infobox UK place
country = England
london_borough= Tower Hamlets
Wapping (pronounced 'Wopping') is a place in the
London Borough of Tower Hamletswhich forms part of the Docklands to the east of the City of London. It is situated between the north bank of the River Thamesand the ancient thoroughfare simply called The Highway. Wapping's proximity to the river has given it a strong maritime character, which it retains through its riverside pubs and steps, such as the Prospect of Whitbyand Wapping Stairs.
Many of the original buildings were demolished during the construction of the
London Docksand Wapping was further seriously damaged during The Blitz. As the London Docklands declined after the Second World War, the area became run down, with the great warehouses left empty. The area's fortunes were transformed during the 1980s by the London Docklands Development Corporationwhen the warehouses started to be converted into luxury flats. Rupert Murdochmoved his News Internationalprinting and publishing works into Wapping in 1986, resulting in a trade union dispute that became known as the "Battle of Wapping".
The area was first settled by
Saxons, from whom it takes its name (meaning literally " [the place of] Wæppa's people"). [Waeppa's People - a History of Wapping by Madge Darby - ISBN 0 947699] It developed along the embankment of the Thames, hemmed in by the river to the south and the now-drained Wapping Marsh to the north. This gave it a peculiarly narrow and constricted shape, consisting of little more than the axis of Wapping High Street and some north-south side streets. John Stow, the 16th century historian, described it as a "continual street, or a filthy strait passage, with alleys of small tenements or cottages, built, inhabited by sailors' victuallers". [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=45082 'The Thames Tunnel, Ratcliff Highway and Wapping', Old and New London: Volume 2 (1878), pp. 128-37] accessed: 29 March 2007]
Wapping's proximity to the river gave it a strong maritime character for centuries, well into the 20th century. It was inhabited by sailors, mastmakers, boat-builders, blockmakers, instrument-makers, victuallers and representatives of all the other trades that supported the seafarer. Wapping was also the site of '
Execution Dock', where piratesand other water-borne criminals faced execution by hangingfrom a gibbetconstructed close to the low water mark. Their bodies would be left dangling until they had been submerged three times by the tide.
The Bell Inn, by execution dock was run by Samuel Batts. His daughter, Elizabeth, married
James Cookin 1762 at Barking, after the Royal Navy captain had stayed at the Inn ["Famous 18th century people of Barking and Dagenham" Info Sheet #22, LB Barking & Dagenham] . The couple initially settled in Shadwell, attending St Paul's church, but later moved to Mile End. Although they had six children together, much of their married life was spent with Cook absent on his voyages, and after his murder in 1779 at Kealakekua Bay, she survived until 1835.
Said to be England's first, the
Marine Police Force, were formed by magistrate Patrick Colquhounand a Master Mariner, John Harriott, in 1798 to tackle theft and looting from ships anchored in the Pool of Londonand the lower reaches of the river. Its base was (and remains) in Wapping High Street, it is now known as the Marine Support Unit. [ [http://www.met.police.uk/msu/history.htm History of the Marine Support Unit (Met)] accessed 24 Jan 2007]
In 1811, the horrific
Ratcliff Highway murderstook place nearby, at The Highwayand Wapping Lane. [ [http://website.lineone.net/~fight/Stepney/marr.htm Stepney Murders: The Ratcliffe Highway Murders] accessed 21 Jan 2007]
The area's strong maritime associations changed radically in the 19th century when the
London Dockswere built to the north and west of the High Street. Wapping's population plummeted by nearly 60% during the century, with many houses destroyed by the construction of the docks and giant warehouses along the riverfront. Squeezed between the high walls of the docks and warehouses, the district became isolated from the rest of London, although some relief was provided by Brunel's Thames Tunnelto Rotherhithe. The opening of Wapping tube stationon the East London Linein 1869 provided a direct rail link to the rest of London.
Wapping was devastated by German bombing in World War II [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/20/a1143820.shtml My Mum's War: Life in the East End - BBC WW2 People's War] accessed 1 Apr 2007] and by the post-war closure of the docks. It remained a run-down and derelict area into the 1980s, when the area was transferred to the management of the
London Docklands Development Corporation, a government quangowith the task of redeveloping the Docklands. The London Docks were largely filled in and redeveloped with a variety of commercial, light industrial and residential properties.
Rupert Murdoch's News Internationalbuilt a new £80m printing and publishing works in the north of Wapping. This became the scene of violent protests after News International's UK operation moved from Fleet Streetto Wapping, with over 5,000 print workers being sacked when new technology was introduced.
The "Wapping dispute" or "Battle of Wapping" was, along with the miners' strike of 1984-5, a significant turning point in the history of the
trade unionmovement and of UK industrial relations. It started on 24 January 1986 when some 6,000 newspaper workers went on strike after protracted negotiation with their employers, News International(parent of Times Newspapers and News Group Newspapers, and chaired by Rupert Murdoch). News International had built and clandestinely equipped a new printing plant for all its titles in Wapping, and when the print unions announced a strike it activated this new plant with the assistance of the Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union(EETPU).
The plant was nicknamed "Fortress Wapping" when the sacked print workers effectively besieged it, mounting round-the-clock pickets and blockades in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to thwart the move. In 2005, News International announced the intention to move the print works to regional presses based in
Broxbourne(the world's largest printing plant, opened March 2008), [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7299941.stm BBC NEWS | UK | World's biggest print plant opens ] ] Liverpooland Glasgow. The editorial staff will remain, however, and there is talk of redeveloping the sizeable plot that makes up the printing works [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2006/02/09/cnmurd09.xml&menuId=242&sSheet=/money/2006/02/09/ixcitytop.html "Daily Telegraph Money" 9 February 2006] accessed 5 May 2007]
Perhaps Wapping's greatest attraction is the Thames foreshore itself, and the venerable public houses that face onto it. A number of the old 'stairs', such as Wapping Old Stairs and Pelican Stairs (by the Prospect of Whitby) give public access to a littoral zone (for the Thames is tidal at this point) littered with flotsam, jetsam and fragments of old dock installations. Understandably it is popular with amateur archaeologists and treasure hunters - it is surprisingly easy for even a casual visitor to pick up a centuries-old shard of pottery here.
t George in the East
St George in the East on Cannon Street Road is one of six Hawksmoor churches in London, built from 1714 to 1729, with funding from the
Commission for Building Fifty New Churches.
When the church was hit by a bomb during
the Blitzthe original interior was destroyed by the fire, but the walls and distinctive "pepper-pot" towers stayed up. In 1964 a modern church interior was constructed inside the existing walls for the active congegration, and a new flat built under each corner tower.
Behind the church lies St George's Gardens, the original cemetery, which was passed to Stepney Council to maintain as a public park in mid-Victorian times.
The "Execution Dock" was located on the
Thames. It was used by the Admiraltyfor over 400 years (as late as 1830) to hang piratesthat had been convicted and sentenced to death by the Admiralty court.
The Admiralty only had jurisdiction over crimes on the sea, so the dock was located within their jurisdiction by being located far enough offshore as to be beyond the low-tide mark. It was used to kill the notorious
Captain Kidd. [http://www.shadwatch.co.uk/wapping_history_01.htm] Many prisoners would be executed together as a public event in front of a crowd of onlookers after being paraded from the Marshalsea Prisonacross London Bridge and past the Tower of London to the dock.
Three venerable public houses offer much-needed refreshment after these expeditions, all conveniently located by stairs. By Pelican Stairs is the
Prospect of Whitby, which makes the much-disputed claim to be the oldest Thames-side pub still in existence. Be that as it may, there has been an inn on the site since the reign of Henry VIII, and this is certainly one of the most famous pubs in London. The inn is named after a then-famous ship that docked regularly at Wapping. A replica of the old Execution Dock gibbet is maintained on the foreshore next to the pub, though the site of the Execution Dock was nearer the Town of Ramsgate pub at Wapping Old Stairs.
Less well-known, but nonetheless popular, is the Town of Ramsgate, again on the site of a 16th-century inn, located next to Wapping Old Stairs to the west of the Prospect.
Situated half way between the two is the Captain Kidd, named after the Scottish privateer
William Kidd. He was hanged on the Wapping foreshore in 1701 after being found guilty of murder and piracy. The public house occupies a 17th century building, but it was only established in the 1980s.
Literary and cultural references
Wapping has been used as the setting for a number of works of fiction, including the
Dr Whoepisode The Talons of Weng-Chiang; [http://www.doctorwholocations.net/locations/wappingoldstairs] the "Ruby In The Smoke" novel in the Sally Lockhartseries by Phillip Pullman; [http://www.damaris.org/content/content.php?type=1&id=197] the BBC sitcom Till Death Us Do Part, in which the central character, Alf Garnett, shares his name with Garnet Street in Wapping; [http://www.jbutler.org.uk/London/TowerHamlets/Wapping.shtml] and the brothel in The Threepenny Opera, in which Mac the Knife was betrayed by Ginny Jenny. [http://www.nodanw.com/shows_t/threepenny_opera.htm] . "The Darlings of Wapping Wharf Launderette" a compilation album by East End group the Small Faces. [ [http://www.amazon.co.uk/Darlings-Wapping-Wharf-Laundrette/dp/B00000IWQV Darlings of Wapping Wharf Launderette] Retrieved September 16, 2008 ]
Fictional residents also include
Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe, an officer in the British Armyduring the Napoleonic wars; and
Dr. Lemuel Gulliver, the title character of
Johnathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, who lives in Wapping at the beginning of the novel before going to sea.
Among the people born in Wapping are
W.W. Jacobs, author of The Monkey's Paw. The American painter James McNeill Whistler, well known for his Thamesviews, painted "Wapping" when he lived at Wapping between October 1860 and 1864. [ [http://www.glyphs.com/art/whistler/ "Wapping"] ] The painting is permanently displayed at the National Gallery of Art Washington.
During the 90s Wapping was home to American entertainer
Wapping Hydraulic Power Station
Stepney Historical Trust
*Martha Leigh, "Memories of Wapping 1900-1960: Couldn't Afford the Eels", The History Press Ltd (4 Jul 2008), ISBN 0752447092
*Madge Darby, "Waeppa's People: History of Wapping", Connor & Butler (Dec 1988), ISBN 0947699104
*National Council for Civil Liberties, "No Way in Wapping: Effect of the Policing of the News International Dispute on Wapping Residents", Civil Liberties Trust (May 1986), ISBN 0946088276
* [http://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/data/discover/data/stepney-wapping/index.cfm Local government site]
* [http://www.exploringeastlondon.co.uk/Wapping/Wapping.htm ExploringEastLondon - Wapping]
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Look at other dictionaries:
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