A Brief History of Canary Wharf

Written on Tuesday, 02 August 2016


Canary Wharf is one of the UK’s main financial centres and home to the European Headquarters of numerous major banks including Barclays, Credit Suisse and HSBC. But it’s not always been this way. In 1802 this part of London was one of the busiest shipping ports in the world and the heart of the British Empire. Read more about the interesting history of Canary Wharf and why it is a great hub for business now:

1802 – 1939: Canary Wharf was one of the busiest docks in the world, named after the sea trade of fruit and vegetables with the Canary Islands.

1960 – 1980: The port industry declines and all docks are closed by 1980.

1981: Margaret Thatcher’s Secretary of State for the environment, Michael Heseltine set up the Docklands Development Corporation to try and regenerate the area.

1987: Canary Wharf is created by Paul Reichmann, Canadian property tycoon after being approached by Michael Heseltine. Paul Reichmann had already developed a similar project in New York City and agreed generous tax breaks with Margaret Thatcher beforehand. 

1988: Construction of Canary Wharf begins.                      

Canary Wharf Construction

1990: Britain’s tallest building at the time, One Canada Square, measuring 244m was the first to emerge from the docks. This was the UK’s tallest building until it was surpassed by The Shard in 2010. 


1991: Tenants started occupying Canary Wharf including Morgan Stanley, HSBC, Citigroup and Credit Suisse First Boston. Over the years’ other businesses including newspapers the Telegraph and the Independent joined the banks in the east in 2005.

1992: Unfortunately Canary Wharf was placed into administration due to Olympia & York filing for bankruptcy after the property crash. 

1995: Paul Reichmann rallies together a group of investors to buy Canary Wharf back from the banks including Saudi Arabia’s Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal and the American media mogul Larry Tisch.

2004: Canary Wharf was bought over by Songbird Estates backed by Morgan Stanley investment bank ending Reichmann’s 20-year involvement with the project.

2014: Planning permission was granted for a major eastwards expansion of Canary Wharf. This included 30 buildings comprising of shops, offices and residential premises over 4.9 million square feet due to be completed in 2018.

Panoramic Canary Wharf2

Nowadays Canary Wharf continues to rapidly expand and it’s not expected to slow down any time soon. Do you want to be part of the buzz of Canary Wharf? Get in touch to arrange a viewing of the office space at Orega Canary Wharf.  



Canary Wharf, London, Serviced Office, industry insights

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