Living in Wapping


The historic maritime neighbourhood of Wapping combines new and old in a way that makes it a real jewel of London. Find out what living in Wapping is like with our guide to the area. 

History of the area

The riverside district of Wapping was for centuries the home of sailors, boat builders and sailmakers. In the 16th century it was described as a ‘continual street, or a filthy strait passage, with alleys of small tenements or cottages’. It was a melting pot of people, where morals were low and crime was high. Pirates and other criminals used to hang from the gibbet at Execution Dock, not being taken down until the tide had submerged their corpses three times. Then in the 19th century Wapping became the home of London’s Docks. Huge warehouses and quays were built, as the rough old area was turned into an engine of Empire.

After the docks moved, and the area was badly bombed during the Second World War, Wapping fell into dereliction. In the 1980s change was in the air. The first of the old warehouses began to be converted into luxury apartments; Wapping was in the vanguard of dockside redevelopment, and had a reputation for being a bit brash and disruptive. This was the site of the ‘Battle of Wapping’, the 1986 dispute between News International and print workers. Passions, like the coal of Victorian steam ships, seem to be stoked here. Wapping also saw the Battle of Cable Street in 1936, when anti-fascist protestors clashed with police and supporters of the Fascist agitator Oswald Mosley.

It all seems a world away from today’s Wapping, with its cobbled streets, secluded parks and historic riverside pubs, a quiet enclave from busy East London and the City.

The property market

Wapping is the original dockside redevelopment site, where ‘80s warehouse conversions attracted high flyers from the City. It has remained a property hotspot, with prices slightly below the London average, but higher for flats, which is by far the largest type of property in the area.

New build homes

The major development of recent years in the area has been London Dock, offering 1,800 fully serviced apartments in the heart of Wapping, behind the High Street and next to St Katherine Docks. Construction is ongoing and units are being released at prices starting from £699,000. Royal Mint Gardens is another new development close to Tower Gateway DLR station.

First time buyers

It can be difficult for first time buyers to access reasonably priced properties in Wapping, but there are some exceptions. London Dock has released 40 1 and 2-bed apartments at discounted prices for first time buyers or people working in Tower Hamlets. Buyers working in the City and Canary Wharf with significant budgets will always have Wapping high on their list of desirable districts.

Renting in the area

Wapping has a competitive rental market, mainly catering for a younger clientele. Studios start at around £1,300 pcm, 1-bedroomed flats are £1600-£2200, 2-bed flats are an average of £2,600 pcm. Houses are rarely available for rent.

Schools and education

Wapping does not have the density of schools as other neighbourhoods in Tower Hamlets, but it does have several highly regarded state primary schools. Hermitage Primary on Vaughan Way and Blue Gate Fields Junior School on King David Lane are rated ‘good’ by Ofsted. St Peter’s London Docks CofE Primary on Garnet Street is rated ‘outstanding’.

Transport links

Wapping is served by two overground stations (Wapping and Shadwell), both in Zone 2. There are DLR stations at Shadwell and Tower Gateway, offering convenient commutes to Canary Wharf, while Tower Hill tube is just a short walk way for Circle line trains to Bank and Mansion House.  

Lifestyle and leisure

Places to eat and drink

In Wapping’s heyday there was reputed to be 140 alehouses in the High Street alone. The few pubs that remain are among London’s most characterful. The Prospect of Whitby on Wapping Wall is thought to be the oldest riverside tavern in the capital, having been built in the reign of Henry VIII. You really do feel like you are drinking in history here, with balconies that overlook the bustling Thames. Turner’s Old Star is another hugely atmospheric pub in the centre of Wapping, once owned by the artist J. M. W. Turner. Wapping has a smattering of chain restaurants, but the best independent is Smith’s, the fish restaurant on the High Street.

Where to shop

If Wapping has one drawback it is the relative scarcity of shops. There is a Waitrose supermarket on Thomas More Street and an off-license on the High Street, and some smaller independent shops, cafés, butchers and grocery stores. But shopaholics would need to venture into the City, Brick Lane and Spitalfields for a greater choice.

Things to do

Within the shadow of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, there is certainly no shortage of things to do in and around Wapping. The bars and restaurants around St Katharine’s Docks are the hub of nightlife in the area, and regular food and drink and beer festivals are held at Tobacco Dock. A walk along the Wapping waterside is always to be recommended. There are several ancient watermen’s stairs down to the shore, where treasure hunters and mudlarkers are often to be found sifting through whatever the tide has turned up.  

Felicity J Lord can help you buy, sell or rent in Wapping

If you like what you hear about living in Wapping, we can help you buy, sell or rent in the Wapping area. Get in touch with the friendly team at our Wapping branch and they will be happy to help.