It was the Romans who saw the potential of the Thames and created our first Docklands. They built wharves and docks by the first London Bridge which grew into the biggest docks in the world. By the late 1960's they could not cope with the massive container ships and rapidly went into decline and inevitably closed. They remained derelict until the 1980's which marked the start of their amazing redevelopment. A walk around the old docks of Wapping, Shad Thames, Rotherhithe, Limehouse and The Isle of Dogs reveals the docks' salty sea-dog past!
The docks have some of the best pubs in London; the oldest in the area is The Prospect of Whitby dating back to 1520. There is a noose hanging outside the river side of the pub - not a warning to settle your lunch bill before leaving but a reminder of the area's notoriety. Smugglers and pirates were rife in this area, perhaps the most famous being Captain Kidd who is immortalised in a nearby pub and allegedly the inspiration for Daniel Dafoe's Treasure Island.
Wapping Oldstairs (by the side of the Prospect of Whitby) was the arrival point for ships bringing thousands of immigrants into London. At low tide, the Thames foreshore can be an interesting place for would-be treasure hunters.
At Wapping Station, you can take the world's oldest underwater tunnel to Bermondsey. It was built by Marc Brunel and completed in 1845.
Shad Thames' old cobbles and criss-cross of iron bridges create a perfect film location. Oliver! A Fish called Wanda,The World is Not Enough and Bridget Jones are just a few films that have been made here.
Did you know Wharf is an acronym of 'warehouse on water front'?
As you head East, look out for the 'Dickensian' St Saviour's dock and nearby 'floating village', a community of barges with beautiful gardens. Two nearby pubs, The Angel and The Mayflower have strong connections with the New World. The Angel was where Captain Cook prepared to set sail to Australia and The Mayflower was where the first settlers of New England left from. This is the only pub licensed to sell both UK and US stamps.
Nearby, the Rotherhithe tunnel links us to Limehouse and its old townhouses. The Grapes, a pub recently saved from closure has connections to Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Ian McKellen. Limehouse used to be home to London's first Chinatown which was relocated to Soho after WWII.
St Anne's, Limehouse has the tallest church clock tower in London and a graveyard containing an usual pyramid.
The modern skyline of Canary Wharf now comes into view. One Canada Square was the first skyscraper in the area and tallest building in the UK until The Shard. 'Downtown' Canary Wharf has some of the best 'art in the environment' with over 60 pieces on show.
As a tour guide and a lover of London, I will be writing a series of interesting stories about London; tales I have heard, places I have visited, tasty food I have eaten and delicious drinks I have enjoyed. Watch out for this every week or so.