Heron Quays

Heron Quays, Tower Hamlets

Canary Wharf’s little sister was originally an eight-acre pair of quays but it has since been extended by a further three acres to connect with Canary Wharf at its eastern end

Heron Quays West
Heron Quays West [devel­op­ers’ CGI image]

Nar­row­er than the oth­er wharves of the West India Docks, Heron Quays (as it is now called) for­mer­ly sep­a­rat­ed the Export and South Docks. It was recon­fig­ured on sev­er­al occa­sions over the course of its work­ing life – in response to the increas­ing size of car­go ships and to take advan­tage of tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tions. There was a her­ring shed on the quay­side from around 1840. Ware­hous­es were lat­er built between the par­al­lel tracks of trav­el­ling cranes.

In the days of the docks, this man-made isth­mus did not have a name. Its north side was sim­ply the south quay of the Export Dock (not to be con­fused with the south quay of the South Dock, which has giv­en its name to the zone fur­ther south). Its south side was the north quay of the South Dock.

In an ear­ly chap­ter of the rede­vel­op­ment of the West India Docks, Tar­mac Brookglade Prop­er­ties drew up plans in 1981 for a mixed-use project that would cov­er this isth­mus. This mod­est £50 mil­lion scheme was tout­ed as the “jew­el in the crown” of Dock­lands regen­er­a­tion.

Hid­den Lon­don believes that some mar­ket­ing types at Tar­mac invent­ed the name ‘Heron Quays’ at the time this scheme was con­ceived. Per­haps their first thought was to call it ‘Her­ring Quays’ but then they decid­ed that ‘Heron Quays’ sound­ed bet­ter. Pos­si­bly the choice was influ­enced by the near­by pres­ence of Canary Wharf – an ornitho­log­i­cal name that did have his­tor­i­cal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion (through trade with the Canary Islands).

Only the first two phas­es of the Tar­mac scheme were com­plet­ed. These con­sist­ed of high-tech cab­ins with mono­pitch alu­mini­um-clad roofs and colour­ful enam­el pan­elling. Although gen­er­al­ly well received, the build­ings were not of the scale and grandeur of devel­op­ments that were tak­ing shape on neigh­bour­ing sites. The plan had been to cre­ate a “vil­lage of the future” at Heron Quays, with homes, shops and oth­er ameni­ties but the rest of the site remained emp­ty for more than a decade, main­ly owing to uncer­tain­ty in the prop­er­ty mar­ket.

In 2001 the Canary Wharf Group bought the site from Tar­mac and began work on the HQ project, also known as Canary Wharf South. The scheme con­sists of five office blocks, of which the three tallest are around 500 feet high. Ten­ants include Mor­gan Stan­ley and Clif­ford Chance. Heron Quays sta­tion was rebuilt beneath the HQ2 podi­um, with an under­ground link to the Jubilee Line sta­tion via a shop­ping cen­tre called Jubilee Place, above which Jubilee Park was laid out around a mod­er­ate­ly pleas­ing water fea­ture.

To the west, a set of inter­linked office tow­ers (shown in the artist’s impres­sion above) will soon begin to rise. The scheme is called Heron Quays West.

To prove the viability of the proposed City Airport, Captain Harry Gee landed a Brymon Dash 7 on the quay in June 1982.

Postal district: E14
Station: Docklands Light Railway, Lewisham branch (zone 2)


View larger OpenStreetMap