Docklands

You'd probably never guess it while gazing up at the ultramodern skyscrapers that dominate the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf, but from the 16th century until the mid-20th century this area was the industrial heartland of the London docks. Here cargo from global trade was landed, bringing jobs to a tight-knit, working-class community. Even up to the start of WWII this community still thrived, but then the docks were badly firebombed during the war.

After the Blitz the docks were in no condition to cope with the postwar technological and political changes as the British Empire evaporated. At the same time, enormous new bulk carriers and container ships demanded deep-water ports and new loading and unloading techniques. From the mid- 1960s dock closures followed one another as fast as they had opened, and the number of dock workers dropped from as many as 50,000 in 1960 to about 3000 by 1980.

The financial metropolis that exists today was begun by the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC), a body established by the Thatcher government in the free-wheeling 1980s to take pressure for office space off the City. This rather artificial community had a shaky start. The low-rise toy-town buildings had trouble attracting tenants, the Docklands Light Railway - the main transport link - had teething troubles and the Canary Wharf Tower itself had to be res cued from bankruptcy twice. Now, however, newspaper groups and financial behemoths have moved in - with Citigroup and HSBC boasting their own buildings - and, more than a quarter-century after it was begun, the Docklands is emerging as the mini-Manhattan it was envisaged as.

ISLE OF DOGS Map p160 Pundits can't even really agree on whether this is an island, let alone where it got its name. Strictly speaking it's a peninsula of land on the northern shore of the Thames, although without modern road and transport links it would almost be separated from the mainland at West India Docks. At the same time, etymologists are still out to lunch over the origin of the island's name. Some believe it's because the royal kennels

EATING 0] (pp235-75)

Billingsgate Fish Market 6 C1

El Faro 7 C3

Royal China 8 A2

Ubon 9 A1

SIGHTS

Canary Wharf Tower

Mudchute Park & Farm. Museum in Docklands... Trinity Buoy Wharf

(pp159-63)

DOCKLANDS

EATING 0] (pp235-75)

Billingsgate Fish Market 6 C1

El Faro 7 C3

Royal China 8 A2

Ubon 9 A1

SIGHTS

Canary Wharf Tower

Mudchute Park & Farm. Museum in Docklands... Trinity Buoy Wharf

(pp159-63)

WAPPING & LIMEHOUSE

In his 16th-century A Survey of London, John Stow described Wapping High St as a 'filthy strait passage, with alleys of small tenements or cottages'. It's a far cry from that today; the converted warehouses and lofts that line the brick road now contain luxury flats that are among the most desirable in East London.

The area was traditionally home to sailors and dock workers. One of the most important historic sites is Execution Dock (Map p156) near the old river police station at Wapping New Stairs. This is where convicted pirates were hanged and their bodies chained to a post at low tide, to be left until three tides had washed over their heads.

There isn't much to Limehouse, although it became London's first Chinatown in the late 19th century when some 300 sailors from the South China coast settled, and was also mentioned in Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), when the protagonist passed by this way in search of opium. The most notable attraction is St Anne's, Limehouse (Map p160 ยงยง 7987 1502; cnr Commercial Rd & Three Colt St). This was Nicholas Hawksmoor's earliest church and still boasts the highest church clock in the city. In fact, the 60m-high tower is still a 'Trinity House mark'for identifying shipping lanes on the Thames (thus the Royal Navy's White Ensign flag flying). Although the English baroque church was completed in 1725, it was not consecrated until 1730. There is a curious pyramid in the west churchyard that may be connected with the architect's supposed interest in the occult.

were located here during Henry Vlll's reign. Others say it's a corruption of the Flemish dijk (dike), recalling the Flemish engineers who shored up the area's muddy banks.

It can be agreed, however, that the centrepiece of the Isle of Dogs is Canary Wharf. If you want to see how the isle once looked, check out Mudchute Park & Farm (@ 7515 5901, 7531 4334; www.mudchute.org; PierSt El4; admission free; S 9.30am-4.30pm; DLR Mudchute), an urban farm with livestock, an educational centre and events to the southeast.

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