A Stepney & Limehouse Walk

Route & what to see


A figure of eight walk from Limehouse Station (mainline & DLR). The northern loop is 2 miles and the southern loop is 1 miles. Stepney Green Station (District line) is close to the route.

Cross Commercial Road at the lights going under the railway into Flamborough Street.
Limehouse DLR station is on the site of Stepney Station. The track from the mainline station was formerly the London Tilbury & Southend Railway. York Square was built to house skilled tradesmen and clerks. The central garden was opened to the public in 1904. The Queen's Head pub has a sign depicting Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother who visited in 1987.

At the end go left into Salmon Lane.
Some portions of the walls (with boundary marks) from the Ratcliffe Workhouse have been retained in front of the flats built on the site. The corner house was built in 1882 as the vicarage of St Matthew.

Go right into White Horse Lane.
On the right is a parish burial ground opened in 1779 and closed in 1853. Some almshouses and a small school on the site were bombed in WWII. At the bend in the road, overlooking the churchyard are the former Lady Mico's Almshouses. They were originally built for 10 widows in 1691 by the Mercer's Company and re-built in 1856. The southern section of the churchyard was added to cope with the large number of plague victims (154 in one day!). The railings were made by a Whitechapel firm in 1844 and the churchyard was made into a public garden in 1887.

Continue along the pedestrianised section of White Horse Road and detour left into Durham Row.
The 19th century buildings would have had shop fronts.

Return to the church
St Dunstan's and All Saints is a church of great antiquity. The present building (the third) dates mainly from the 1400s although the chancel is older. Initially it served the whole of Middlesex east of the City but from the 1300s these hamlets became separate parishes. The church has been repaired and altered over time and was damaged in WWII, losing all its window glass from a V2 rocket. The bells are commemorated in the 'Oranges & Lemons' rhyme. Tel: 020 7791 3545.

Exit into Stepney High Street and go right
On the left is the Stepping Stones City Farm (entrance in Stepney Way).

Left into Stepney Green.
On the corner with Garden Street an arch remains from the college chapel (1831) for Baptist ministers. Most of the college was demolished for housing in 1858 but the chapel remained until 1948. Set back on the right hand side is the former East London Synagogue of 1876, converted to housing in 1997.

Continue ahead through the gardens.
The roadway to the right is paved with unusual bluish bricks made from Middlesbrough slag. To the left are a fountain and clocktower moved to the site in the 1930s. Behind these is Stepney Green Park. On the right Stepney Green Court was built by Lord Rothschild's 4% Dwelling Company. Next door two 1906 buildings remain from the Stepney Jewish School. Numbers 61 & 63 were built around 1762 and number 37 in 1694. This had various uses 1875-1998 but is now residential again. A plaque on number 35 records its use as a dispensary established in 1913. Number 29, part of a terrace of 1730, has been home to Dr Barnardo and a HQ for the Scouts. It is said to be haunted. St Dunstan's Houses opposite were built in 1899 by the East End Dwelling Company.

At the end of the road go right along the Mile End Road.
A pair of houses from 1741 have been restored to their original appearance with the removal of the shops which were added to the fronts of many houses.

A little further along is Stepney Green Station (District line). Go the opposite way (westwards) along the Mile End Road.
The front walls and corner office building remain from the former Charrington's Brewery of 1872. The site is now occupied by superstores. The terrace of 4 Georgian houses (1717) were restored by the Spitalfields Trust. The cinema (1939) occupies a site which had been in turn a pub, a music hall and a theatre of varieties. Wickhams was built as a department store in 1927 but one shopkeeper refused to sell his property! Further along on the left the site of the home of explorer James Cook (demolished 1959) is marked with a slate plaque. The premises next door were those of Curtis Gin Distillery Co Ltd. The strip of grass which runs along the north side of the road is known as 'manor waste' and would have provided grazing for animals being brought to the city. There are 2 memorials to William Booth and one to Edward VII. Park House at number 29 was built c1820. Next door is the former Trinity Hospital built as almshouses for master mariners or their widows in 1695. They were repaired by the LCC after WWII bomb damage to become housing. Number 27A was built in 1905 for the engineer of the Albion Brewery on a site previously occupied by the Skinner's almshouses. The crossroads would have been the site of the Mile End Gate where tolls were collected 1722-1866. Cambridge Heath Road leads to Bethnal Green and the Museum of Childhood. The Blind Beggar pub is notorious for its association with the Kray twins.

Go left into Sidney Street and first left along Adelina Grove.
Grove Dwellings were built in 1910 on land, leased from the Mercers company, which had been a dairy.

Go right into Jubilee Street.
This follows the line of a former footpath across the fields. The funeral directors on the corner of Stepney Way was originally the Mercer's Alms pub which closed in 1915. Former school buildings are being converted into apartments. Jubilee Mansions of 1921 were built to replace houses bombed in 1918.

Go left along Commercial Road.
This was constructed in 1802-4 to link the East & West India Docks with the city. St Mary & St Michael is an RC church of 1856 built to serve the Irish navvies and dock workers. The health centre is in the premises of the former East End Maternity Hospital (1889-1968) which originally occupied the house to the left of the clock.

Go left into West Arbour Street and right into Arbour Square.
Tower Hamlets College occupies a former school building of 1913.

Go right at East Arbour Street.
The corner property to the right was a private school 1849-59 and to the left building society premises. On the opposite side of Commercial Road are Albert Gardens built in the 1840s. Tower DIY was a pawnbrokers from 1865 until 1983 and the arched doorway in Head (formerly Heath) Street was the pledge department. Further along on the south side is the former Troxy Cinema built in Art Deco style in 1933 on the site of the Commercial Brewery. It closed in 1960 and is now a theatre and concert hall.

Detour left into White Horse Road.
The Half Moon Young People's Theatre occupies the fromer Limehouse District Board of Works offices of 1863. Further along the premises of the Green Coat Charity School (est 1710) were re-built in 1854 and extended in 1872. The school moved to Limehouse in 1970 and the building is now occupied by the Tower Project.

Return to Commercial Road and cross at the lights. Limehouse Stations are to the left but to continue the walk go ahead along Butcher Row.
To the left the Royal Foundation of St Katherine occupies the Georgian vicarage of St James's Church, destroyed by bombing. St Katherines was founded in 1147 by Queen Matilda but was moved from its original site for the construction of St Katherine's Dock in 1825.

Cross The Highway going into Narrow Street ahead and follow this to the left along the riverside.
At the entrance to Limehouse Basin, now used as a marina, is The Narrow (former Barley Mow pub). This was originally a Dockmaster's house but stands on the site of a brewery. Roy Square to the left has attractive courtyard gardens. Ahead is a triangle of open space with a herring gull sculpture. A terrace of early 18th century riverside houses includes the noted Grapes pub. On the foreshore nearby is an Anthony Gormley figure 'Old Father Thames'.

Go along the left hand side of the triangle
Number 27 is a former pub known as 'The House They Left Behind' when it was the only building in the Victorian terrace not to be demolished.

Enter the park (Ropemaker's Fields) and walk through to the left.
The Limehouse Link tunnel (constructed 1989-93) runs beneath.

At the Limehouse Cut go down to the towpath and follow this under the railway viaduct. Before the road bridge go up the steps into Newell Street and through the passage to St Anne's Church.
This is a huge, now gleaming white, church following cleaning under the LDDC. The restoration by Julian Harrap in 1983-93 added tubular steel trusses to support the roof and the surrounding grounds were also re-landscaped. It was built over a lengthy period and was not able to afford a rector until 6 years after it was completed. The church was gutted by fire on Good Friday in 1850. The churchwardens collected door to door to add to the 5000 insurance money and it was restored by Philip Hardwick and John Morris. It was restored again in 1891 by Sir Arthur Blomfield and after WWII bomb damage. It has one of the highest clocks in London so as to be visable from boats on the Thames. There is a curious pyramidal tomb to the west of the church and drawings in the British Library suggest Hawksmoor may have planned pyramids on the turrets.

Go around the east of the church
There is a former Limehouse Church Institute building of 1903-4 and a war memorial.

Exit into Commercial Road and go left.
On the corner with Salmon Lane is The Mission, built as a sailor's hostel in 1923-4. On the south side are the former Limehouse Town Hall (1879-81), the Passmore Edwards District Library (1901), the RC church of Our Lady Immaculate with St Frederick, an accumulator tower and some restored terraces.

Limehouse Stations are to the left.

london-footprints.co.uk 2014


Discover London Docklands A-Z Illustrated Guide by S K Al Naib
Docklands Heritage published by the LDDC
London Docklands - an architectural guide by Williamson & Pevsner
Historic Pubs of London by Ted Bruning
Time Out Book of London Walks Vol 2
Exploring the vanishing Jewish East End - a free walk leaflet produced by Tower Hamlets
Central Stepney History Walk by Tom Ridge
Mile End Old Town 1740-1780 by Derek Morris ISBN 0 9506258 3 3

Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives
277 Bancroft Road E1 4DQ. Tel: 020 7364 1290.

[booklist] [trails] [places to visit] [city farms] [walks list] [Hawksmoor churches]