1948: Docklands before 'Docklands'

  'A view down Wapping High Street, East London, lined with wharves and warehouses for the London Docks.'   (c)  TopFoto

'A view down Wapping High Street, East London, lined with wharves and warehouses for the London Docks.'

(c) TopFoto


On the north bank of the Thames, at the heart of London's Docklands, sits the ancient area of Wapping. The construction of docks at Wapping was completed in 1815, replacing many of the area's houses and wharves.  

The Blitz of WWII devastated Wapping including extensive damage to the church of St Peter. Father Fox, the parish priest, campaigned vigorously to have the church restored, and the work was completed within four years. Wapping's children celebrated St Peter’s Day on June 29th, 1948, with a parade through the specially decorated streets.

Working on the docks was insecure and poorly paid for many.  Although new modern housing was constructed to replace buildings lost in the War, poverty returned in the 1960s with the inexorable closure of the docks.  The arrival of the global containerisation system relied on ships too large to navigate the Thames as far as Wapping.

A small number of physical features have survived both the 1815 redevelopment and the Blitz - the old steps down to the edge of the Thames, and the pub, 'The Prospect of Whitby', which backs onto the edge of the river.  Today, the warehouses have become apartments. 


'A family of three generations of East Londoners - a grandmother, her daughter and her small children, peer cheerfully through their window. Wapping, East London.'

(c) TopFoto


'Living with the old and the new in post-war Wapping, East London. A mother with her children in the old passageways between the old back-to-back houses of the London docks. A new block of flats emerges at the end of the street.'

(c) TopFoto


  'A mother with her little girl in Wapping, Docklands'   (c)  TopFoto

'A mother with her little girl in Wapping, Docklands'

(c) TopFoto


 'Meeting in a church graveyard this band of young boys are armed to the teeth teeth with toy bows and arrows and are off to play ' Robin Hood and his Merry Men '. Wapping,  East London.'

(c) TopFoto


'The children of St Peter' s London Docks School, Wapping, East London, enjoying playing in their playground. Masts and funnels of ships in the docks peep over the rooftops overshadowing the playground.'

(c) TopFoto


'Father Fox of St Peter's Church, London Dock, Wapping, with two of his parishioners putting up bunting for the St Peter's Day celebrations'

(c) TopFoto


'Mothers with their children gather outside St Peter's Church, London Dock, Wapping, as they wait for the procession to be organised for the St Peter's day celebrations.'

(c) TopFoto


'Children processing down Wapping High Street, East London, during the St Peter's Day celebrations'

(c) TopFoto


'Children looking after the flowers in the garden at St Peter's Church'

(c) TopFoto


'The construction of new buildings in Wapping , the London dock area which had been heavily bombed during the London blitz in World War II.'

(c) TopFoto


'A street view of the historic public house, ' The Prospect of Whitby ' which is on the banks of the River Thames at Wapping Wall'

(c) TopFoto


'Stylish headgear being worn by two East End young ladies waiting outside St Peter's Church'

(c) TopFoto


'Two dock workers pause for a chat and a smoke in the dock area of Wapping, East London, with a backdrop of funnels and masts and wartime bomb damage'

(c) TopFoto



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 Text and curation: Amanda Uren



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