West India Quay is a part of the London docks lined with 19th-century warehouse buildings, and what you might not have spotted when walking past to the bars or the Museum of London Docklands, is the shopping centre inside.
It was one of the last parts of the London Docklands Development Corp (LDDC) sites to be developed, with work starting in 1996 — long after the main towers had started to go up, and only a couple of years before the LDDC itself was due to be wound-up.
The buildings have a dark history though, as the warehouses on West India Quay became known as Blood Alley, because the sugar in the sacks unloaded by dockers scratched their backs so badly that they bled. That’s long in the past, and rather than bleeding backs, the main thing people see are the long lines of restaurants facing the docks, the buildings themselves are mainly occupied by offices.
And the little-noticed shopping centre.
It seems today to be a place for small services, a bar that can’t fit out with the rest of the restaurants, a local newsagent, and the estate offices.
It’s mostly though a short-cut from one side of the building to the other.
While it’s not exactly a shopping destination anymore, it’s worth visiting just to see the interior of the building. Built in 1802-3, the interior still retains its warehouse appearance, with large solidly heavy wooden beams supporting the floors above, and heavy stone blocks protecting the wooden beams from impact.
There’s a modest model of the estate down in the basement, but otherwise, it’s reminiscent of a smaller version of Tobacco Dock.
You wouldn’t come here to go shopping, but you would come here to look at everything other than the shops – so the next time you’re heading to the Museum of London Docklands, pop inside for a look.