The Walk in Pictures 1066 Harold’s Way, Walk 1
Shad Thames, Jacob’s Island & Execution Dock
Walk under Tower Bridge and into Shad Thames. The old warehouses have been revitalised into London Living but the names are remembered in Shad, Butlers Wharf and others.
Access to the river has always been difficult here with warehouses, docks and quays lining the river bank. A hundred and fifty years ago, there would have been the noise of ships being unloaded and wagons drawn, full of the cries of workmen and machinery but for us, it is quiet and peaceful now that we have left the crowds of the Embankment behind us.
The lanes are narrow and dwarfed by high walls, there is a darkness even during the day and when the tide is out and the mud revealed, in the side docks and creeks, there is a feeling of Dickens London about the place, maybe at the end of Oliver Twist – or is it just my imagination.
The view from The Angel inspired Turner to paint the Fighting Temeraire as he watched the warship pass by on its final journey to the breaker’s yard – no doubt it was from the inside of the pub rather than the outside with a quart of ale to help the imagination.
Wapping is on the opposite bank and Wapping New Stairs, with the water swirling around the beach, is the most likely site of Execution Dock. Pirates, thieves and mutineers were hanged and left for three tides to wash over them. You could drink and watch the hanging of the notorious pirate Captain Kidd on May 23rd 1701, safe across the river. Such events were seen as public holidays but the fun ended with the last hanging in 1830. Look out for a warehouse with the letter E on one wall, it stands on the site of Execution Dock. It is ironic that the very first River Police Station for the Marine Police was built close to Wapping New Stairs, in 1798.