The old West India Docks were a series of three docks built in the early nineteenth century. The first dock opened in 1802. The docks closed to commercial traffic in 1980 and the Canary Wharf development was built on the site as seen in the photo.
Robert Milligan (c. 1746-1809) was largely responsible for the construction of the West India Docks. Milligan was a wealthy West Indies merchant and ship-owner. He managed his family’s Jamaica sugar plantations which meant in those days the shameful use of slaves to farm those plantations. Unfortunately at his death, the Slave Trade Act of 1807 only abolished the trading in slaves and not slavery itself in the British Empire. That would take more Acts throughout the nineteenth century in Great Britain before slavery was fully abolished in statute.
After the closure of the upstream enclosed docks, the area was regenerated as part of the London Docklands scheme which is now home to the developments of Canary Wharf, although what remains of the docks remain open to ships and are now effectively protected from future major change by UK and London Government policy.
The construction programme for Canary Wharf began in 1988 owned by the international property firm Olympia and York of Canada and the first buildings were completed in 1991 which included One Canada Square that became the UK’s tallest building and a symbol of the regeneration of Docklands. Ironically in the early 90s, the London commercial property market collapsed exacerbated by New York’s real estate market going into recession which resulted in Olympia and York filing for bankruptcy.