Class: Poor class, to Criminal
Limehouse takes its name from the lime pits in the area of the Limehouse basin and reach on the Thames. Frequently, this area is called the ‘Chinese District’ due to the number of Orientals that inhabit the area. Although the Chinese make up the majority of the immigrant population, there are sizable numbers of Indians, Burmese, Malay, Japanese, Arabs, and Africans that live here.
The housing here is cheap and mean; mainly flop houses for the sailors coming through London. Public houses are jammed between these hotels and the warehouses that fill the area. Shops abound and have signage in various Asian languages, and the facades of some of the buildings have been altered to present a more Chinese appearance. These shops sell the usual selection of cheap food and booze, but also have more exotic fare from their homelands. The smell of spices mixes with the stench of the river and the reek of coal-red boilers, and the sound of the neighbourhood is fanciful, with dozens of languages being spoken or shouted during the day. It doesn’t get much quieter at night. Limehouse is a place where one can find a Japanese tattoo artist, carpet purveyors from Syria and Turkey, Egyptian cosmetics dealers – half of whom have no shop, but do their deals in warehouses or out of street carts.
Like Wapping, the character of the area is shaped by the docks and the river. This is a commercial area, with shipping and warehousing, ceramics and mortuary services being the major occupation of the workers seen here. Much of the district is inhabited by the West India Docks in the Isle of Dogs in the southern portion of Limehouse. Work on the docks slows at night, but there are usually sailors wandering the streets looking for entertainment, stevedores working the night shift under gas lamps, and trains moving goods from the docks to their destinations via the Blackwall Railway.
The crime rate is very high in Limehouse, partly because the victims tend to be passing through the city and either need to leave too quickly to pursue legal options, are embarrassed by their business in the area, or simply will not be missed. The foreign populations in Limehouse tend to be insular. Instead of cooperating with police, when there is a matter that needs to be handled, it is handled though the various beneficent societies in the Chinese community. These tongs are both organized crime gangs and quasi-legitimate civic governments for the Chinese locals. On the legitimate side, these tongs also provide loans and aid to people in their community that are in need, so while the Chinese look to be dirty and destitute, few are truly down and out in the way that, for example, the Irish in Whitechapel are. They help bring in the opium, tea, spices, and other exotic goods into London. Many of the well-connected Chinamen have married Englishwomen, to better legitimize themselves, and this is true for nearly every tong boss.
The tongs also control the organized crime in Limehouse. Petty crimes like robbery and burglary, rape or murder, are not their concerns, so long at the victims are not Chinese (and sometimes, not even then). The real income for the tongs is in the drug trade. Opium dens are concealed behind the curtained windows of otherwise respectable shops, and the clientele is primarily Chinese, despite the hysterical news reports to the contrary. Internal disputes are handled by the bosses of the tongs, and trouble with outside gangs is dealt with swiftly and violently. One of the benefits of Limehouse is, of course, the lime pits. These can be used to discreetly dispose of bodies that might cause the tongs discomfort with the authorities.
The Isle of Dogs
The Isle of Dogs, while considered a different neighbourhood, is not different enough from Limehouse to justify much ink. The majority of the area is taken up with warehouses and the massive dockyards that have been carved out of this spit of land that curls south from Limehouse Cut to around to Blackwall Reach.
The docks from north to south are the collective the West India Docks; the import dock is most northerly, the export dock next, and the South dock is below that. These docks are joined to the river through locks out of Blackwall and Limehouse Reaches. Below Glengall Road is Millwall Dock. This is a privately owned dockyard that handles over ow traf c from the other yards in the city, but mainly handles vessels being oated by the Thames Iron Ship Building Company, which occupies most of the south most area of the Isle.
Chinese Mission House (1)
Limehouse has a Chinese mission house run by the Rev. George Piercey near the West India Docks, and this is the best insertion point into the Chinese neighbourhood. Piercey is trusted, as much as any gwaolo can be, and can be a remarkable aid in any business conducted in the district. This mission house is along Limehouse Cut, a canal that links the Thames with the River Lea and Regent’s Canal in Mile End.
Emmett Street (3)
Along the Emmett Street are the Chinese shops for the Londoner. Here one can purchase most any Oriental delicacy or object.
India Dock Street (2)
On India Dock Street, shops hawking Indian curries and spices, food and beer, furniture and art objects do quite well with those who have been out to the subcontinent.
- The House of the Wheel: Sanctum (Acknowledged) • Varda. A large lodging house in the middle of much of Limehouse's Indian population, the House of the Wheel is owned and operated by the cabal called Varda, the only multi-Order Vassal Cabal.