The Limehouse Cut, joined the Limehouse Basin, and the Thames, with the River Lea and was the first navigable canal cut in London.
The Limehouse Basin was built in 1820 for the transfer of goods to barges for the Cut, and thence to The Regent’s Canal which led out of the Limehouse Basin (and the Thames) to Little Venice. There it joined the Grand Union Canal, linking London to Liverpool. The Grand Union Canal supplied coal to northern districts, the coal having been delivered to London from Newcastle via coastal steamer. (Walking The Regent’s Canal would be a good warmer weather activity – I must add to the list!)
Narrow Street leads me to the West India Docks past The Grapes and some Georgian buildings. Apparently Sir Walter Raleigh set out from just below The Grapes on one of his voyages to the New World.
The West India Docks opened in 1802 and closed in the 1980s to be developed as the current Canary Wharf development.
Mr Moggs, 1844, tells us that ‘..The West India Docks .. are formed of two grand divisions; the northern one, for unloading the ships arrived from the West Indies, covering thirty acres, and capable of accommodating three hundred West Indiamen ; and the southern, for loading outward-bound ships, covering twenty-four acres, and capable of holding upwards of two hundred West Indiamen. The former was begun February 3. 1800, and opened August 27. 1802, being only two years and a half; it is surrounded by an extensive range of warehouses, in which the goods are deposited until the duty is paid. The dock of twenty-four acres was opened in 1805.’
I think this is the same line of warehouses, now housing a museum and restaurants and cafes.
But if he turned round Mr Bradshaw would not recognise the area –
But, if you look carefully, the reminders of the past can be found:
The export section of the West India Docks is clear –
But the corners and sights are far removed from the dirty or bustling docklands trade –
The Import Docks (the northern docks) are linked to the Blackwall Basin, which has a secondary basin, the Poplar Basin –
The South Docks, the export docks, are clear, although usage is different!
The canal linking the South Docks to the North Docks –
And the South Docks lead to the Millwall Docks which opened in 1868, and are in an L-shape –
Blackwall gives us a ‘..fine view of the reach of the river and the pleasant uplands towards Shooter’s Hill..’. There are large taverns here, but we are too early for the whitebait (May to August) which Mr Bradshaw recommends should be eaten with punch, not beer. (Here is a fine view from Shooters Hill towards Canary Wharf.)
Blackwall was an important sea port in the past, and apart from trade in 1576 Martin Frobisher set out from Blackwall to find the North West Passage; Walter Raleigh had a house at there, and in the early 1700s ‘ the port was the main departure point of the English colonization of North America and the West Indies launched by the London Company..’
There is shipbuilding in the area, and, surprisingly, the Blackwall Yard only closed in 1987.
It is also the terminus of the London and Blackwall Railway. This railway ran from Minories to the Docks and through Stepney; much of the infrastructure was used for the DLR. The Wharf, together with the East India Export Dock survived into the 1940s when it was developed into the Brunswick Wharf Power Station, itself now under redevelopment. Apparently this was a very popular Sunday excursion and 25,000-30,000 visitors were common. The Gravesend steamboats arrived and departed from Brunswick Wharf too, so it was very busy.
And the East India Docks at Blackwall, opened in 1806, and closed in 1967, the first docks to close. Now they are filled in apart from a small section which is a wildlife refuge.
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