Blackwall, London

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
Location within Greater London
Population19,461 (2011 Census. Blackwall and Cubitt Town Ward)[1]
London borough
Ceremonial countyGreater London
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townLONDON
Postcode districtE14
Dialling code020
EU ParliamentLondon
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
51°30′23″N 0°00′12″W / 51°30′23″N 0°00′12″W / 51.5063; -0.0034

Blackwall is a area of Poplar in East 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.

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]

Blackwall Yard became a major sea hub. In 1576, Martin Frobisher left Blackwall (then part of Poplar) and landed at Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island, claiming it for England (its first overseas possession) in the name of Queen Elizabeth I. Frobisher was funded by the Muscovy Company seeking the North West Passage.[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]

The London and Blackwall Railway was one of the earliest railway systems in London, operating from 1840. it was also one of the smallest running from Fenchurch Street Station in the city to Blackwall, a trip which lasted less than twenty minutes, but which was very important in terms of serving the passenger services at Gravesend.

Near the Blackwall Railway Station was constructed the Brunswick Hotel which was located on the Greenwich Meridian line. In its early years it apparently attracted a fairly elegant crowd, including William IV on an occasion connected with the opening or expansion of the burgeoning docks in the area. It's prime customer base was emigrants (usually to Australia) who would wait here until they could board small steamers to take them to the large sea going liners at Gravesend. In the days of sail such clients might have to wait for days or weeks until the winds were favourable, by the end of the century the substitution of steam power and rail links on the south bank of the Thames greatly reduced the viability of the Hotel. No evidence remains of either the hotel (demolished in the 1920s) or the Railway Station (demolished 1946) they stood between Jamestown Way and the Thames.

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 and Providence Tower (now the Charrington Tower) completed in 2007 and 2016 respectively.[17][18]