Wapping is a charmer. Unlike so much of east London, where the map is being torn up and redrawn, this is a neighbourhood with a peaceful and settled feel.
Regeneration came early here. In the Eighties, in the early days of the Docklands Development Corporation, warehouses were restored and turned into riverside lofts, retaining their interior character and that of the streets.
New low-rise estates of modern houses were built along former dockland waterways, while in St Katharine Docks, next to the Tower of London, modern offices, a hotel and flats sprang up around a smart marina. This is one of those areas where we all wish we had bought property when the price was right.
Wapping has not always been so peaceful — with two famous “battles” in its recent history. The Battle of Cable Street in October 1936 saw anti-fascist demonstrators clash with police who had been drafted in to protect a march by Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.
The Battle of Wapping in 1986 was the year-long picket of News International’s new Wapping printworks by Fleet Street printers sacked after the introduction of new technology.
Today the Battle of Cable Street is marked with a mural at the site, close to Shadwell station, and a red plaque in nearby Dock Street.
Meanwhile, when News International’s printworks moved, the Wapping site was sold to property developer St George. A pub called the Trade Union in nearby Thomas More Square is a reminder of the printers’ failed strike action.
When estate agent Knight Frank started selling homes in Wapping 20 years ago, it was seen as a pioneer. Now the area is mainstream, with most buyers working in Canary Wharf or the City, although Lee O’Neill, Knight Frank’s branch manager, recently sold a number of warehouse conversions to couples returning to London after their children have left for university.
Wapping is on the north bank of the Thames, due east of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London with Whitechapel to the north and Limehouse to the east.
The property scene
Many original Wapping warehouse conversions feature bare brick walls, stripped-back timbers and river views. There are also modern flats built from the Eighties onwards, and estates of social housing.
Period housing features in Cable Street and also the Pierhead, where celebrity owners have included actress Dame Helen Mirren, chat show host Graham Norton and businessman and philanthropist Jack Petchey.
However, whole houses are comparatively rare in Wapping, with Rightmove currently listing 25 houses and 314 flats for sale.
London Dock, the St George development of the former News International site in Vaughan Way, is Wapping’s largest new development. The site will have 1,800 new homes, including 486 “affordable”, in 10 blocks of between four and 26 storeys.
The scheme is arranged to provide seamless pedestrian access from St Katharine Docks through the revamped Thomas More Square to London Dock, and has six acres of green space and room for a new secondary school.
Prices start at £1.27 million for a two-bedroom flat. The first residents moved in before Christmas and the whole scheme completes in 2027. Knight Frank’s Lee O’Neill says the development will have a positive effect on Wapping.
“At the moment there aren’t many shops, cafés, bars and restaurants and this development should improve that.” Call 020 7971 7880 for further information.
Royal Mint Gardens in Royal Mint Street close to Tower Hill is a development of flats arranged around a number of courtyards with a new public piazza. Designed by Farrells, it’s from Malaysian developer IJM.
It’s not much more than a hole in the ground at the moment, but for details of prices, email the developer via the website at royalmintgardens.com.
Wapping Riverside in Wapping High Street is one of the last riverside warehouse conversions. By developer Galliard, it consists of 37 one-, two- and three-bedroom loft-style flats and duplexes with a shared roof garden situated above Wapping Overground station.
Two apartments remain — a two-bedroom home at £1.35 million and a three-bedroom flat priced at £2.15 million. The development is now ready to move into. Visit wappingriversidee1.com or call 020 3770 2136 for more information.
Peabody housing association has responsibility for the quota of affordable homes at London Dock. Contact the trust on 0800 022 4040 or 020 7021 4444.
Rentals manager Gary Hall at Knight Frank says most Wapping renters are working for periods of about two or three years in the City or Canary Wharf and tend to seek out longer tenancies — which suits local landlords, many of whom are themselves working abroad for similar periods.
“Most of our tenants are singles or couples. This is not an area popular with renting families.”
Some parents – especially those who’ve grown up in the area – choose to bring up their children in Wapping but many other families move further out to find a house once the children arrive.
The E1W postcode defines Wapping.
In Wapping it is not a matter of the best roads, more a matter of the best flats and Lee O’Neill, manager at estate agent Knight Frank’s Wapping branch, rates Ivory House in St Katharine Docks, Olivers Wharf in Wapping High Street and Great Jubilee Wharf in Wapping Wall — the latter two with river views.
Up and coming
Wapping gets cheaper as it moves eastward towards Limehouse but the whole area remains cheaper than Shad Thames on the other side of the river, says Lee O’Neill.
Wapping and Shadwell stations, in Zone 2, are on the Overground with trains to Canary Wharf, changing at Canada Water. Shadwell is also on the Docklands Light Railway with trains to Bank.
Tower Hill Tube station, in Zone 1, is on the District and Circle lines. An annual travelcard to and within Zone 1 costs £1,296. Two useful single-decker buses are routed through Wapping — the D3 goes to Canary Wharf, and the No 100 runs to the City.
Tower Hamlets council is Labour controlled. Band D council tax for 2016/17 is £1,196.85.
Shops and restaurants
Wapping is famous for its ancient riverside pubs the Prospect of Whitby and the Town of Ramsgate. Along Wapping Lane there is a butcher, a fruit and vegetable shop, a bakery, Cinnamon independent coffee shop, and a branch of PizzaExpress.
There is another café in the Turk’s Head in Green Bank in a building bought by a local charity from the council in 1992. The charity is campaigning to establish a lido in Shadwell Basin.
There is a branch of Waitrose in St Thomas More Street and in revamped Thomas More Square, Trade Union, which describes itself as “a grown-up playground for discerning Londoners”, combines a pub, barber shop, flower shop and sour dough pizzeria.
Smith’s in Wapping High Street is a popular fish restaurant. Wapping also has chain restaurants Café Rouge, Côte, Cau, Slug & Lettuce, and a branch of chef Tom Aikens’s chain, Tom’s Kitchen, in St Katharine Docks.
Wapping is dotted with small patches of green space and there are walks along the docklands waterways, even if the Thames Path here is rarely along the river.
The largest park is the King Edward VII Memorial Park in Glamis Road, which local people have tried hard to protect from the building of the Thames Tideway Tunnel. However, many trees have been felled recently to make way for the scheme.
Leisure and the arts
Wilton’s in Graces Alley is an atmospheric former music hall which puts on a varied programme of plays, opera, puppetry, classical music, cabaret, dance and magic shows.
The Shadwell Basin Outdoor Activity Centre based on the Shadwell Pierhead teaches sailing, canoeing, climbing and mountain biking to nine to 18 year-olds.
Wapping’s local council swimming pool is at the St George’s Leisure Centre in The Highway. There is also a swimming pool at Fitness First in Thomas More Square.
St Paul’s Whitechapel CofE Primary School in Wellclose Square is judged “outstanding” by Oftsed. Hermitage Primary in Vaughan Way and St Peter’s London Docks CofE Primary in Garnet Street get a “good” rating from the education watchdog.
Secondary schools judged “outstanding” in nearby Whitechapel are Mulberry School for Girls in Richard Street and Bishop Challoner RC (girls, ages 11 to 18) in Commercial Road — the boys’ school is rated “good”. Sir John Cass’s Foundation and Redcoat CofE in Stepney Way, E1, is also “outstanding”.
There are two private Montessori schools: Green Gables (co-ed, ages three to 11) in Wapping Lane and The Pierhead Preparatory (co-ed, ages two to seven) in Shadwell Pierhead.
The two City of London schools – the girls’ school in the Barbican, the boys’ school in Queen Victoria Street – are two high-achieving private schools.