Found by the Tower Hamlets archive is a promotional video from 1988 for the Canary Wharf and Docklands development.

It’s very of its time — with 1980s style corporate video music which seems to be trying to be exciting without ever quite leaving the land of cheesy.

What’s interesting though is what the people in 1988 though Docklands would be.

Some subtle changes — such as how it’s seemly pronounced as “dock LANDS”, whereas today most people say a very truncated dockl’nds. And listen out for references to the EEC, as the EU was called at the time.

There’s a lot of talk about the communications revolution, with images of the Woolwich and Isle of Dogs satellite dish networks — both long since demolished as unnecessary thanks to improving broadband connections.

Talking of which, Docklands included video-calling for office workers. Only took 30 years for that to become a mainstream reality.

The East London Rover Crossing will promote road connections — except that it was never built, and south of the river, lots of talk about a new shopping centre at Surrey Docks, as it was called at the time. Since renamed Surrey Quays by the wish of the shopping centre.

Another exciting shopping centre is Tobacco Dock, and well, that worked out well didn’t it.

I suspect that the video is aimed at US investors, as there are references to churches and private hospitals, which are something I have seen often in American marketing documents and seems out of place in a UK promotion.

Around the 13-14 minute mark is also something rare – fleeting images of the original Canary Wharf DLR station before it was demolished to build the current much larger station.

The video starts about 50 seconds in – so skip ahead if you want for 14 minutes of 1980s nostalgia.


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  1. Brian Butterworth says:

    I used to love going to work at the BT London Teleport! It took SO LONG to get to North Woolwich station from Central London – either on the train or by black cab – that it felt like a day out.

    I think the London Teleport closed not because of “improving broadband connections” but because the success of dockLands meant it was no longer the deserted radiowave-free satellite communications sensible placement of 1988.

    All of the satellite uplinking (still used for Sky and Freesat to this day) moved to Madley earth station in Herefordshire, as the SDH (Synchronous digital hierarchy) network allowed easy, reliable digital communications from anywhere in the UK.

  2. Annabel Smyth says:

    It was very badly hit by the recessions of the mid-1980s. In about 1987-88 my daughter, then a child, and I used to buy one-day travelcards and head out to Canary Wharf on the DLR. Canary Wharf was very empty then – there were basically a couple of sandwich shops and that was it. But we could then get a free shuttle bus out to London City Airport, although there was very, very seldom a plane taking off or landing. We used to be able to buy a drink and sit in the restaurant there overlooking the runway! Those were the days….

  3. John says:

    Thanks Ian, great video! I always remember that when the DLR first operated that the train which was fully automated would stop at stations for a minute or so even if it not yet operational. Sadly, Tobacco Wharf was a great disappointment when it opened as a kind of east end Covent Garden, not well integrated with its surroundings and an odd collection of up-market type stores, yet the warehouse building was so remarkable architecturally.

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