The station occupies the north end of the former Thames foot tunnel built by Marc Isambard Brunel between 1825–1843, and subsequently adapted for railway traffic. Access to the station is by lift or a flight of stairs built into one of the original access shafts of the Thames Tunnel. The station was originally opened as the northern terminus of the East London Railway on 7 December 1869 (the picture above denotes a train entering Wapping station from the tunnel) as Wapping and Shadwell, and the station was renamed Wapping on 10 April 1876, when the line was extended northwards to Liverpool Street, via a new station at Shadwell. The earliest trains were provided by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, whose system connected with the line at New Cross Gate. The area was first settled by Saxons, from whom it takes its name (meaning literally "[the place of] Wæppa's people"). It developed along the embankment of the Thames, hemmed in by the river to the south and the now-drained Wapping Marsh to the north. This gave it a peculiarly narrow and constricted shape, consisting of little more than the axis of Wapping High Street and some north-south side streets. John Stow, the 16th century historian, described it as a "continual street, or a filthy strait passage, with alleys of small tenements or cottages, built, inhabited by sailors' victuallers".
Wapping's proximity to the river gave it a strong maritime character for centuries, well into the 20th century. It was inhabited by sailors, mastmakers, boat-builders, blockmakers, instrument-makers, victuallers and representatives of all the other trades that supported the seafarer. Wapping was also the site of 'Execution Dock', where pirates and other water-borne criminals faced execution by hanging from a gibbet constructed close to the low water mark. Their bodies would be left dangling until they had been submerged three times by the tide. The Bell Inn, by execution dock, was run by Samuel Batts. His daughter, Elizabeth, married James Cook in 1762 at Barking, after the Royal Navy captain had stayed at the Inn. The couple initially settled in Shadwell, attending St Paul's church, but later moved to Mile End. Although they had six children together, much of their married life was spent apart, with Cook absent on his voyages and, after his murder in 1779 at Kealakekua Bay, she survived until 1835. Said to be England's first, the Marine Police Force was formed in 1798 by magistrate Patrick Colquhoun and a Master Mariner, John Harriott, to tackle theft and looting from ships anchored in the Pool of London and the lower reaches of the river. Its base was (and remains) in Wapping High Street and it is now known as the Marine Support Unit. The Thames Police Museum, dedicated to the history of the Marine Police Force, is currently housed within the headquarters of the Marine Support Unit, and is open to the public by appointment. In 1811, the horrific Ratcliff Highway murders took place nearby at The Highway and Wapping Lane.
NOTE: This station has narrow platforms. Beware! The East London Line closed on 22 December 2007, and reopened on 27 April 2010 when it became part of the new London Overground system. During this time the station was heavily refurbished. The proposed extension of the East London Line raised concerns that the station would have to be closed due to its platforms being too short (only four cars long) to accommodate the new rolling stock planned for the extended line (which could be six or eight cars long). The narrowness of the platforms was also a concern. The station does not fully meet the safety standards for an underground station but is permitted to operate under a derogation from Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate. Despite this, on 16 August 2004 then-Mayor of London Ken Livingstone announced that the station would remain open. East London Line Mondays to Saturdays there is a service every 5–10 minutes throughout the day, while on Sundays before 13:00 there is a service every 5–9 minutes, changing to every 7–8 minutes until the end of service. Current off peak frequency is: 8 northbound to Highbury & Islington. 8 northbound to Dalston Junction. 4 southbound to Clapham Junction via Peckham Rye. 4 southbound to Crystal Palace. 4 southbound to New Cross. 4 southbound to West Croydon. The station is in Travelcard Zone 2 and has wi-fi, payphones, lifts and help points but no toilets.
Connections: London Buses routes 100 and D3 serve the station.