Heritage Locations

Limehouse Basin, London

Important centre of trans-shipment between sea going ships and the inland waterways.


Period of construction:
1800 - 1849

Transport Trust plaque:

Transport Mode:

Off Narrow Street, London E14 7JD

E14 7JD

Nearest Town:

Heritage Centre:

The Limehouse Basin in Limehouse, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, provides a navigable link between the Regent's Canal and the River Thames, through the Limehouse Basin Lock. A basin to the north of Mile End, near Victoria Park, connects with the Hertford Union Canal leading to the River Lee Navigation.

Built by the Regent's Canal Company, the dock originally covered an area of about 15 acres (60,703 m2) and was formerly known as Regent's Canal Dock. It was used by seagoing vessels and lighters to offload cargoes to canal barges, for onward transport along the Regent's Canal. Although initially a commercial failure following its opening in 1820, by the mid 19th century the dock (and the canal) were an enormous commercial success. A key cargo was coal for the numerous gasworks (and, latterly, electricity generating stations) along the canal, as well as for domestic and commercial use.

At one point it was the principal entrance from the Thames to the entire national canal network. Its use inevitably declined with the growth of the railways, although the revival of canal traffic during World War I and World War II gave it a brief swansong.

The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is carried on a viaduct originally built for the London and Blackwall Railway above the original wharves along the north side of the basin. Beyond these, the Commercial Road Lock leads to the Regent's Canal.

To the east of the canal entrance, behind a viaduct arch is the octagonal tower of a hydraulic accumulator, built in 1869 to replace an earlier and pioneering structure dating from the 1850s by the engineer and inventor, William George Armstrong. This regulated the hydraulic pressure of the extensive network of hydraulic mains around the basin supplying the coal-handling machinery. The associated steam raising plant and hydraulic pumps have now been removed, but the building now functions as a viewing platform. Owned by the British Waterways Board, it is a Grade II Listed Building and open every year during Open House Weekend (usually the third weekend in September).

The history of the connection of the Basin to the River Thames and the Limehouse Cut is complex, but in 1968, a short stretch of new canal was constructed to reconnect the Limehouse Cut to the Basin, replacing the Cut's old direct link with the Thames. It was closed to commercial traffic in 1969, with one quay at the Basin retained for the use of pleasure craft. The redevelopment of the Basin started in 1983 as part of the London Docklands Development Corporation's overall master plan for the Docklands area. However, the property boom and bust of the 1980s set back progress considerably, as did the construction of the Limehouse Link tunnel which was built under the north side of the basin in the early 1990s. By early 2004 the majority of the once derelict land surrounding the basin had been developed into luxury flats.


Atterbury, Paul, English Rivers and Canals, Weidenfeld Nicolson Illustrated, ISBN 0 297 78318 1 (1984)

Bartholomew, Nicholson Inland Waterways Map of Great Britain, Bartholomew, ISBN 978-00072 11173 (2006)

Boughey, Joseph, Hadfield's British Canals: the Inland Waterways of Britain and Ireland, Sutton Publishing, ISBN 978 18401 50247 (1998)

Boughey, J. and Hadfield, C., British Canals: A Standard History, The History Press, ISBN 978-07524 46677 (2008)

Burton, A., Waterways of Britain, Collins Willow, ISBN 0 00 218047 2 (1983)

Gladwin, D.D., A Pictorial History of Canals, Batsford, ISBN 0 7134 0554 6 (1977)

Pratt, D. Waterways Past and Present: A Unique Record of Britain's Waterways Heritage, Adlard Coles Nautical, ISBN 978-07136 76341 2006)

Pratt, F., Canal Architecture in Britain, Shire Publications, ISBN 978- 09032 18139 (1976)

Roberts, B., Britain's Waterways: A Unique Insight, GEOprojects, ISBN 978- 08635 11158 (2006)

Rolt, L.T.C., Inland Waterways of England, Allen & Unwin, ISBN-10: 0043860036 (1950)

Ware, M.E., Britain's Lost Commercial Waterways, Landmark Publishing ISBN 978-18430 61816 (2005) 

Opening Times:
Open at all times.

How To Find:

By road: , Off A13, Commercial Road - take either A101, Branch Road, or Basin Approach.

By train: Close to Limehouse Station on the DLR


Weather Feed currently unavailable.