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Wapping Beach on the River Thames in London

Wapping Beach is a stretch of the Thames foreshore in Wapping, that is exposed at low tide. It was the site of Execution Dock for more than 400 years, where pirates, smugglers and other maritime criminals were executed. This post contains everything you need to know about visiting Wapping Beach.

Wapping Beach
Wapping Beach. Photograph by Olivia Herlihy

Location of Wapping Beach

Wapping Beach runs alongside Wapping Wall and Wapping High Street. The nearest station is Wapping on the London Overground

The map below shows Wapping Beach, with the locations of four sets of stairs leading down onto the foreshore (marked in purple).

Stairs onto the Thames Foreshore

In the 18th century, this part of London was filled with narrow alleyways and stairs down to the river Thames, many of which still exist.

Below is a list of access points onto Wapping Beach, but I have only included the ones which are open, and in reasonably good condition. These are the same stairs that are marked on the map above.

Stairs Details
Pelican Stairs These stairs are located directly next to The Prospect of Whitby pub. They are in good condition, and are the easiest way to access Wapping Beach.
New Crane Stairs These stairs are at the end of Wapping High Street, where it meets with Garnet Street. They are in good condition, although there are a few large stones to jump over at the bottom.  They are also quite steep and slippery.
Wapping New Stairs These stairs are next to Waterside Gardens.  At the bottom of the stairs is an iron ladder down to the foreshore.  I would use them as a last resort.
Wapping Old Stairs These stairs are directly next to the Town of Ramsgate pub.  I found there was a large jump at the bottom of the stairs onto the Thames foreshore.
New Crane Stairs
New Crane Stairs. Photograph by Olivia Herlihy
Bottom of Wapping Old Stairs
Bottom of Wapping Old Stairs. Photograph by Olivia Herlihy

History of Wapping Beach

When the Romans first arrived in London, the area of Wapping was just marshland with small islands. By medieval times, there were water mills along the banks of the Thames in Wapping, and by 1746 (according to John Rocque’s map), Wapping was a busy area of wharves, taverns and cottages.

There are far more staircases on this side of the river compared to the south side. These staircases provided a way for sailors and fishermen to access the taverns on the riverside. Today, only two of the original taverns still exist: the Town of Ramsgate, and The Prospect of Whitby, which are among the oldest riverside pubs in London.

This stretch of the Thames was also once the site of Execution Dock where, for over 400 years, maritime criminals were hanged. The most famous prisoner to be executed at Execution Dock was the pirate Captain Kidd who was sentenced in 1701. The last executions took place on the site in 1830.

Wapping Beach
Wapping Beach. Photograph by Olivia Herlihy

Mudlarking on Wapping Beach

Wapping is an interesting place to go mudlarking. It is quite secluded, and when I visited I was the only one there. Wapping Beach contains The Prospect of Whitby Beach, which is directly behind the pub, so occasionally you see pub goers on the beach at the eastern end.

If you are going mudlarking in Wapping, I recommend using Pelican Stairs, next to The Prospect of Whitby pub. I’ve found the other stairs along this stretch to be slippery and steep. Also, some of the stairs have a large drop at the bottom onto the riverbed. By comparison, Pelican Stairs are much safer.

Some interesting discoveries have been found in Wapping. One of my favourite authors, Lara Maiklem has found 19th century dolls’ house furniture along this stretch, as well as counterfeit 18th century coins, a knuckleduster, and a samurai sword. Other mudlarks have found shackle-style handcuffs, buttons, and little bits of pottery.

In 2022 mudlarkers discovered an unexploded grenade from the second world war on Wapping Beach. The grenade had been buried in the river mud. Tower Hamlets Police had to carry out a controlled explosion after closing off the beach.


Below are some of the photographs I took on Wapping Beach. There are more images in my post on The Prospect of Whitby Beach, which is the section of Wapping Beach by Pelican Stairs.

Other Beaches on the River Thames

Below is a list of other beaches on the river Thames in London

Useful Posts for Mudlarks

If you are interested in mudlarking, you may find the following posts helpful.

This Post Was About Wapping Beach on the River Thames in London

Thank you for reading my post about Wapping Beach. Wapping is one of the best places in east London to go mudlarking. As well as being an area with a rich history, you also get stunning views of Canary Wharf, and some great historic pubs to stop for lunch. This beach is completely covered at high tide, so make sure to check the tide times before you go.