Wapping slipped down the popularity charts as major regeneration projects across London seized the limelight. But the district, just east of Tower Bridge, is about to reclaim its place as Docklands’ best address.
A landscaped neighbourhood called London Dock, offering a new arts and shopping quarter and 1,800 homes, is to be built on the site of “Fortress Wapping”, the print complex that News International decamped to in the Eighties. Back then, the fenced compound was the focus of an epic printworkers’ strike and it became the bunker from which Rupert Murdoch’s red-top titles were published.
Wapping has always made history and, as a cobbled enclave, it is packed with character buildings ripe for remodelling as homes. At the height of the British Empire, the 15-acre site that London Dock is being built on was part of the vast east London docklands and specialised in the storage of tobacco, wine and brandy.
The legacy of listed vaults and warehouses, used as makeshift offices for a generation, are now being restored and are set to become artists’ studios, galleries and boutiques, while classic European-style squares are being created. There will be new pedestrian routes to the Thames and Wapping High Street.
New homes in Wapping: a new neighbourhood in Docklands
New homes in Wapping: a new neighbourhood in Docklands
1/7 Clipper Wharf, London Dock
A landscaped neighbourhood called London Dock, offering a new arts and shopping quarter and 1,800 homes, is to be built in Wapping. Clipper Wharf is one of the new apartment blocks that will overlook the Gauging Square, the new neighbourhood's principal public space.
2/7 Clipper Wharf
Overlooking the new Gauging Square, this apartment block will offer homes from compact studios to smart penthouses, priced from £869,950. However, about 500 homes will be a mix of shared-ownership and rental flats, through housing assocation Peabody. (Scroll right...)
3/7 Clipper Wharf
Amenities include a residents’ club, private cinema, spa, squash court and virtual golf. Call 020 7971 7880.
4/7 Metropolitan Wharf
From £1,800 a week: this converted warehouse with exposed brick walls has been developed into loft apartments to rent out, designer offices and restaurants.
5/7 Metropolitan Wharf
Lofts with up to 4,000sq ft of space with 30ft-high ceilings and a roof terrace are available to rent. Call Space Station on 020 3641 8150.
6/7 Wapping Riverside
From £1.3 million: located next to Wapping tube station, Wapping Riverside has 37 loft-style homes
7/7 Wapping Riverside
The building boasts a hotel-like foyer, a private communal roof terrace and street-level commercial space. Call Galliard on 020 3770 2136.
Architects Patel Taylor’s master plan focuses on what has become known as “place-making” — designing the location as well as the apartments. “For locals, the old printworks was like having Wormwood Scrubs prison on your doorstep,” says Michael Bryn-Jones, managing director of developer St George.
It is hoped that the new grid of open spaces, gardens and pathways lined with shops will invite people in rather than shut them out.
Gauging Square, the principal public space, takes its name from the dock “gaugers” who measured the contents of barrels in order to calculate the duty to be paid. The square will have a water feature reminiscent of the Miroir d’eau at Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux city centre, another area where wine barrels were measured.
Clipper Wharf, one of the new apartment blocks looming over the square, is faced with bronze and glass, with balconies and terraces said to reflect “the rhythm and movement of the tall ships” that once brought goods from far away places.
Apartments range from studios with a sliding wall separating the bedroom area, to penthouses with roof terraces. Interior design upgrades such as bespoke joinery, marble floors and walls are available. Amenities include a residents’ club, private cinema, spa, squash court and virtual golf. Prices start at £869,950. Call 020 7971 7880.
About 500 homes will be “affordable” — a mix of shared-ownership and rental flats — through housing association Peabody. In a collaboration with Bow Arts Trust, 90 artists’ studios are being created at the listed Rum Warehouse.
Wapping starts in the shadow of Tower Bridge and runs east to Shadwell Basin, making it convenient if you work in the City or Canary Wharf. Back in the Seventies, it was the first of the old docks districts to be revitalised. Home buyers were smitten by the handsome wharves and warehouses, the famous inns named after colourful local brigands such as Captain Kidd, and even the old gallows gibbet at Execution Dock.
But Wapping was left behind — the promised restaurant and retail scene never materialised and the area fell into quiet isolation as developers shifted their focus to the Isle of Dogs, where land was cheap and plentiful.
Wapping feels a somewhat cut-off place, a legacy from the construction of the docks in the 19th century, when the area was enclosed by a high wall to stop the theft of cargo. Brunel’s Rotherhithe Tunnel and then a Tube station on the East London line helped remedy this. The plan is to open up the site to the riverfront and forge a link with St Katharine Docks, a superb Georgian estate with a marina and waterfront bars and restaurants.
In tandem with this is the long-awaited revival of Tobacco Dock, a listed warehouse complex that lay empty for 25 years. Kuwaiti owners have claimed they will turn it into the “Covent Garden of the East End”, with designer hotels and luxury housing.
Wapping lags behind central London in terms of price and is cheaper than Bankside and Shad Thames on the opposite bank of the river. Inland, homes start at about £400,000, while a flat with a river view costs from £550,000. However, a waterfront penthouse can set you back more than £2 million.
Prices are highest in west Wapping — the strip between Pier Head, a Georgian terrace where former MP David Mellor and TV and radio presenter Graham Norton live, and Tower Bridge. Actress Helen Mirren, who discovered the area while filming the 1979 Brit classic The Long Good Friday, also owns a listed Georgian house nearby.
Olivers Wharf in Wapping High Street has some of the most-coveted flats in Docklands. The listed Victorian warehouse was bought in 1973 by a group of architects and artists, sparking the conversion fever along this stretch of the Thames.
After decades of neglect, a listed river-facing warehouse next to Wapping Tube station has been converted into 37 loft-style homes. The building, called Wapping Riverside, has a hotel-like foyer, a private communal roof terrace and street-level commercial space. Prices start at £1.3 million. Call Galliard on 020 3770 2136.
Just along the road is Metropolitan Wharf, one of Wapping’s finest warehouses that has been transformed into loft apartments to rent out, designer offices and restaurants.
The building’s magnificent, stripped-back fabric of exposed brick, cast-iron columns and pine flooring is a genuine classic. The ground-floor entrance has a copper reception desk designed by Tom Dixon that leads through a wall of glass to a private riverside terrace, big enough to land a helicopter on.
Lofts with up to 4,000sq ft of space, 30ft ceiling heights, rafters and a roof terrace are available to rent. Call Space Station on 020 3641 8150.