Limehouse takes its name from the limekilns that operated from the mid-14th century, converting Kentish chalk into quicklime for the capital’s building industry. From the late 16th century ships were built at Limehouse and traders supplied provisions for voyages.

Wealthy merchants erected fine houses on Narrow Street, especially in the early 18th century. In 1730 Nicholas Hawksmoor built St Anne’s church just south of Commercial Road. London’s oldest canal, the Limehouse Cut, was constructed around 1770 to link the River Lea at Bow with the Thames here, thus saving a journey around the Isle of Dogs.