Blackwall, London

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Blackwall, Virginia Quay and the Greenwich Meridian - - 789437.jpg
Virginia Quay, took directly on the Greenwich Meridian
Blackwall terrace 1.jpg
St Lawrence Cottages, a rare survivor of the old Blackwall
Blackwall is located in Greater London
Blackwall shown within Greater London
Population 19,461 (2011 Census. Blackwall and Cubitt Town Ward)[1]
OS grid reference TQ385805
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district E14
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
51°30′23″N 0°00′12″W / 51.5063°N 0.0034°W / 51.5063; -0.0034Coordinates: 51°30′23″N 0°00′12″W / 51.5063°N 0.0034°W / 51.5063; -0.0034

Blackwall is a district in London, located in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and also forms part of the Port of London. The southern conservation area of Coldharbour is a part of the Isle of Dogs. Blackwall has never been an administrative unit and so lacks any formal definition, but it can be broadly described today as the areas close to Thames on the north-east part of the Isle of Dogs peninsula and as far east as the East India Dock.

The area takes its name from a historic stretch of riverside wall built along an outside curve of the Thames, to protect the area from flooding. While mostly residential, Blackwall Yard here provides moorings for vessels.


This house at Blackwall, once owned by Sir Walter Raleigh, was demolished during construction of the Blackwall Tunnel.[2]

Blackwall name presumably derives from the colour of the river wall, built in the Middle Ages with its stairs. It was known as Blackwall by at least the 14th century.[3]

The English colonial empire (later British Empire) began at Blackwall, when the Muscovy Company financed Martin Frobisher on a journey to the New World, he set sail from Bkackwall on 7 June 1576 seeking the North West Passage where he landed at Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island, claiming it as England first possession in the name of Queen Elizabeth I[4][5]

The area was historically part of the parish of Poplar in Middlesex. The area lay in a sheltered loop of the river next to Poplar's East Marsh, where the East India Docks were constructed at the beginning of the 19th century. The area has never had its own Anglican church, so services such as road maintenance were organised by a vestry, and for poor relief it relied on its ecclesiastical parish (of All Saints) Poplar.[6] Indeed, the whole Isle of Dogs was until the late 20th century referred to as being Poplar or the Poplar District.[7]

Leamouth Wharf (then part of Blackwall) worked at the Samuda Brothers, Orchard House Yard and Thames Iron Works ship yards were the centers of employment. To provide housing for the workers, 100 small cottages – were developed from the 1820s.[8] There was the Bow Creek school (founded in 1865), but few shops, and The Crown, a public house, opened about 1840.[9]

Earliest Thames Ironworks shot, during its founding year in 1895.

Blackwall's Thames Iron Works at Leamouth Wharf gave birth in 1895 to works team Thames Ironworks F.C. which was founded by owner Arnold Hills and foreman Dave Taylor. The club would later be reformed as West Ham United F.C.[10][11]

Blackwall gives its name to the partially underlying London County Council (LCC) built single bore Blackwall Tunnel designed by Sir Alexander Binnie and built by S. Pearson & Sons as part of a major transport project to improve commerce and trade in the East End, that opened in 1892–1897, starting at Poplar which passes south under Blackwall and the adjacent River Thames to the then East Greenwich.[12][13]

The Brunswick Wharf Power Station was built by Poplar Borough Council for the British Electricity Authority (BEA) in 1952, on the site of the former East India Export Dock. The power station was controversial due to both potential air pollution in a densely populated part of London.[14]

In the 1950s, the Isle of Dogs excluded the symmetrical part (that is its north west forming the parish of Limehouse) and comprises "the ancient hamlet of Poplar itself, the old shipbuilding centre of Blackwall, and the former industrial districts of Millwall and Cubitt Town. Poplar’s story is one of development and redevelopment on both the grand and the comparatively small scale, driven in the nineteenth century by mercantile interests and manufacturing, and after the Second World War by de-industrialization and the obsolescence of the Thames-side docks... [In recent times] a major subject is public housing, which includes the famous Lansbury Estate, built in association with the 1951 Festival of Britain."[15]

Contrary to expectations, the River Thames landmark named Blackwall Point is not in Blackwall district but on the north tip of Greenwich Peninsula, which is south of the Thames. It is so named after the Blackwall Reach of the Thames.

The 1980s, Blackwall saw the area first revelopment project, a luxury housing complex called Jamestown Harbour over the Blackwall Basin, designed by WCEC Architects for the Wates Group and was completed by 1985. Jamestown Harbour was one of the first housing developments of the London Docklands. With its brick built warehouse style exteriors and distinctive blue and red balconies, it was designed to recreate the appearance of traditional river and dockside warehouses.[16]

In the 2000s, a residential development New Providence Wharf began to be built, which was designed and built by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Ballymore Group and saw the Ontario Tower in 2017 and Providence Tower in 2016 completed.[17][18]


Blackwall Yard from the Thames, by Francis Holman, 1784, in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Blackwall was a significant part of the ocean-going port called the Port of London, connected with important voyages for over 400 years. On 7 June 1576, financed by the Muscovy Company, Martin Frobisher set sail from Blackwall, seeking the North West Passage.[19] Walter Raleigh had a house at Blackwall, and in the early years of the 17th century the port was the main departure point of the English colonization of North America and the West Indies launched by the London Company.

Until 1987, Blackwall was a centre of shipbuilding and repairing. This activity principally included Blackwall Yard, the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company at Leamouth, Canning Town (part of whose works spanned the very informal border of the very small one-road, one unit deep area of Leamouth), and the Orchard House Yard. Blackwall Yard (two of whose former dry docks can still be seen around the present-day Reuters building) built the first Blackwall Frigates.

Blackwall today is still a part of the Port of London as Northumberland Wharf is still retained as a working wharf, this has special status by the Mayor of London and the Port of London Authority (PLA) as a safeguarded wharf. It is run by Cory Riverside Energy who also managed the Reuse and Recycling Centre which is next to the wharf and for the transportation of waste by barge along the River Thames.[20][21]


Coldharbour, looking north. The column of glazed bricks on the right marks the site of the Fishing Smak pub, linked to Dickens.

Coldharbour is said to be "[t]he sole remaining fragment of the old hamlet of Blackwall" and "one of the last examples of the narrow streets which once characterised the river's perimeter".[22] It is today largely residential and no longer has any industrial and maritime activities. The Coldharbour Conservation Area, designated in 1975 and then expanded in 2008, has several listed historic buildings as well as engineering structures once part of the former docks.[23]


East India Dock Basin with a passing Docklands Light Railway train in the background in September 2012.

The former London and Blackwall Railway ran from Minories to Blackwall by way of Stepney, a distance of three and half miles. This was authorised in 1836 as "The Commercial Railway", running close to Commercial Road in the East End of London to the Blackwall railway station.[24]


A relatively wide physical divide for a peripheral-to-East London district separates Poplar, London from Blackwall, the A1261. The twin north-south tunnels forming the Blackwall Tunnel commence 250 metres (820 ft) north of this road, by the local borough Town Hall, within the edge of Poplar.

London Buses routes D3 on west-east Blackwall Way, and D6, D7 and N550 on north-south Preston Road give local access to neighbouring Poplar, Leamouth, the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf.

The Thames Path (north bank) National Trail which opened in 1996 is connected to Blackwall, it enters the district at the South Dock Entrance and goes via Coldharbour and Blackwall Way and rejoines the River Thames at Virginia Wharf till the East India Dock at Blackwall Point.[25][26]


  • A fictitious Blackwall Fire Station is featured in the London Weekend Television series London's Burning.
  • Return of Spinal Tap (1992; Coldharbour) David and Nigel reminisce about their upbringing in 'Squatney, London', outside their childhood homes No.45 & 47. 'The Gun' public house can also be seen in the background.



A wide range of gyms and a small leisure centre are at nearby Canary Wharf.


  1. ^ "Tower Hamlets Ward population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 16 October 2016. 
  2. ^ Photograph taken c. 1890, now in the National Maritime Museum, ID: H0657
  3. ^ Old Blackwall, Survey of London: volumes 43 and 44: Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs (1994), pp. 548-552 accessed: 5 November 2007
  4. ^ The Nunavut Voyages of Martin Frobisher at web site of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, accessed 5 August 2011
  5. ^ Cooke, Alan (1979) [1966]. "Frobisher, Sir Martin". In Brown, George Williams. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. I (1000–1700) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press. 
  6. ^ Church of England Website Poplar ecclesiastical parish map
  7. ^ A Survey of London 1994, Hermione Hobhouse (Gen. Ed.)
  8. ^ The cottages typically consisted of four rooms and a wash-house.
  9. ^ Charles Lammin Memories of Orchard House (East London History Society, 1961)
  10. ^ "East London History regarding Thames Ironworks". Archived from the original on 13 February 2006. 
  11. ^ "Pg24, citing study into West Hams community ties" (PDF). Leeds Metropolitan University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 January 2005. 
  12. ^ Hermione Hobhouse, ed. (1994). Southern Blackwall: The Blackwall Tunnel. Survey of London. 43 and 44 : Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs. London. pp. 640–645. Retrieved 30 August 2017. 
  13. ^ Smith, Denis (2001). London and the Thames Valley. Thomas Telford. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-7277-2876-0. 
  14. ^ Hobhouse, Hermione, ed. (1999) [1994]. "XXI Brunswick Wharf". volumes 43 and 44: Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs, the Parish of All Saints. Survey of London. London: Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 593–600. ISBN 0-485-48244-4. Retrieved 31 October 2011. 
  15. ^ "Survey of London: Volumes 43 and 44, Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs". British History Online. Retrieved 9 May 2018. 
  16. ^
  18. ^ "Ontario Tower & Radisson Hotel". Watts Group Ltd. Retrieved 27 June 2017. 
  19. ^ The Nunavut Voyages of Martin Frobisher at web site of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, accessed 5 August 2011
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ LBTH. 2007. Coldharbour Conservation Area. London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
  23. ^ London Borough of Tower Hamlets. 2009. Coldharbour Conservation Area.
  24. ^ Awdry, Christopher (1990). Encyclopaedia of British Railway Companies. London: Guild Publishing. p. 144. CN 8983. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Thames Path - Ramblers". Retrieved 24 November 2014.