Wapping to Limehouse London Riverside Walk
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Dead Man’s Hole
Underneath the north side of Tower Bridge is Dead Man’s Hole where there was once a morg.
Bodies used to wash up regularly perhaps as a result of jumpers or people who had been murdered.
Bodies remained here in morg until they could be identified or buried anonymously. Some people say that it is tiled because some of the corpses would spontaneously combust.
St Catherine’s Dock
St Catherine’s dock was damaged heavily in the war but has been regenerated and is now all snazzy and new.
In 1921 it was the last place Ernest Shackleton set off from in The Quest on his final trip to Antartica. The crows nest from his ship is in All Hallows by the Tower.
Walk from st Catherine’s dock to Limehouse along Wapping high st.
In the 18th and 19th century London was the busiest port in the world. Sailors came from afar for work in docks or have fun in the pubs.
England didn’t have military service so if you were aged 18 – 55 and of sea- faring habits you got press ganged and forced into the navy.
Wapping pier head
Two Georgian houses face each other and these formed the original entrance to the docks and were built for officials of London dock company in 1811.
Wapping old stairs
In 1671 – colonel Thomas Blood was caught here with the crown jewels of Charles ii.
He won the confidence of the keeper of the jewels, Talbot Edwards and then bashed him over the head making off with the jewels and down this alley way.
Unfortunately he ran into Talbots son who was just on his way to see his dad!
He was then incarcerated in the tower but pardoned by the king which made everyone think he arranged it to recoup some cash a he was a bit of a spendthift.
A good place to take a drink on your London Riverside walk is the Town of Ramsgate.
The Town of Ramsgate
It claims to be the oldest riverside pub in London with a pub having having been here since 1490.
Fishermen from Ramsgate would tie their boats here while selling their catch at Billingsgate.
Convicts used to be chained in the cellar before being led down the stairs for transportation to Australia.
Captain Bligh also had his last drink here in 1787 before heading off on The Bounty to the South Pacific. See my documentary Take Me To Pitcairn to learn all about it and my adventures following in his footsteps!
Then in 1688 the “hanging judge” Jeffries was caught here trying to escape after King James ii fled during the Glorious Revolution.
He had sentenced 300 people to hang as James’ Lord chancellor after the Monmouth rebellion which was a plot to overthrow James ii)
He dressed in rags as a coal miner and shaved his ferocious eye-brows but one of his victims or a clerk whom he bullied in court recognized him and a mob gathered after which he was dragged away for his own safety.
He eventually died of kidney disease at the tower in custody.
The Thames River Police (Originally Marine Police) was founded in 1798 to prevent thefts from ships moored on the river.
Closeby is the site where mutineers and pirates were hanged called Execution Dock. They would hang the condemned man and then let the tide wash over them 3 times until they’d bloat with water.
They would call these bloaters “whoppers” and that’s where we get the word Wapping.
In 1701 Captain Kidd (Scottish) was hanged here. He was originally sent to India to discourage piracy and then became one himself.
He was eventually arrested in Boston having hidden the booty from his latest conquest on a Caribbean island which is probably where they got idea for Pirates of the Caribbean.
He certainly inspired Treasure Island and other stories and people are still looking for his treasure to this day.
The Prospect of Whitby pub has been here since 1520 (Named after a collier (coal ship) which was always moored here.
Smugglers, miscreants, pirates and ne’er do wells often drank here and it became known as Devil’s Tavern.
This is also where the Fuchsia named after Leonhard Fuchs was first introduced to Britain.
The Power Station opposite the Prospect of Whitby was owned by the London Hydraulic Power Company and used to operate cranes and lock gates like Shadwell bridge.
The bridge is raised by filling a big red tank with water.
This and the warehouses around are mainstays of the Wapping conservation area and was for some time turned into art space and restaurant but got complaints from the neighbours so it got sold to developers.
Closeby is St Paul’s Shadwell.
Captain Cook Worshipped here because he lived at 126 Upper Shadwell amongst other places
William Perkin was also baptised here. He set up a lab in his home opposite in St David’s Lane as he was a chemist.
At the age of 18 he tried to make artificial quinine to combat malaria but only succeeded in making mauve, the first synthetic dye. He went on to discover other colours and started the first of what is now a world wide chemical dye industry.
Thus called because of all the lime kilns here used to burn chalk and provide lie for the building industry.
It was London’s first Chinatown so they have Chinese name streets and also became known for white slavery and opium dens .
Dorian Grey comes here to smoke opium, also Arthur Conan Doyle used to come here to research for Sherlock Holmes and Fu Man Chu was based on a character the author saw down here one night.
After the Blitz the Chinese moved to Soho.
The Grapes Pub
This appears in Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens who describes it as being
“…of a dropsical nature , with not a straight floor, with red curtains that match the customers’ noses.”
If you enjoyed this London Riverside walk take a look at some of my other films! Contact me for a private walk.
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