The section of London known as the Docklands has a rich and storied history that dates back to the time of the Roman occupation of England when London's location made it an ideal shipping hub. From early times the Thames river was humming with commerce and the expansion of services for shippers and their freight became quickly inevitable.
The original commercial ships which plied their trade on the Thames relied on tenders and other small boats to ferry cargo back and forth from the shore. This was an exceedingly dangerous method of loading and unloading large ships of heavy and bulky cargo and very much prone to theft from unscrupulous cargo handlers.
The Howland Great Dock was built in 1696 to help address some of the issues of security and space. It provided safe mooring for 120 commercial ships and proved a great success. Soon many companies began to build docks adjacent to their warehouses and the section of the river now known as the docklands was soon formed.
The original geography of the docklands was that of boggy marshland and as such was sparsely populated. As more and more docks were constructed more and more workers were required to load and unload the ships and man the warehouses. A number of small communities were formed consisting mainly of dock workers and their families and the few commercial services required to maintain them. As the requirements of companies and their employees grew the swamp-like marshes were eventually replaced with solid ground which rose from the soil excavated to make the numerous wet and dry docks an expanding port demanded.
At the height of its expansion the London Docklands was the largest and most active dockland in the world. However toward the middle of the 20th century demand for shipping which terminated in the center of London was on the decline. The majority of docks were closed by the early 70s and what was once a bustling center of activity became a deserted industrial wasteland and center for criminal activity. In the early 80s a government sponsored redevelopment plan was initiated and property that stood vacant for over a decade was now available to developers. However it was not until the late 1990s that the docklands began to hit their developmental stride with the construction of Britain's tallest building on Canary wharf and the completion of a light rail transportation system that finally provided public transportation to the area.
London has always been a changing and growing city and as it turned from industrial hub into cosmopolitan metropolis more land was required for residential use while at the same time other areas in the United Kingdom were becoming more attractive for shipping and commerce. It was only natural that this prime real estate so close to the center of England's largest and most desirable city would not be left unused for long. After the closure of most of the major docks and ports interest rose almost immediately in the repurposing of the docklands for residential use.
In modern London the docklands have become an attractive address for young people looking to own their first home or rent an affordable apartment not far from the city center. London docklands estate agents have no trouble finding tenants for new condominiums and apartments in an area that was once only associated with industry and lower class slums. The revitalization of this area surges forward unabated by economic ups and downs. What was once the least desirable and most pestilent real estate in England is now considered a fashionable place to own a home.