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A Walk Around Wapping

A Walk Around Wapping

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An article by FROG member Solange La Rose about a recent trip to Wapping
An article by FROG member Solange La Rose about a recent trip to Wapping

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Categories:Types, Reviews, Book
Published by: Thames Discovery Programme on Jul 23, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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A Walk around WappingIt was a sunny Saturday morning and Paul Talling, author of Derelict Lo
ndon and London’s Lost
Rivers, was meeting a group of keen explorers outside Wapping tube station, for a walk aroundWapping. Paul has a real interest in the overlooked and unloved elements of London, and even inthis area, now the haunt of estate agents, there are still some secrets to discover.We started off with a peek down some of t
he watermen’s stairs (the tide wa
s too high for aforeshore visit), a little bit of the history of the area, and a look at a couple of the (still) derelict
buildings that featured in Paul’s book, then we set off in earnest.
 First we headed
away from the river, passing the former St. John’s Church and St. John’s Old School
,and on the way Paul pointed
out such landmarks as St. Patrick’s Church, one of the locations from
the film
The Long Good Friday 
, and The Turk’s Head pub
(now a café), said to be where those ontheir way to execution stopped for a last drink.We then walked back along Wapping High Street and stopped at Hermitage Gardens for a look alongand across the river. Here you can see one of the surviving depth markers from the days when thiswas the entrance to the Hermitage Basin, a busy route into the London Docks for smaller vessels,opened in 1809, but now a quiet housing complex.We continued
along the edge of the Western Dock, catching a first glimpse of ‘Fortress Wapping’,
and along to Tobacco Dock. This was one of those speculative retail developments that ended up asa bit of a ghost town
. The shopping centre has a real ‘80s look about it, and comes complete withfake pirate ships, fake boar’s head and fake barrels of rum. It’s now deserted except for its
occasional use to host The International London Tattoo Convention.Round on the other side of Tobacco Dock is something so tantalising, yet so innocuous, you couldwalk past it a hundred times and not give it a second look. In an old car park, behind a padlocked
fence, are the excavated remains of a Roman bath house. Part of the site was dug in 2002/3, butmore recent excavations have made it clear that this is one of those sites that is delivering above allexpectations and is likely to keep on giving, so keep looking out for news.We continued up to the Ratcliffe Highway, now called The Highway, and the location for a series of particularly grisly murders in the early nineteenth-century. Due to the murders of seven people,terror gripped the public, helped along by the scandalized headlines of the press. A suspect, JohnWilliams, was taken into custody, on pretty shaky evidence, but he never came to trial because hewas found hanging in his cell having apparently committed suicide.From the noise of The Highway, we then entered the quiet churchyard of St. George-in-the-East.From the outside this looks like a classic Hawksmoor church, albeit with a few of its own quirks, like
the ‘pepperpot’ turret
s. However, bombing during the Second World War resulted in the totaldestruction of the interior of the building. A new modern interior was incorporated into the still-standing shell, and the (still-functioning) Anglican church is now a well-used local community facility.In the grounds are two particularly notable features. First is an old disused mortuary building. Builtin 1876 to house the bodies of local people prior to burial, it was converted into a nature studycentre at the beginning of the twentieth century, but closed during WW2. Paul did say that therehave been several attempts to raise funds to restore the building to its former glory (and it
a lovelylittle building), but to date these have all come to nothing.The second feature is the huge mural commemorating the Battle of Cable Street. We had fun withthis mural, pointing out some of the quirky features like the golden shower issuing from an upstairswindow, falling all over Hitler.From there we made our way back down to the docks, and into Shadwell Basin. Although it is nowsurrounded by modern housing, well, 1980s housing, from our vantage point we could still see

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