is a district in east London, in the London Borough of Tower
Hamlets. Located 3.9 miles (6.3 km) east of Charing Cross, it is
on the northern bank of the
to the west and
to the east.
in the west to the edge of
the former Chinatown in Pennyfields in the east; and from the Thames
in the south to the Victory Bridge at the junction of Ben Jonson Road
and Rhodeswell Road in the north.
The area gives its name to
Reach, a section of the Thames
which runs south to
after making a right-angled bend at
Cuckold's Point, Rotherhithe. The west-to-east section upstream of
is properly called the Lower Pool.
1.2 Maritime links
1.3 Modern Limehouse
1.4 Significant events in politics
2 Cultural references
3 Notable residents
6.3 Roads, cycling, walking
9 External links
A map showing the civil parish boundaries in 1870.
A map showing the
Limehouse wards of
Stepney Metropolitan Borough as
they appeared in 1916.
The name relates to the local lime kilns or, more precisely, lime
oasts, by the river and operated by the large potteries[citation
needed] that served shipping in the London Docks. The name is from Old
English līm-āst "lime-oast". The earliest reference is to Les
Lymhostes, in 1356.
The name 'Limehouse' is sometimes mistakenly thought to be derived
from the nickname for the seamen that disembarked there, who had
earned the name Lime-juicers or limeys after the obligatory ration of
lime juice the
Royal Navy gave their sailors to ward off scurvy.
The name is found used in 1417:
Inquisicio capta sup' litus Thomisie apud Lymhosteys pro morte Thome
("Inquest held on the shore of the
Thames by Lymhosteys for the death
of Thomas Frank")
17 Aug, 5 Henry V. [A.D. 1417], inquest held before "les Lymehostes"
within the liberty and franchise of the City, before Henry Bartone,
the Mayor, and the King's Escheator, as to the cause of the death of
Thomas Franke, of Herewich, late steersman (conductor) or "lodysman"
of a ship called "la Mary Knyght" of Danzsk in Prussia. A jury sworn,
viz., John Baille, Matthew Holme, Robert Marle, Henry Mark, Alexander
Bryan, John Goby, Richard Hervy, Walter Steel, Peter West, Richard
Stowell, John Dyse, and Walter Broun. They find that the said Thomas
Franke was killed by falling on the sharp end of an anchor
From its foundation, Limehouse, like neighbouring Wapping, has enjoyed
better links with the river than the land, the land route being across
Limehouse became a significant port in late medieval times,
with extensive docks and wharves. Although most cargoes were
discharged in the
Pool of London
Pool of London before the establishment of the
docks, industries such as shipbuilding, ship chandlering and rope
making were established in Limehouse.
John Boydell's view of the riverside at
Limehouse in 1751 shows
respectable houses and shipyards crowding onto the riverfront
Limehouse Basin opened in 1820 as the Regent's
Canal Dock. This was an
important connection between the
Thames and the canal system, where
cargoes could be transferred from larger ships to the shallow-draught
canal boats. This mix of vessels can still be seen in the Basin: canal
narrowboats rubbing shoulders with seagoing yachts.
From the Tudor era until the 20th century, ships crews were employed
on a casual basis. New and replacement crews would be found wherever
they were available - foreign sailors in their own waters being
particularly prized for their knowledge of currents and hazards in
ports around the world. Crews would be paid off at the end of their
voyages and, inevitably, permanent communities of foreign sailors
became established, including colonies of Lascars and Africans from
the Guinea Coast. Large Chinese communities at both
Shadwell developed, established by the crews of merchantmen in the
opium and tea trades, particularly Han Chinese. The area achieved
notoriety for opium dens in the late 19th century, often featured in
pulp fiction works by
Sax Rohmer and others. Like much of the East End
it remained a focus for immigration, but after the devastation of the
Second World War
Second World War many of the Chinese community relocated to
On 12 February 1832, the first case of cholera was reported in London
at Limehouse. First described in
India in 1817, it had spread here via
Hamburg. Although 800 people died during this epidemic, it was fewer
than had died of tuberculosis in the same year. Unfortunately, cholera
visited again in 1848 and 1858.
The use of
Limehouse Basin as a major distribution hub declined with
the growth of the railways, although the revival of canal traffic
during World War I and
World War II
World War II gave it a brief swansong. Today,
Stepney Historical Trust
Stepney Historical Trust works to advance the public's education in
the history of the area.
Limehouse Reach seen from above
Limehouse Marina, with Ropemakers'
Fields in the foreground.
Limehouse Basin was amongst the first docks to close in the late
1960s. By 1981,
Limehouse shared the docklands-wide physical, social
and economic decline which led to the setting up of the London
Docklands Development Corporation. In November 1982, the LDDC
Limehouse Area Development Strategy. This built on
existing plans for
Limehouse Basin, and offered a discussion framework
for future development, housing refurbishment and environmental
improvements across the whole of Limehouse. It was based on four major
Limehouse Basin, Free Trade Wharf, what was then known as
the Light Rapid Transit Route (DLR) and the Docklands Northern Relief
Road, a road corridor between
The Highway and East
India Dock across
the north of the Isle of Dogs.
However, it was not until the mid-1980s with the abolition of the
Greater London Council that the impetus for improvements to the
infrastructure was provided. The key to development
Limehouse lay next door in the Isle of Dogs. Initial development
plans on the island had been modest: light industrial development and
a low rise business park. The
Limehouse Studios (an independent
television studio built inside the shells of two old warehouses in
1983) were an early development on the island: this was, technically,
a misnomer, however, as the studios were located in South Quay, not,
as the name suggests, Limehouse.
By 1984, 8 million sq ft of potential commercial development was
predicted. In 1985 proposals for a 10-12 million sq ft development on
the 71 acres (290,000 m2) of
Canary Wharf were being considered.
The sheer scale of the
Canary Wharf proposals, and, in due course, the
rapid implementation of the first phase of development, provided the
impetus to the transport improvements which completely altered
Limehouse as well as for the Isle of Dogs.[citation
needed]The derelict Regent's
Canal Dock was converted into Limehouse
The award winning venue
Troxy is located in
Limehouse on the
Commericial Road, hosting events such as music concerts, award shows,
corporate hires, comedy and sports.
Significant events in politics
A statue of Clement Attlee, mayor of
Stepney (1919) and MP for
Limehouse stands outside the former
On 30 July 1909, the
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George
made a polemical speech in
Limehouse attacking the
House of Lords
House of Lords for
its opposition to his "People's Budget" and speaking of the Budget's
social aims. This was the origin of the verb 'to Limehouse', "To make
fiery (political) speeches such as Mr. Lloyd George made at Limehouse
From 1906 to 1909,
Clement Attlee worked as manager of Haileybury
House, a club for working class boys in
Limehouse run by his old
school. Before this, Attlee's political views had been conservative,
but he was shocked by the poverty and deprivation he saw while working
with slum children, and this caused him to become a socialist. He
Independent Labour Party
Independent Labour Party in 1908, and became mayor of
Stepney in 1919. At the 1922 general election, Attlee became MP for
the constituency of Limehouse, which he represented while Deputy Prime
Minister. After WWII he moved constituencies to
On 25 January 1981, MPs Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins, William Rodgers
David Owen made the
Limehouse Declaration from Owen's house in
Limehouse, which announced the formation of the Council for Social
Democracy in opposition to the granting of block votes to the trade
unions in the Labour Party to which they had previously belonged. They
soon became leading politicians in the Social Democratic Party.
Limehouse is part of the constituency of Poplar and Limehouse
and has been represented in the House of Commons since 1997 by Jim
Fitzpatrick MP (Labour), and in the
London Assembly since 2016 by
Unmesh Desai AM (also Labour).
East End of London
East End of London in popular culture
Limehouse Basin looking north, DLR train in background. (January 2006)
The area inspired
Douglas Furber (lyricist) and Philip Braham
(composer) in 1921 to write the popular jazz standard "Limehouse
Blues", which was introduced by
Jack Buchanan and Gertrude
Lawrence in the musical revue "A to Z". Much later, it was reprised in
the ballet "
Limehouse Blues" featuring
Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer
in the musical film Ziegfeld Follies (1946) and by
Julie Andrews in
Star! (1968). In both instances the actors were heavily disguised as
Chinese. Other notable performances on film include those by Hoagy
Carmichael in To Have and Have Not (1946) and by Borrah Minevich and
His Harmonica Rascals in One in a Million (1936).
Limehouse Blues was
also the name of a 1934 film, starring George Raft.
Thomas Burke wrote
Limehouse Nights (1916), a collection of stories
centred around life in the poverty-stricken
Limehouse district of
London. Many of Burke's books feature the Chinese character Quong Lee
as narrator. The area also features in the
Fu Manchu books of Sax
Rohmer, where a
Limehouse opium den serves as the hideout of the
Chinese supervillain. The notion of
East End opium dens seems to have
originated with a description by
Charles Dickens of a visit he made to
an opium den in nearby Bluegate Fields, which inspired certain scenes
in his last, unfinished, novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood
(1870). More recently, the popular graphic novels of Alan
From Hell (1989) and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
(1999) contain a number of references to the notorious criminality of
the area in Victorian London. Victorian-era
Limehouse was also the
setting of the novel Dan Leno and the
Limehouse Golem (1995) by Peter
Ackroyd, a fictionalized account of the notorious '
The area also appeared in Anna Mae Wong's 1929 film Piccadilly, where,
as the toughly alluring Shosho, Wong was said to embody the Limehouse
Chinatown mystique. The
Limehouse district of London is depicted in
the silent film "Broken Blossoms" or "The Yellow Man And The Girl"
D.W. Griffith (1919) "where the Orient squats at the
portals of the West."
Limehouse is also the setting of the 1926 film
"The Blackbird," directed by
Tod Browning and starring Lon Chaney.
Birthplace of the rock group
Limehouse Lizzy 
Sir Humphrey Gilbert, c. 1583
Humphrey Gilbert lived here, and was an advocate of opening up
the Northwest Passage. This inspired
Martin Frobisher to sail to
Baffin Island, and he returned with a mysterious black rock.
Gilbert set up the Society of the New Art with Lord Burghley and the
Earl of Leicester, who had their alchemical laboratory in
Limehouse; however, their attempts to transmute the black rock
into gold proved fruitless. (Humphrey's brother Adrian Gilbert was
reputed a great alchemist and worked closely with John Dee.)[citation
Christopher Newport lived in
Limehouse for several years up
until 1595. He rose through the sailing ranks from a poor cabin
boy to a wealthy English privateer and eventually one of the Masters
of the Royal Navy. He became rich pirating Spanish treasure vessels in
the West Indies. In 1607 he sailed the Susan Constant, followed by the
Godspeed and Discovery, as
Admiral of the Fleet to Jamestown. He
helped secure England's foothold in North America through five voyages
to Jamestown. He sailed his entire life, dying on a trading voyage to
Bantam, on the island of
Java in present-day Indonesia. His sailing
Limehouse made him known as Captain Christopher Newport,
of Limehouse, Mariner.
Charles Dickens' godfather, Christopher Huffam, ran his sailmaking
business from 12 Church Row (Newell Street). Huffam is said to be
the inspiration for the Paul Dombey character in Dickens' Dombey and
James McNeill Whistler and Charles Napier Hemy sketched and
painted at locations on Narrow Street's river waterfront.
Contemporary residents include the actor Sir Ian McKellen, Matthew
Parris, comedy actress Cleo Rocos, actor Steven Berkoff,
comedian Lee Hurst, as well as politician Lord David
Limehouse was also the home of the late film director Sir David
Lean. His home on
Narrow Street is still owned by his family.
Early Georgian terrace on Narrow Street, with The Grapes public house.
St Anne's Limehouse
St Anne's Limehouse was built by Nicholas Hawksmoor. A pyramid
originally planned to be put atop the tower now stands in the
graveyard. The church is next door to
Limehouse Town Hall
Limehouse Town Hall and close to
Limehouse Library, both Grade II listed buildings, the former now used
as a community centre. Across the road is the Sailors' Mission, where
Situationist International held its conference in 1960. The building
subsequently became a run-down hostel for the homeless which became
notorious for its squalor, although it has since been converted into a
luxury apartment block.
Further to the southwest, Narrow Street, Limehouse's historic spine,
which runs along the back of the
Thames wharves, boasts one of the few
surviving early Georgian terraces in London. Next to the terrace is
the historic Grapes pub, rebuilt in 1720 and well-known to Charles
Dickens, featuring as the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters in Our Mutual
Friend. A few doors along was Booty's Riverside Bar but this closed
down in 2012. Almost every building on the other side of Narrow Street
was destroyed by bombing in the Second World War, including hundreds
of houses, Taylor Walker & Co's Barley Mow Brewery and a school.
One notable exception is a former public house, known locally as 'The
House They Left Behind', because it was the only Victorian terrace to
survive. It still stands today, with the aid of three large supporting
Main article: Narrow Street
Further along the street is 'The Narrow', a gastropub, now run by
Gordon Ramsay. It is housed in the Grade II listed, former
dockmaster's and Customs House, for
For details of education in Limehouse, see List of schools in the
London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
The nearest station is
Limehouse station for Docklands Light Railway
and c2c and Westferry for Docklands Light Railway.
15, 115, 135, 277, D3, D6, D7, N15, N550, N551 all operate within the
Roads, cycling, walking
Limehouse is connected to the National Road Network by the A13
Commercial Road which passes west–east through Limehouse, while the
Limehouse Link tunnel passes under
Limehouse Basin, linking The
Highway with the Docklands Northern Relief Road. The northern entrance
Rotherhithe Tunnel emerges in Limehouse, to the west of the
Basin and close to
Limehouse railway station.
Narrow Street forms a part of the north bank of the
Thames Path and
Cycle Superhighway CS3, the walk and cycle lane is between tall former
warehouses and modern flats. Many were built with planning covenants
granting river access, but these are now often barred to the public.
Vehicular access is limited, as the area is cut off by the entrance to
Limehouse tunnel and parking is strictly controlled, however this
makes the area reasonably quiet for cyclists. Public access to the
foreshore is prohibited, apparently part of the security arrangements
for former Foreign Secretary, David Owen. The National Cycle Route 1
also runs in
Limehouse north and south.
Though no longer a working dock,
Limehouse Basin with its marina
remains a working facility. The same is not true of the wharf
buildings that have survived, most of which are now highly desirable
Limehouse Basin connects to the Regent's Canal
Commercial Road Lock to the north, and the
River Thames via
Limehouse Basin Lock to the south. The
Limehouse Cut connects the
Basin to the
River Lea in the east.
Commercial Road Lock on the Regent's
Canal entering the Limehouse
Limehouse Basin Lock separating
Limehouse Basin from the Thames
Construction of apartments on
Commercial Road (now complete).
Taken from Narrow Street, this shows the proximity of
four of the high rise buildings of Canary Wharf.
The Mission, formerly the British Sailors Society, now apartments.
A picture of
Limehouse D.L.R. station in 2002.
^ "Tower Hamlets Ward population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics.
Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
Port of London Authority Map of the River Thames, Lower Pool to
Limehouse Reach (October 2013 - January 2014); Chandler, The New
Seaman's Guide and Coaster's Companion; Henry Wheatley, London Past
and Present, 362; Norie, New and Extensive Sailing Directions for the
Navigation of the North Sea. It can be seen clearly in Stanford's
Library Map of London 1872  vs.  accessed 27.4.2015.
^ Folios cxci - cc: Dec 1416 - ', Calendar of letter-books of the city
of London: I: 1400-1422 (1909), pp. 175-86
Canal Dock - London's docks and shipping".
2012-10-29. Retrieved 2016-12-14.
^ "Chinese in the
Port of London -
2012-11-14. Retrieved 2016-12-14.
^ "The port in literature -
Thames art, literature and architecture".
Port Cities. 2012-11-14. Retrieved 2016-12-14.
^ "LDDC Completion Booklet -
Wapping and Limehouse".
Lddc-history.org.uk. Retrieved 2016-12-14.
Troxy Website - Awards". troxy.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
^ Oxford English Dictionary, "Limehouse".
^ Beckett, Francis. (1997) Clem Attlee: A Biography Francis Beckett
(Richard Cohen Books) ISBN 1-86066-101-7
^ Prairie Multimedia, Inc. "Kendor Music Online -
Kendormusic.com. Archived from the original on 2005-04-18. Retrieved
Limehouse Blues on IMDb
Peter Ackroyd (1990) Dickens: 1046
^ A Curious Burial Archived 20 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine. 11
January 1890 East London Observer – an account of the burial of Ah
Sing, said to be the inspiration for the character of the opium
seller. Accessed 22 July 2008
^ Ackroyd, Peter (1995). Dan Leno and the
Limehouse Golem. Vintage.
^ Steven Mason - AWK Computers. "Thin Lizzy Tribute Band". Limehouse
Lizzy. Retrieved 2016-12-14.
^ Calendar of the Patent Rolls, Elizabeth I, Vol. VI, 1572-1575 Joel
Hurstfield The English Historical Review, Vol. 91, No. 358 (January
1976), pp. 127-129
^ K.R. Andrews,
Christopher Newport of Limehouse, Mariner, William and
Mary Quarterly 3d ser., 11, no. 1(January 1954):28.
^ West, Gilian. "Huffam and Son." Dickensian 95, no. 447 (Spring,
^ "James McNeill Whistler /
Limehouse / 1878". Davidrumsey.com.
^ The Barge Builders in The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 126, No. 981
(December 1984), p. 786+804
^ Keith Stern/CompuWeb (1939-05-25). "Sir
Ian McKellen Personal Bio
Prior to launch of his website". Mckellen.com. Retrieved
^ Farndale, Nigel (2002-10-03). "We'll always have Parris". Telegraph.
^ "The Wharf: News from
Canary Wharf and the Docklands".
Icthewharf.icnetwork.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-12-14.
^ "CBSi". FindArticles.com. Archived from the original on 24 September
2015. Retrieved 2016-12-14.
^ Historic England. "Details from image database (441686)". Images of
England. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
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Limehouse at Wikimedia Commons
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