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Whats in Wapping

Pirates: The Captain Kidd Story at Docklands Museum

Pirates: The Captain Kidd Story at Docklands Museum

Pirates: The Captain Kidd Story opens at the Museum of London Docklands tomorrow, running until 30 October 2011.

The exhibition has a strong Wapping connection throughout and finishes with Captain Kidd’s death at Execution Dock on 23 May 1701 after he was found guilty of murder and piracy.

It is fantastic to see Wapping history at every corner and curator Tom Wareham told us “Wapping is amazingly underwritten considering how important it is”.

There are over 170 exhibits including a real pirate flag, a gibbet cage, the Admiralty Oar, cannons, maps, Kidd’s last letter with promises of hidden treasure and even a Vivienne Westwood outfit from her 1981 ‘Pirates’ collection.

But what really caught our eye? Wapping of course!

Captain Kidd and Wapping

Mention Captain Kidd in Wapping today and our first thought is usually the fantastic riverside pub in Wapping High Street near the Thames River Police Headquarters and museum.

But Captain Kidd was London’s most famous pirate and Wapping was a seriously significant place on the map in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Captain Kidd and WappingThe Wapping theme runs throughout the exhibition and we particularly loved the wall with an artists impression showing how different Wapping looked in 1700.

You’re invited to peep through the tiny doors and windows to see an 18th century pirate view of Wapping and the only thing we thought might be missing was the dirt.

The Turk’s Head in Wapping (1937)

Image Turks HeadThe most surprising of the 170 exhibits was a picture of the Turks Head in Wapping by artist Arthur Pitts before it was demolished in 1937.

The narrative beneath the painting told us:

“According to tradition, Kidd was allowed a final drink at this tavern before facing the hangman. It stood close to Execution Dock and the costs of Kidd’s execution included the sum of 19s (about £30 today) ‘paid at a tavern in Wapping’ before the execution”.

Everyone knows and loves Wapping’s Turks Head Café but another Turks Head?

In Wapping?

We also learnt that Execution Dock is further from the Captain Kidd pub than we had always thought.

We’ll be taking a closer look at the maps and pictures from the museum and will be speaking to our History of Wapping Trust for their thoughts on the exact locations.

The Admiralty Oar

After searching high and low for two years, the team at the museum eventually traced the whereabouts of the Admiralty Oar and it was found in a locked cupboard in the Lord Chancellors Department.

This solid sliver oar would have been carried in front of Captain Kidd by the Admirality Deputy Marshall on horseback on Kidd’s way to Execution Dock in Wapping. The blade bears the arms of James Stuart, Duke of York, the Lord High Admiral from 1660 to 1665.

Image Admiralty OarPictured above, curator, Tom Wareham placing the gleaming Admiralty Oar into a secure glass case at the Museum of London Docklands yesterday.

The myths and mysteries of pirates

“The story of Captain Kidd helped create much of the pirate mythology we’ve known and loved since the Golden Age of piracy” says Hilary Davidson, Curator Fashion and Decorative Arts at the museum.

Image Pirates The Captain Kidd StorySo the Pirates exhibition ends in the present day showing how the legend of Captain Kidd’s buried treasure has inspired almost all pirate fiction since his death.

Pirates are everywhere. Despite their danger, they have lost most of their violent and cruel associations turning into Captain Pugwash, Jack Sparrow and the family friendly Pirates of the Caribbean.

Image Pirates TodayThe ending of present day Pirates presents us with a huge selection of the cuddly toys, books and films we now see everywhere and there are plenty of pirate goodies in the museum shop too.

Was Captain Kidd Guilty?

The Captain Kidd Story starts with a short dramatic video asking questions and inviting you to search for answers as you move through the exhibition.

Kidd always protested his innocence and claimed the papers proving it were stolen just before his trial.  After seeing all the evidence on display you’re asked to decide if Kidd was guilty by putting a chip into one of the two boxes at the exhibition exit.

Pirates at the Museum of London Docklands

Book in advance for “Pirates: The Captain Kidd Story” which is open daily from 10am to 6pm. Entry costs £7 for adults and £5 for children but there are group discounts and advance bookings to make it cheaper. See www.museumoflondon.org.uk/pirates for more information

General admission to the Museum of London Docklands is free.

To reach the museum from Wapping, jump on the D3 bus or take the DLR from Shadwell to West India Quay or Canary Wharf.

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  • Captain Kidd

    Thank you for mentioning the anniversary of my execution – the fact is, I was framed, I never done it, I wasn’t even there.  Be sure I will return to haunt the stews and alleys of Wapping and continue my dastardly ways … nyah hah hah!