at the end and then right to the gate leading into Thomas More Street. Turn right here, right again at the first junction and then left at the second junction into Wapping High Street, a long street that follows the course of the river almost as far as Limehouse.

The road was built around 1570 to link the legal quays in the City (the only quays at which ships could unload their cargo) to new storage warehouses downstream. Inevitably, people settled along the street and it was later described as a 'filthy strait passage, with alleys of small tenements or cottages . . . inhabited by sailors' victuallers'. Most of tese ships suppliers moved toward the isle of dogs and Silvertown

This part of the walk, as far as the pier head, is still settling down from redevelopment. Wapping Pier Head now a double row of Georgian houses facing each other across railed gardens. The gardens cover the entrance to London Docks, built in the year 1805 the year of Nelson's victory  and death at Trafalgar.

Note the cobblestones set in the garden on the left match the arc of the dock entrance gates. These houses were built for officials of the Dock Company. London Docks were substantially bigger than St Katharine's Dock , with their monopoly on the import of tobacco, rice, wine and brandy, they were commercially very prosperous, in fact so profitable, that in the 1860’s they took over St Katharine's.

Apart from the two entrance basins, most of the docks have now been filled in and built on, so you have to have a good imagination as to their vastness; the western dock is buried beneath the new headquarters of Fleet street’s press giants.

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Convicts' quay

Continue through the Pier Head houses. On the right the Town of Ramsgate pub marking the entrance to a narrow alleyway leading to Wapping Old Stairs. At low tide you can go down these stairs onto the rocky riverside and get a good view of both Butler 's Wharf on the Surrey bank, and of Tower Bridge . During the bloodless revolution of 1688, the notorious Judge Jeffreys was captured here as he tried to escape in a ship bound for Hamburg . Later, convicts were chained up in the cellars of the pub before being transported to Australia . The warehouses here were used for oranges and spices.

On the left in Scandrett Street are Wapping's derelict 18th-century charity school and the remains of its church.

Just a bit further, the white building covered in abstract concrete shapes is the base of the river police who patrol the Thames in a fleet of  boats. They were set up in 1798 (as the first properly organized police force in the country) to deal with theft from the thousands of merchant ships moored in the river.

Next to the police station is a small riverside garden and Wapping New Stairs. These are usually locked. You can get down to the river here by using the stairs on the far side of the garden-side warehouse, where an alley leads off the High Street next to Wapping Police Station this is the land force as opposed to the river police.

The garden is approximately on the site of Execution Dock where convicted pirates were brought to be put to death, presumably as a warning to other bandits in the area. The famous Captain Kidd was hanged here in 1701. For maximum deterrent effect, the sentence was usually carried out at low tide and three high tides were allowed to wash over the corpse before it was cut down and buried.

On the far side of the river the old Angel pub stands in a lonely position on the waterfront in Bermondsey.

Beyond St John's Wharf , King Henry's Stairs give access to King Henry's Wharf used by a river boat company. The name of this wharf and also of Gun Wharf on the downstream side recall the Tudor cannon foundry which Henry VIII set up here to manufacture guns for his ships. There is a good view from the Stairs of Rotherhithe and the Surrey Docks

The High Street now curves to the left beside Gun Wharf and then passes Wapping Station (the Underground line runs under the river through the world's first underwater tunnel, completed in 1843 after 20 years of tunnelling).

Further along, the road turns sharp left to meet Garnet Street . Instead of continuing into Garnet Street , turn right into Wapping Wall (around 1580 a sea wall was built from St Katharine's to Shadwell, after the old medieval defences had been washed away by heavy tides in the 1560s).

Passing New Crane Wharf and Jubilee Wharf , and then Metropolitan Wharf , an old pepper warehouse now converted into offices and studios. Next is Pelican Wharf , and beyond that on the corner is the Prospect of Whitby pub (named after a ship that used to berth here regularly).  I remember in the sixties this was a haunt of rugby clubs, and their habit of seeing how far they could throw the pint tankards across the river made work for a friend of mine “doddy” who used to collect them with his giant alsation dog who would shiver at the sight of the rats which inhabited the area, strangely on Saturday nights a Hawaiian band played with jazz on Sundays with a zinc topped bar and sawdust on the floor’s it was deep in the past even for us 40 years ago.

Like the Angel at Bermondsey, this is another pub of great age, though its claim to be the oldest riverside inn in London seems hard to prove.

Follow the road round to the left past the old hydraulic pumping station (this is now the new base of a group of musicians called the Academy of St'Martin 's-in-the-Fields) and cross the bridge over the entrance to Shadwell Basin .

Once the eastern entrance to London Docks, this basin is now used for swimming and canoeing, and new houses have been built on the quays. To the right of the basin you can see the spire of St Paul Shadwell Church , traditionally known as the church of the sea captains. Captain Cook (the explorer who discovered Australia ) was a regular worshipper in the church and in 1763 James, his eldest son, was baptized here he too joined the navy but was drowned in 1794.

Just after the bridge turn right into a path beside the sports ground leading to the King Edward VII Memorial Park   (the locals call it Shadwell Park ). On the right there is a coloured tablet commemorating the Elizabethan navigators who sailed from bases on the Thames to find a north-east passage round Russia to China . The expedition set sail in 1563 but had not gone far before all the ships were separated in a gale. Sir Hugh Willoughby and his crew froze to death in the Arctic winter but the others returned safely, one of them via the court of Ivan the Terrible in Russia .

Sir Francis Drake found a way to China 25 years later, using the southerly route around Cape Horn . The Ratcliff Cross mentioned on the tablet was a crossing point of the Thames and the most important fare stage for Thames watermen east of the Tower.

Turn left halfway along the waterside walk and leave the park by the gate in the top right-hand corner. Turn right on the Highway. On the right is Free Trade Wharf , and Hays Wharf   was close by, its huge brick block of flats a new landmark on the river. The original part of the wharf is on the end block (there is a sandwich shop in the arcade on the right and a good view from the riverside terrace). Walk along as far as the traffic lights. The junction here is on top of the entrance into Rotherhithe Tunnel beneath the Thames (accessible to pedestrians).

You are now close to the start of the Stepney walk

At the junction turn right into Narrow Street and follow the road round to the left (the Ratcliff Stairs were on this left-hand bend). Beyond the warehouses the road crosses the entrance to Limehouse Basin , itself the entrance to the Regent's Canal and then to the whole of the national canal network. A short canal called the Limehouse Cut also runs from Limehouse Basin , linking up with the River Lea navigation to the east.

Further along this street you come to the Grapes, the third of the old riverside pubs on the north bank. Once there were dozens of pubs along the river where sailors and docker’s slaked their thirst. bear left here to another pub - The House They Left Behind - standing all alone in the middle of new housing estates and gardens (hence its odd name). Turn left just after the pub (there is a sports ground on your right) and follow the main path to the right and then left into the housing estate.

Go through the gates, across the cobbled road and up the slope between the low railings. Bear left again and keep to the left along the side of the canal (this is the Limehouse Cut). Go under the railway bridge and follow the path round to the right through the open space.

The bow-fronted house on the corner of Newell Street ahead was often visited by the London novelist Charles Dickens, whose godfather, Christopher Huffam, lived here. It is more than likely that Dickens also visited the Grapes when he was in Limehouse, for it appears as the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters in his story, Our Mutual Friend, he often wrote of real places many of which still stand The Maypole, Chigwell, the Saracens Head Chelmsford,  now, cross Newell Street and approach the famous Nicholas Hawksmoor built parish church of Limehouse- St Anne's- built in the early 18oo’s, do see the sign on the left-hand gate pier for more information on the history of the church.

Go to the right of the church and leave the churchyard by the gate at the opposite end. Turn left into Three Colt Street and then right onto the busy Commercial Road . keep right into West India Dock Road (on the left, notice the old ship chandlers' and sail makers' building). Cross the green and go down cobbled Salter Street ahead on the right to Westferry Station and the end of this part of the walk.

Just beyond was the famous gate 14 of yet another dock the West India Dock, now filled in and redeveloped, this vast dock gouged out at great cost by the navvies mainly from Ireland a place stricken with routine famine

you are now in the area known as Chinatown where all the sailors and immigrants stopped from the far east, and settled before it seemed opening some of the many restaurants in London

Further along Commercial road you will find the seaman's missions and Chrisp street market............ to be continued  

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