The East Thames and Docklands district has historically been a no go area for upright members of London society. Such attitudes, however, have been consigned firmly to the past. With the intervention of such regenerating initiatives as the London Docklands Development Corporation, the docklands districts have completely turned themselves around. Fashionable, profitable, and vibrant - yet still retaining a sense of their colourful history - these formerly shunned areas are now attracting big business and celebrated personages from all over the country – and for very good reason.
Beckton is an almost cosy district of East London, which retains a pleasant, community feel despite having been blessed with an abundance of good quality modern housing. The transport links through the Docklands Light Railway are superb, and the amenities excellent. Beckton is home to several large supermarkets and shopping centres, making it a haven for enthusiastic consumers. The district continues to grow – a sure sign of a healthy economy – and is currently expanding to the south and east, rendering it an essential facet of the Thames Gateway Project. This project aims to bring great enhancements and improvements to the area. Beckton is also abundant in history, as testified to by some truly lovely Victorian architecture in places like Windsor Terrace. It was to Beckton that many thousands of people came in the days of the British Empire in order to be shipped out to far flung locations. Indeed, Beckton’s role as the last patch of British soil walked on by many departing soldiers and so forth is mentioned in Rudyard Kipling’s much admired book The Light That Failed.
Limehouse is a deeply historic district, its past inextricably entwined with Britain’s maritime history. The first written mention of Limehouse comes from inquest notes dating from the reign of Henry V (1417, to be precise), in which the name of the area is rendered ‘Lymehos’. The area’s history is writ large upon its modern character, with a great many beautifully ancient buildings remaining. In the past, Limehouse has been notorious as a sink of opium dens, robber gangs, murderers, and extreme poverty. However, such dubious faults are hundreds of years in the past - the arrival of the Docklands Light Railway and various regeneration initiatives have transformed Limehouse into a character-laden and extremely desirable location. Now, people flock to locate their businesses in this profitable area, and clamour to live amongst the history and architecture of the place. Indeed, the area boasts such notable residents as Sir Ian McKellen, and is a location favoured enough by the notoriously fussy Gordon Ramsay to house his restaurant. Narrow Street, the backbone of Limehouse running behind the wharves, contains one of London’s few surviving early Georgian terraces – extremely pretty to stroll along.
The Isle of Dogs has been utterly transformed over the last few decades from a derelict East End wasteland to a dazzling hub of culture and commerce. Snug within the deepest bend of the Thames, this island is home to thousands of private individuals and businesses, and is ideal for those who want to combine all the razzmatazz of urban living with spectacular views down the Thames. Although in the past the river-lapped nature of the place has rendered it hard to reach, transport links are now extremely good. The Docklands Light Railway has six stations situated around the Island, and it is serviced by the Jubilee Line at Canary Wharf. This is certainly one of the most desirable areas of London to live in – situated as it is at the heart of the nation’s political, financial, and cultural interests. Property prices are high, but falling mortgage rates render them a little more accessible. A property on the Isle of Dogs is an investment likely to appreciate, given the climbing prices associated with the ready availability of property loans, and it will certainly provide any occupant with an address which will be the envy of all.
On the Isle of Dogs is the famed Canary Wharf. This is generally considered to be London’s second major financial district – the first being the City of London itself. It contains around 14,000,000 square feet of commercial space, much of which is owned by the Canary Wharf Group. The Wharf is home to such luminaries as Barclays, Credit Suisse, HSBC, J.P. Morgan, and Thomson Reuters – which goes to show how desirable it is as a business location. Furthermore, it is a relatively new site, with a lot of potential for growth which even the Recession appears to have been unable to halt. The first buildings which make up the now familiar skyline of Canary Wharf were only completed in 1992, ensuring that all offices have been constructed to modern specifications and with thoroughly modern enterprise in mind. The well-known shape of One Canada Square, with its shallow-pointed roof topped with the flashing light which warns off aeroplanes, dominates the area and provides a locus around which businesses cluster. When completed in 1991, this building was the tallest in Europe, and remained the tallest in the UK until 2010 (before being surpassed by the Shard). The building and surrounding area are home to some superb bars and restaurants.
Poor Wapping suffered greatly during the Blitz, its strategic location upon the banks of the Thames making it a prime target for German incendiary bombs. However, the district has risen triumphantly from the ashes and made a phenomenal comeback. England’s first police force – the Marine Police Force– was formed in Wapping over two hundred years ago and still has its base there (although they’re now called the Marine Support Unit). Wapping is relatively small, and quite self-contained in its way, which lends it a character and community spirit all of its own. Its cobbled streets, sense of history, and unique nature are cherished by residents and visitors alike. It’s a fantastic place to find independently run, friendly pubs and restaurants – most of such venues in Wapping being privately owned. The district is also replete in parks and green spaces, making it easy for residents and workers to relax away from the pressures of urban living. If you are looking for a relatively quiet, community-centred life which is nonetheless within strolling distance of the buzzing heart of the UK’s financial and cultural scene, then Wapping is the place for you.
Credit: Emma Hailing