Wapping, Limehouse & the Isle of Dogs

There are many theories about how Wapping got its name. Some say it comes from the Old English word ‘wapol’, which means ‘marsh’. Others think it is named after a Saxon chieftain called Waeppa and means ‘Waeppa’s people’.

Limehouse was named after the limekilns of ‘oasts’ which burned chalk from Kent to make builder’s lime. By the 14th Century it was called ‘le Lymhostes’. By 1553 it was called ‘Lymehurst’.

The Thames River Police were founded in 1798 to protect valuable cargo on board the West India Company’s ships. Because of its success in reducing crime, it was put in charge of the whole River Thames in 1800. The headquarters are still on Wapping High Street.

The area from Wapping to Limehouse has been the first home for many people from Europe, Africa and Asia because it is near the Docks.

The Isle of Dogs has changed incredibly over the last 200 years. It was open countryside until 1800. When the Docks were built – beginning with the West India Docks in 1802 – thousands of new workers were needed.

Houses for the new population and related industries sprung up alongside the Docks – shipbuilders, repairers, chain and cable manufacturers and other manufacturing industries.

Between 1960 and 1980, thousands of people became redundant as the Docks and related industries closed. The Government set up the London Docklands Development Corporation in 1981 and within five years, the old docks and industrial sites changed almost beyond recognition – so did the workforce. Today’s employers – in new buildings in Canary Wharf – include financial companies and newspapers.

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