Canary Wharf and One Canada Square: How it all started

Canary Wharf has become the UK’s biggest financial hub and one of the most iconic features in London’s famous skyline. But life in the Docks wasn’t always this way. Over 12,000 jobs were lost between 1978 and 1983 due to London’s shift away from the blue collar work. The Docks quickly declined from what used to be a thriving place of industry to a derelict land.

 This blog takes a look back at how Canary Wharf’s regeneration project started and the key moments along the journey that led to it being the success story we know it to be today.

The origins

The origins behind the name ‘Canary Wharf’ come from the quay where vegetables and fruits from the Canary Islands were unloaded. In 1981 Michael Heseltine, Secretary of State for the Environment under Margret Thatcher, had set up the ‘London Docklands Development Corporation’ to regenerate the Docklands area. However, due to financial constraints in 1987 Paul Reichmann’s company ‘Olympia & York’ took the driving seat.

It has been an adventurous journey for Canary Wharf over the past 30 years. The timeline below breaks down the main headlines.

The timeline

1988 - Construction

Olympia & York begin construction

1990 – Record height

One Canada Square becomes the tallest building in the UK standing at 770 feet

1991 – Banks move in

Heavyweight banks such as Morgan Stanley, HSBC, Citygroup, Credit Suisse First Boston and the Financial Service Authority (now known as the Financial Conduct Authority), all become the first tenants.

1992 – Property Crash

Olympia & York become bankrupt due to the ‘Property Crash’ and Canary Wharf is placed in administration.

1995 – Reichmann returns

Paul Reichmann buys Canary Wharf back from the Banks for £800m under the new company name of Canary Wharf Limited (now known as Canary Wharf Group), with the help of foreign investors from Saudi Arabia and America.

1999 – The Stock Market

The property market recovers and the company join the London Stock Market. More firms move to the Docks increasing the value of Canary Wharf.

2003 – Skyline develops

Various tall building projects are completed in Bank Street and Canada Square that makes up most of the skyline in Canary Wharf that we see today.

2004 – Songbird Estate takeover

Canary Wharf Group is taken over by Songbird Estates which is led by Morgan Stanley, ending Reichmann’s 20 year involvement with the project. With various tall building within Canada Square that makes up most of the skyline in Canary Wharf that we see today.

2010 – Higher heights

The Shard becomes the tallest building in the UK making One Canada Square the second tallest.

2014 – Crossrail plans

Canary Wharf begins plans to spread east with projections of the number of people living and working in the area set to double within a decade. Crossrail plan to run through Canary Wharf, boosting attraction as it looks to launch in 2018


Living in a Tower

Canary Wharf is one of London’s greatest success stories, with the interest around and within the area increasing at a rapid rate. Horizons Tower is just 1.3km away from Canary Wharf Station and with 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms available, you don’t want to miss out.

Also to mention central London is within easy reach, the local area boasts plenty to do. See famous acts at the O2, pop to the cinema, hang out in the parks and tropical gardens, see the Cutty Sark, visit museums, and much more. 

Contact us

For further details on owning a Shared Ownership apartment call 0203 815 1234, email us at