Wednesday 26 January 2011


My brother in law works in the field of valuing, buying and selling land and property. During the years of the Docklands redevelopment, the firm in which he is employed was involved in a lot of multi-million pound land deals; some of which were John's responsibility! If it were me, I don't think I'd sleep at night.

This was one of his deals. The land on which this building now stands sold for over £40,000,000! I can't quite get my head round numbers that big.

The original London docks were built throughout the 19th century to cope with the fast growing demand for space, partly from overseas trade, but also from coastal trade; particularly of coal, needed to heat the houses of the fast growing population of the city. Rival companies competed for the trade; notably the West and East India Dock Companies, Surrey Commercial Docks Company and St Katharine Docks Company. If we could have stood on Tower Bridge around 1790, we would have seen hundreds of ships and thousands of tons of cargo moving up and down the river on a daily basis.

This particular body of water is the West India Docks.

This is what the area looked like in 1962; West India Docks from the air, showing the warehouses and rail network. If you look carefully, you can see the cranes unloading the docked ships.

Aerial view of West India Docks, London, June 1962. (1895-42952 / 10457562 © Science and Society)

Some of the cranes have been preserved as a kind of artistic memorial to the history of the area. Now they stand juxtaposed with the new commercial structures, and somewhat dwarfed by them!


  1. As always, a fascinating historical saunter through an area I have not visited for years and years. As for the £40,000,000 : thats only a couple of years of bonus payments for the chaps who inhabit such buildings now.

  2. We are an odd people, aren't we? Real estate along the waterfront is some of the most expensive over here too. I love that 2nd photo for so many reasons.

  3. Similar to what you have featured here, Cape Town has its 'Victoria & Alfred Waterfront', a thriving little 'city within a city'. It was started as a redevelopment of the historic Victoria and Alfred Basins (docklands), and has grown exponentially into a flourishing/thriving mixed-use area with a focus on retail, tourism and residential developments and with the continued operation of its working harbour, also much like the Docklands development you've shown here...and also with a hefty price-tag attached to any waterfront property!

  4. I used to work in Canary Wharf. What a blast from the not too distant past to read this and see your photos, thank you. I dealt with huge numbers like your brother in law, though not in the same field, and all you do is take things seriously but not really think about all the noughts!

  5. Looks a bit grey there, but so it is here. Trouble with sea and lakes, they make clouds. We love your little blogs especially the photos. Keeps us connected with good old Europe. At least, we think England's in Europe. Cheers from Penticton!
    It is Helene isn't it?