The most significant body of water surviving from the historical London Docks. Development in the Shadwell area was encouraged by an enterprising speculator named, Thomas Neale who built the chapel, St. Paul's by Shadwell Basin in 1656 (which was rebuilt in 1821).
Captain Cook attended it, so did many other sea captains and even the mother of USA president Roosevelt. Dickens used to address this place as the worst one ever.
Most of the 8,000 dwellings in the area at that time were small and wood-framed in-filled with bricks. The area between the highway and the river became one of the most wretched slums in Victorian Britain. The steel bridges at either end of Shadwell Basin are rolling bascule bridges, so called for their seesaw action. In the days when the docks were in use, these bridges were the only means of access, apart from by boat, into and out of Wapping.
Shadwell Basin was the last of the Wapping Docks to be built and the only one to remain to the present day. It was shut down because newer ships and containers were too big for the tiny dock’s entrance. Part of the retaining wall of St Paul’s Churchyard where the traces of the old Shadwell dock warehouses can still be seen.
Now the basin is surrounded by waterside housing development designed by leading British architects MacCormac, Jamieson, Prichard and Wright (I live in one of them). One hundred sixty nine houses and flats built around 1987. On Sundays, you can see all the dogs which live in the area, along with joggers and runners. Everyone comes here for a stroll before heading to The Prospect of Whitby Pub or James Wallace Wine Bar. There is a Shadwell Basin Outdoor Activity Centre which provides activities for both children and adults. Here you can learn sailing, power-boating, kayaking, and canoeing.
This is a great way to see London from a different perspective and enjoy the challenge of sailing or kayaking on the River Thames. Sailing and canoeing activities take place on Tuesday evenings. Sailing operates on the river from late April to October whilst kayaking and canoeing take place all year round. The Centre also organises team building and adventure days for adult and corporate groups ranging from 10 to 60 people.