Once a swampy bit of estuary, the Isle of Dogs opened its first docks in 1802. London was the busiest port in the world, and the majority of the city’s grain and timber came through these parts. By the start of the twentieth century, the population had grown from just a couple of hundred to 21,000.
Despite heavy bombing in WWII, business continued to boom until the ’60s, when the docks dealt with a record-breaking 60 million tons of cargo in a year. But by the ’70s, a shift towards shipping containers had moved UK docks to the coast. This photo was taken from Greenwich by local Kevin Wood in the mid-’80s, after the last wharves had closed, leaving many islanders facing an uncertain future.
By then, plans were already afoot to give the area a major facelift. The London Docklands Development Corporation was founded to create a new financial centre, filling the area with yuppies clutching brick-sized mobile phones, and skyscrapers such as One Canada Square completely transformed the skyline of ‘the Island’.
In 2018 Kevin Wood returned to the same spot in Greenwich Park to capture the view over the Isle of Dogs, more than 30 years later. Where there had once been derelict docks, there were 16 buildings, each over 60 metres tall, and loads more major skyscrapers in the process of being built. Who knows what the view will look like in another three decades’ time?
For more unique looks at London life, sign up here to get Time Out features straight to your inbox.