Canada Water

Canada Water, Southwark

A former Rotherhithe dock that became a regeneration zone

geograph-5035688-by-Peter - Canada Water

Cana­da Dock was con­struct­ed in 1876 on the site of two for­mer tim­ber ponds and was the first major scheme of the Sur­rey Com­mer­cial Docks Com­pa­ny, an amal­ga­ma­tion of for­mer rivals. The dock took its name from its spe­cial­i­sa­tion in Anglo-Cana­di­an trade.

The prox­im­i­ty of the East Lon­don Rail­way posed dif­fi­cul­ties for the builders, who used enor­mous amounts of con­crete to ensure that the line would nev­er be flood­ed. Huge new ware­hous­es were built along­side the new dock, each capa­ble of hold­ing 35,000 tons of grain.

In 1926 two neigh­bour­ing tim­ber ponds were replaced by Que­bec Dock, which was con­nect­ed to Cana­da Dock.

East of Low­er Road the Cana­da estate was built in 1962–4 on the site of a for­mer chem­i­cal works. It con­sists of five ‘courts’ of 4‑storey blocks – named Cal­gary, Edmon­ton, Man­i­to­ba, Nia­gara and Sco­tia – and two 21-storey tow­ers – Colum­bia Point and Regi­na Point – which are vis­i­ble cen­tre and left in the pho­to­graph above.*

In the ear­ly 1980s, fol­low­ing the pro­gres­sive clo­sure of the Sur­rey Docks and their rein­ven­tion as Sur­rey Quays, all of Que­bec Dock and most of Cana­da Dock were filled in. Sur­rey Quays shop­ping cen­tre cov­ered the bulk of the Cana­da Dock site and the Mast leisure park replaced the dock’s south­ern goods yard with a nine-screen cin­e­ma, bin­go, ten-pin bowl­ing and sev­er­al ‘for­mu­la’ restau­rants with an empha­sis on Amer­i­can cui­sine. The remain­ing north­ern por­tion of the dock was reduced in depth and reeds were plant­ed to encour­age water­fowl.

The Dai­ly Mail Group’s Harmsworth Quays print­ing works was built on the site of Que­bec Dock. Cana­da Water sta­tion opened in 1999, pro­vid­ing an inter­change between the East Lon­don line (now part of the Lon­don Over­ground net­work) and the new­ly-built Jubilee line exten­sion.

Next came a major regen­er­a­tion project that has turned Cana­da Water into “a new town cen­tre for Rother­hithe,” in a joint ini­tia­tive by South­wark coun­cil and British Land. In addi­tion to the usu­al mix of homes, com­mer­cial premis­es and a new pub­lic space, the scheme’s land­mark fea­ture is a library and cul­ture space that opened in 2012 and is shown in the pho­to below.

Hidden London: Canada Water library by night by Barney Moss

The Cana­da estate’s tow­ers have recent­ly been eclipsed by Bar­rat­t’s 26-storey Ontario Point – seen on the right in the pho­to­graph at the top – the only new build­ing in the regen­er­a­tion zone with any real height.

The for­mer Mul­ber­ry busi­ness park site is present­ly being rede­vel­oped by King’s Col­lege Lon­don to cre­ate 770 new stu­dent rooms, office space, afford­able hous­ing, retail units and a health care cen­tre.

Beyond the joys of the library and cul­ture space, the reborn Cana­da Water is by no means per­fect, though there are plans for fur­ther improve­ments and refur­bish­ment. In a high­ly favourable Observ­er review of the library’s archi­tec­ture, Rowan Moore said of the wider area’s rede­vel­op­ment: “The qual­i­ty most obvi­ous­ly lack­ing, apart from charm or delight, is coher­ence. You go from car park to reed bed to tin shed to a wood­en bridge redo­lent of old Hol­land, with­out appar­ent log­ic.”

Harmsworth Quays doubles as Elliot Carver’s printing works in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies.

Postal district: SE16
Station: Jubilee line and London Overground (zone 2)
Further reading: Evening Standard: Living in Canada Water
Website: Canada Water Campaign
* The picture entitled ‘Near Canada Water tube station’ at the top of this page is slightly modified from an original photograph, copyright Peter, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. The picture of Canada Water library by night is slightly modified from an original photograph, copyright Barney Moss, at Flickr, made available under the Attribution 2.0 Generic licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of those licences.