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For other uses, see Shadwell (disambiguation).
Shadwell is located in Greater London
 Shadwell shown within Greater London
OS grid reference TQ355805
London borough Tower Hamlets
Ceremonial county Greater London
Region London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district E1
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament Poplar and Limehouse
London Assembly City and East
List of places

Coordinates: 51°30′26″N 0°02′48″W / 51.5071°N 0.0466°W / 51.5071; -0.0466

Shadwell is a district in East London, England, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, and located on the north bank of the Thames between Wapping and Ratcliff. It is located 3 miles (4.8 km) east of Charing Cross and forms part of the East End of London.



In the 13th century, the area was known as Scadflet and Shatfliet[1] – derived from the Anglo-Saxon fleot, meaning a shallow creek or bay – the land was a low lying marsh, until drained (by order of Act of Parliament, after 1587) by Cornelius Vanderdelf.[2] A spring, issuing from near the south wall of the churchyard was dedicated to St Chad, and filled a nearby well.[3] The origin of the name is therefore confused, being associated with both the earlier use and the later well. Shadwell was formerly called Chadwelle.[4]


A map showing the civil parish boundaries in 1870.
A map showing the Shadwell ward of Stepney Metropolitan Borough as it appeared in 1916.

In the 17th century, Thomas Neale became a local landowner, and built a mill and established a waterworks on large ponds, left by the draining of the marsh. The area had been virtually uninhabited and he developed the waterfront, with houses behind as a speculation.[2] Shadwell became a maritime hamlet with roperies, tanneries, breweries, wharves, smiths, and numerous taverns, built around the chapel of St Paul's. Seventy-five sea captains are buried in its churchyard; Captain James Cook had his son baptised there.

By the mid-eighteenth century, Shadwell Spa was established, producing sulphurous waters, in Sun Tavern fields. As well as medicinal purposes, salts were extracted from the waters; and used by local calicoprinters to fix their dyes.[5]

The modern area is dominated by the enclosed former dock, Shadwell Basin, whose construction destroyed much of the earlier settlement – by this time degenerated into slums.[2] The basin once formed the eastern entrance to the then London Docks, with a channel leading west to St Katharine Docks. It is actually two dock basins - the south basin was constructed in 1828-32 and the north basin in 1854-8.

Unlike nearby Limehouse Basin, few craft larger than canoes can be seen on Shadwell Basin, which is largely used for fishing and watersports - and as a scenic backdrop to the modern residential developments that line it. The basin, however, is still connected to the Thames and the channel is spanned by a bascule bridge.

In the 19th century, Shadwell was home to a large community of foreign South Asian lascar seamen, brought over from British India by the East India Company. There were also Anglo-Indians, from intermarriage and cohabitation between lascar seamen and local girls. There were also smaller communities of Chinese and Greek seamen, who also intermarried and cohabited with locals.[6][7]

Parish church[edit]

St Pauls Church can be clearly seen from the Thames

St. Paul's Shadwell with St. James Ratcliffe, is traditionally known as the Church of Sea Captains. In 1656 the church was established as a Chapel of Ease, from St Dunstan's, at Stepney. In 1669, it was rebuilt as the Parish Church of Shadwell, and it was the last of five parish churches rebuilt after the Restoration. In 1820, it was again rebuilt as a 'Waterloo church'.

Captain James Cook was an active parishioner and John Wesley preached in the church from time to time. Isham Randolph of Dungeness, one of Thomas Jefferson's grandfathers and son of William Randolph, was married in St. Paul's church. Father of Thomas Jefferson, Peter Jefferson and whose father Thomas Jefferson had and built his estate in Ablemarle County, Virginia's boyhood home was named Shadwell after the Shadwell parish.

Notable current and former residents of Shadwell[edit]

Shadwell North Basin. (January 2006)
  • Walter Pater (4 August 1839 – 30 July 1894) — essayist and critic
  • Jah Wobble, lived there from early 1980s to mid-1990s[8] — musician and writer


For details of education in Shadwell, see List of schools in Tower Hamlets.

Specifically local schools include Blue Gate Fields and Bigland Green Primary schools; and Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School.

Transport and locale[edit]

Nearest places

The nearest London Overground stations are Shadwell and Wapping and the Docklands Light Railway stations at Limehouse and Shadwell.

THCH Hop Festival[edit]

In 2006 local Housing Association, Tower Hamlets Community Housing (THCH) built a new block of flats in Shadwell, adjacent to the existing flats at the corner of Cable Street and Devonport Street, called Thirza House. It was opened by Mildred Gordon, a former Shadwell resident and MP for the area from 1987 to 1997. As part of the new development THCH built a hop garden.

Since 2007, THCH have held a Hop Festival every September in the hop garden to commemorate the hard work East Enders put in to harvest Kentish hops in the 19th and 20th centuries.

To accompany the Hop Festival, THCH have produced four souvenir booklets in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 of photos of East Enders harvesting the hops and sitting outside their hop huts. The booklets are available free from THCH at their offices at 285 Commercial Road, Stepney, London E1 2PS.[9]

In 2009 the Shadwell hops were harvested by the local residents and Brodies Brewery in Leyton used them to create a new beer called "Old Hopper's Brew". The beer sold out within a month.[10]

The 2010 hop harvest by local residents and staff from Brodies Brewery took place on Monday 20 September 2010.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Deeds: A.2501 - A.2600, A Descriptive Catalogue of Ancient Deeds: Volume 2 (1894), pp. 87-99 (Middlesex A2589, c. 1218) accessed: 26 August 2008
  2. ^ a b c Shadwell The Copartnership Herald, Vol. II, no. 23 (Christmas 1932-January 1933)accessed: 26 August 2008
  3. ^ Book 5, Ch. 3: Parishes east of the Tower, A New History of London: Including Westminster and Southwark (1773), pp. 769-772 accessed: 26 August 2008
  4. ^
  5. ^ Shadwell, The Environs of London: volume 3: County of Middlesex (1795), pp. 383-390 accessed: 26 August 2008
  6. ^ Fisher, Michael Herbert (2006), Counterflows to Colonialism: Indian Traveller and Settler in Britain 1600-1857, Orient Blackswan, pp. 106, 111–6, 119–20, 129–35, 140–2, 154–8, 160–8, 172, 181, ISBN 81-7824-154-4 
  7. ^ Fisher, Michael Herbert (2006), "Working across the Seas: Indian Maritime Labourers in India, Britain, and in Between, 1600–1857", International Review of Social History 51: 21–45, doi:10.1017/S0020859006002604 
  8. ^ Jah Wobble, Memoirs of a Geezer, p. 161-2.
  9. ^ Tower Hamlets Community Housing's newsletter "Update" - published October 2009
  10. ^ The Guardian Society - 22 September 2010

External links[edit]