Wapping, 1983

3 October 2011 at 19:53 | Posted in Docklands past, Photos | 1 Comment
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The photo below shows Wapping from above in 1983, with the former London Docks filled in for development (click for larger version).

The large space in the middle is the heart of the former London Docks, which made Wapping something of an island between the Thames and docks.

The docks were largely filled in to allow development of new homes in their place. The picture on the left shows the final stages of construction of new homes along the ornamental canal which features the former dock wall.

Homes also now surround the last vestiges of the docks at Hermitage Basin and Shadwell Basin, where Del and Rodney found Uncle Albert in an episode of Only Fools and Horses. Uncle Albert muses that it used to be a working dock and look at it now, all closed down with houses where the dockers used to work. “Yeah”, says Del; “Triffic, innit?”

Part of the site was shortly to become the infamous home of News International (at the top of the cleared land in this picture, incorporating the large brown building visible).

The print works were built in secret, but after completion in 1986 the main Rupert Murdoch newspapers – The Times, Sunday Times, Sun and News of the World moved here from Fleet Street, precipitating large-scale industrial action by the print unions at Wapping, and eventually the loss of all the major newspapers from Fleet Street for new premises. More recently the site returned to the front pages due to the phone hacking scandal, and the News of the World, based here since 1986, closed in the summer of 2011. In September 2011 News International announced that they would be leaving Wapping altogether, closing one of the most interesting chapters in UK newspaper history.

To the right of News International, and just below the white St George’s church, lies Tobacco Dock, a lovely survivor of the Docklands regeneration. The former tobacco warehouse was converted into small but interesting shopping centre in the 1980s, and I remember my dad taking me there very soon after it opened. I loved it, and thought it would be hugely popular. Sadly it didn’t work, and gradually the shops within it dwindled and the shopping centre was left empty, except for occasional TV filming. There are plans to turn it into a hotel, so maybe it’ll have another lease of life.

The red astroturf of the John Orwell Sports Centre is visible in the foreground, occupying the site of a former dock. Between there and the Thames is Wapping Pier Head, formerly an entrance into the London Docks. The waterway has long been filled in and now forms a communal garden for the gorgeous houses which were formerly occupied by dockmasters. They are now highly desirable, and allegedly home to such worthies as Graham Norton and Helen Mirren among others; I can’t vouch for that but google throws up plenty of such rumour! The Beatles visited before the gentrification of this area, and this was the location of Ross and Emily’s wedding, for aficionados of Friends!

The view below shows a more recent view of the same area, from bing.

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  1. Fascinating photos, thank you. Ive only lived here for 10 years so these photos help to explain what went before. I would like to give a credit to the inimitable Arthur Prag who ran the Frank and Steins caff in Tobacco Dock since its opening until ill health unfortunately forced him to close in the Summer of 2008. This was a great asset in an otherwise barren area, the owners of the dock were then able to close it, meaning the public no longer had regular access


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