Wapping is living in quiet isolation while the East London line is closed.
- © James Hughes/Alamy
The new extended Overground “Tube” service won’t be launched until 2010 but already boutique apartments are being built near Wapping station, the first new wave of development in Wapping High Street for many years.
Wapping has historic warehouses, cobbled streets and alleys, famous inns named after local brigands and even a gallows, at Execution Dock, but it has always been seen as a bit cut off.
The reason dates from the 19th century, when the docks were constructed, when Wapping was enclosed by a high wall to stop the theft of cargo.
The East London line station helped remedy this, along with Brunel’s Rotherhithe Tunnel (remarkably, for a brief period in its early years the tunnel, with its 64 very fine stone arches, served as an underground shopping arcade) but it still has an air of privacy, which its residential community rather enjoy, says local James Hyman of estate agent Cluttons.
'In the Eighties, Wapping was the place for warehouse living. But then it got left behind'
“In the Eighties it was the place for warehouse and riverfront living but as time moved on Wapping was left behind somewhat - the restaurant and retail scene never happened and developers focused on neighbouring Limehouse.”
The temporary closure of the East London line has also deflected the spotlight from Wapping, meaning there is a window of opportunity for bargain hunters before its reopening.
Wapping starts in the shadow of the Tower of London and runs east to Shadwell Basin on Wapping Wall. Here, an 1880s hydraulic pumping station has been transformed into an art gallery and restaurant, an amazing post-industrial space and much-needed cultural hub.
Transport for London owns a development site right opposite the station and has planning consent for an apartment complex with ground-floor commercial space. Butting up against the TfL site is a Victorian warehouse, latterly a recording studio, now being “refashioned” into 10 apartments.
Not much of the original structure remains but materials have been salvaged and reused for the project. “It’s a recycled building rather than a refurbishment,” says Sasha Gebler of architect-developer Gebler Tooth.
So the building retains its Victorian credentials and fits nicely into the historic streetscape. Apartments range from one-bedroom flats to a three-bedroom penthouse and duplexes, and all have the optimised space and design flair you would expect such a niche developer to deliver.
Rooms have extra height, tall doors, warehouse-style windows and underfloor heating. Interiors are simple rather than elaborate, with some high-quality finishes such as travertine marble.
An eco-friendly solar-heating and hot-water system is 300 per cent efficient. “You get back £3 for every £1 invested,” explains Gebler. There is also parking for six cars on a turntable within the heart of the building. Prices start at £320,000. Call Cluttons on 020 7488 4858.
It’s cheaper going east
Oliver’s Wharf on Wapping High Street has among the most coveted flats in Docklands. The listed Victorian warehouse was bought in 1973 by a group of architects and artists, sparking the whole conversion fever along this stretch of riverside.
A two-bedroom flat with views of Tower Bridge is for sale at £1.45 million. Call Knight Frank on 020 7480 6848.
Properties are cheaper east of the Tube station. Flats in blocks back from the river and close to Shadwell Basin can be picked up for less than £300,000, and Whitechapel is somewhere where regeneration is only just getting into its stride.
When Docklands was born in the Eighties, businessmen leapfrogged from the Square Mile to glittering Canary Wharf, leaving this run down area alone.
Money for old rope-making Cable Street and Commercial Road are development corridors - and definitely places to watch. The former, still most famous as the scene of anti-fascist demonstrations in 1936, takes its name from the manufacture of ships’ cables and ropes.
That industry is long dead but, ironically, running below the street today is a fibre-optic superhighway stretching from the Square Mile to the trading rooms of global investment banks on the Isle of Dogs.
For many decades it was neglected as a place to live and work. A few small businesses survived the demise of the docks and some run-down warehouses were turned into artists studios.
Plumber’s Row sits in the triangle between Whitechapel Road and Commercial Road. Here is a scheme of 58 apartments called VoguE1, boasting a sharp geometric designed façade with zinc cladding and blue slate tiles. Prices are from £299,950. Call Higgins Homes on 020 8498 6059.