Study Guides

A Short History of London

London offers the most impressive example of the juxtaposition of architecture which reflects its colourful history.


The Romans

London as we know it today was founded when the Romans invaded in 43 AD and settled by the Thames, building a wooden bridge near to where London Bridge stands today.

There was soon a flourishing city called Londinium in the area where The Monument now stands. In AD 60, London was burnt to the ground by the forces of Queen Boudicca of the Iceni tribe, when she led a major revolt against Roman rule. The Procurator, Gaius Julius Alpinus Classicianus rebuilt the city after Boudicca’s rebellion and promoted London trade. Parts of his monumental tombstone have been dug-up and are on display in the British Museum.

London began to develop as a major Roman town.  Pagan worship flourished within the cosmopolitan city. A temple to the mysterious Eastern god Mithras, was found at Bucklersbury House and is displayed nearby. Amongst other major sites built at this time, St Paul s now stands on the site of a Temple of Diana.

London grew and by AD 200, the administration of Britain was divided in two. York became the capital of Britannia Inferior & London of Britannia Superior. Around the same time the city also acquired its famous walls (probably about 20ft high).

Details of late Roman London, and Britain as a whole, are few. Christianity appears to have reached the province at an early date and, only a year after the religion became officially tolerated in the Empire, London had its own Bishop, Restitutus, who is known to have attended the Imperial Council of Arles.

Vikings and The Dark Ages

Not surprisingly, little is known of London during the Dark Ages. The city was largely ruinous; although one Roman house has been excavated suggesting settlements and some trade activity.

When Anglo-Saxon settlers first moved into Britain in the 450s, they quickly began to divide Britain up into numerous petty kingdoms. The area within the old Roman walls was left almost wholly deserted, though there may have been an Essex Royal Palace somewhere nearby. Soon after the arrival of Christianity in the Saxon parts of Britain in 597, however, King Aethelbert of Kent built the first St. Paul’s Cathedral within the Ludgate, supposedly replacing a pagan Saxon temple

By the 640s, a trading settlement began to establish itself west of the city walls in what is now the Strand and Charing Cross. This naturally advantageous position had the added political benefits of being on the boundary of a number of kingdoms. Lundenwic, as the area had become known by the 670s, grew into a thriving emporium. Saxon timberwork has been discovered reinforcing the Strand Embankment, while wooden homes stood to the north.

Attacks from Viking Raiders started in earnest around Britain in the 830s and it wasn’t long before they moved on London. There were attacks in 842 & 851. By 878 though, King Alfred the Great had become King of all the English and forced the Viking leaders to sue for peace. With the Roman walls repaired and the ditch recut, Alfred handed the city over to Ealdorman Aethelred of Mercia. The latter established Aethelred’s Hythe (Queenhythe) and Billingsgate Market and a new street system began to emerge.

Upon Aethelred’s death in 911, London came under the direct control of the English Kings. Through the 920s, the city became the most important commercial centre in England with eight moneyers within its streets. Contemporary writers speak of exotic international trade. There were markets at West (Cheapside) & East Cheap and much industry has been excavated in the form of decorative metalwork and weavers’ loomweights. London became a political focus too.

King Aethelstan held many Royal Councils in London and issued laws from the city, but the place also had its own government. The busy city was full of small wooden houses.

King Aethelred the Unready favoured London as his capital. It was during his reign that Viking raids returned and were soon transformed into a purposeful campaign to overrun Britain. The Londoners resisted the forces of King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark in 994 and numerous attacks followed. By 1013, the Dane was besieging the English King in London itself, and Aethelred was forced to flee abroad. Sweyn died the following year, but his son, Canute, continued to lead the Viking armies and overran the city.

King Aethelred died two years later and was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral. His son, Edmund Ironside, continued to try to hold back the invaders. Edmund escaped from London, but later defeats forced him to share the country with Canute. Within months though, Edmund was dead and the Dane established himself as sole King of England.

In 1042, Canute’s step-son, King Edward the Confessor of the old Saxon line, was invited to take up the throne of England. Edward was a very pious man and is best known for re-founding the great Abbey at Westminster, along with the adjoining palace. Construction work was completed in 1066, only weeks before Edward’s death. He was buried in his new foundation.

The Normans and the Medieval Period

Edward had no clear heir, and his cousin, Duke William of Normandy, claimed that he had been promised the English throne, a position supposedly confirmed by the citizens of London. The Royal Council, however, met in the city and elected the dead King’s brother-in-law, Harold as King. He was crowned in Westminster Abbey and William invaded England soon afterward. London sent a large force of men to the ensuing Battle of Hastings to fight for Harold, They were not victorious.

After his victory at the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror’s army ravaged much of the country in order to beat the English into submission. Though he burnt Southwark, he strategically avoided London and waited at Berkhamsted for the city’s officials to recognise him as King. The Londoners quickly acquiesced, London’s new status meant it was answerable only to the King and enjoyed his full protection,  The King built the Tower of London at the watergate on the western edge of the city wall, not only to observe and intimidate the most important city in his new realm, but also to protect it..

London prospered but in 1087, the city was devastated by a great fire and St. Paul’s was burnt to the ground (though it was soon rebuilt).

The corporation of the City of London predates even England’s parliament and is based on the French model, with the ”maire” at its head. The first record of a London mayor, Henry FitzAilwyn, is not until 1193. His term of office was to last until his death in 1212. Some aldermen, particularly those with major land holdings, were especially powerful and held great influence in the choice of the mayor. It is clear that from Edward I’s reign, the aldermen formed the prime decision-making group and from this group the mayor has always been chosen.

The Lord Mayor’s Show derives from the original ‘ridings’ to Westminster, to obtain approval from the monarch or his minister for the people’s choice of mayor. This election had been instituted as a result of King John’s charter in 1215, which gave Londoners the right to choose their own leader.

The Magna Carta gave responsibility to both the Mayor of London and FitzWalter for upholding the terms of the charter and thus protecting the liberties of the city.

The reigns of Henry III and Edward I mark a period of unrest in London, during which more than one mayor was removed from power and replaced by a royal warden. The crowded city clustered along the riverbank, with a small settlement across the river in Southwark.

Being so cramped, the city was regularly devastated by fire.. In 1312 the Inns of Court and Chancery: hostels for barristers and students  were established, which took on the role of a University in the city. The four most ancient are the Inner (1312) and Middle Temple (1320), Lincoln’s (c.1348) and Gray’s (1370) Inn..

Perhaps the most significant construction work of the medieval period was the replacement of the early wooden bridges by ‘Old London Bridge’, built entirely of stone and normally dated from King John’s reign. Having taken 30 years to complete, it was to last until 1832, when it was finally taken down.

During the 12th century, Westminster increased in importance, culminating in the building of the great Norman palace there, of which the magnificent Westminster Hall still remains today. Westminster also became the home of the royal courts of justice and the exchequer. Later, the parliaments were to meet regularly in the chapter house of the Abbey and then in St Stephen’s Chapel at the palace. The medieval Kings of England also held the Palace of Sheen, first erected in Richmond in the reign of Edward III. It was the favourite home of King Richard II and his queen, Anne of Bohemia, died there. Edward IV and his brother Richard III are known to have lodged at Baynard’s Castle and, though Henry VII later made a permanent home there, subsequent monarchs always lived outside the city walls.

The Church held great influence in the Medieval City of London, as evidenced by its architecture. The Guildhall, the only great civic building, built in its present form in the early 15th century, was surrounded by outstandingly beautiful church buildings. Old St. Paul’s, with its vast wooden steeple (destroyed by lightning in 1561), was believed to be the greatest cathedral in Europe. Other medieval churches in the city of London include the once-vast Priory and hospital of St Bartholomew, Smithfield (1123) of which, sadly, only the Norman chancel, transepts and restored Lady chapel remain. The Priory of the Holy Trinity within Aldgate is completely lost. Other buildings such as the nunnery church of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate survive as part of existing places of worship on their sites. South of the river, the greatest reminder of monastic London is Southwark .

The arrival of the Dominican Friars, to care for the poor and destitute in England in 1221, was to mark the beginning of a new era for London and the ecclesiastical influence was to contribute many magnificent buildings to the city. In 1276, they moved from Holborn to the Thameside area named Blackfriars after them. This had required authority from Edward I to remove the city wall between the river and Ludgate and rebuild it around their precinct. The Franciscans, arriving in 1224, settled within Newgate; the Carmelites (1241), in Fleet Street. Finally the Austin Friars came over in 1253. The only one to survive of all these buildings, the nave of Austin Friars Church, was finally destroyed in World War II. For over three hundred years it was, and its replacement still is, the city’s Dutch Protestant Church.

It was not long before the Friars accumulated significant resources and used these to erect churches which were the greatest in London, second only to the cathedral. The Greyfriars’ (Franciscan) Christ Church was larger still. Work started on it in 1306,. Since this was conveniently situated beside the usual Royal residence, it became the resting-place of most subsequent medieval English Monarchs; but Eleanor also had memorials elsewhere. The King’s devotion to her led him to have preaching crosses erected at every place where the Queen’s body rested on its journey south from Lincoln where she died. Cheapside and Charing Cross were the last of these.

The most fashionable area for mansions was the Strand which emerged between the City and the village of Charing as early as the 12th century. Here stood Durham House, Carlisle House, Norwich Place and the residence of the Bishop of Bath & Wells. The Savoy Palace also fronted the Strand, on the site of the present hotel, and there were many other noble palaces within the city walls.

Smithfield Market, north of the City, was established as a horse fair by 1173 and two hundred years later was selling pigs and sheep as well. Trade like this was booming in Medieval London. The city’s population was far greater than that of any rival in England. This led to London becoming a major centre for the importing, as well as distributing, of goods to other parts of the country.

The ongoing feuds of the Wars of the Roses left London relatively unscathed. The city, unhappy with the lavish ways of Henry VI, chose to support Edward IV of York. In 1471, the decisive Battle of Barnet took place just north of the city in modern suburbia. Here the great ‘Warwick the Kingmaker’ was killed. Soon afterward, the Vice-Admiral of his Lancastrian Fleet, having been denied access into London, laid siege to the City. The ‘Bombardment of London’ continued for several days until the Lancastrian troops, meeting with little success, decided to withdraw to Kingston. In the reign of Edward’s brother, Richard III, Westminster Abbey was the scene of Queen Elizabeth Woodville’s claim for sanctuary with her youngest son. He was persuaded to leave for ‘safety’ in the Tower of London; but he and his brother, the ”Princes in the Tower” were never seen again.

The Tudors and The Reformation

The first monarch of the Tudor dynasty had a great impact on London architecture in the form of ‘Henry VII’s Chapel,’ the addition he made to the eastern end of Westminster Abbey. His main residence was Baynard’s Castle which he rebuilt in a more palatial style than its predecessor. He was the last monarch to have a permanent residence within the city walls. He also rebuilt the Palace of Sheen, when it burnt to the ground in 1498, and had it renamed as Richmond Palace. He died there in 1509.

His son, Henry VIII, was another great palatial builder. He expanded York House, the London residence of the Archbishop of York, to become the Palace of Whitehall, joining Westminster with Charing Cross. He also erected Bridewell Palace. Henry also built St. James’ Palace and the now lost Palace of Nonsuch. He confiscated Hampton Court from Cardinal Wolsey and added much of what we see there today. However, Henry’s favourite residence was Greenwich Palace, where he had been born; and it thus became the scene of many important historical episodes during his reign.

In social and economic, as well as architectural terms, the Reformation was to be the defining event of the Tudor period in the capital. At the start of Henry VIII’s reign, London was filled with splendid religious buildings, the treasures of previous centuries. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries, vast numbers of these were destroyed or adapted to secular use and the damage was still widely visible in Elizabeth I’s time. Most of the monastic orders and friars quickly submitted to the will of the King and lost their great and long-established buildings.

Much of the plunder of the church was used to the advantage of private citizens in this way, and conversions continued into the reign of Edward VI. In 1547, the Duke of Somerset used stone from Clerkenwell Priory and St. Paul’s Charnel House to build himself a magnificent Renaissance Palace on the Strand. The Strand Inn and the Church of the Nativity, as well as the houses of the Bishops of Chester and Worcester, were torn down to make way for this new Somerset House.

Elizabeth I’s accession to the throne eventually brought more relaxed times to the people of London. It was the heyday of the English theatre, and Londoners flocked to Southwark as the entertainment capital of the city. There were the Hope, the Swan, the Rose and the Globe Theatre. The latter two were the work places of William Shakespeare who spent most of his life in this area of London. Then, of course, there were the brothels. Southwark was famous for its ladies of the night who worked from the stews on the Bishop of Winchester lands.

After the attempted invasion of Britain by the Spanish Armada in 1588, when the loyal Londoners raised a large band of men to help defeat the invaders, England became more politically stable. There was a marked increase in prosperity and the population of London grew accordingly.

The Stuarts, Civil War, Fire and Plague

The accession of King James VI of Scotland to the English throne, as James I in 1603, led to a major influx of Scots into London, which was to continue in succeeding centuries. In James’ time and later in that of Charles I, Inigo Jones introduced town planning to the capital. He built the Queen’s House at Greenwich Palace and the Banqeting House at Whitehall. However, the experimental developments at Covent Garden and Lincoln’s Inn Fields were still in their infancy when Civil War broke out.

James was not always a popular monarch however and his harsh anti-catholic laws led to an attempt to assassinate him at the opening of Parliament at the Royal Palace of Westminster in 1605. Fortunately, this ‘Gunpowder Plot’ was uncovered and the perpetrators rounded up.

The restoration of Charles II to the throne was to be followed by two great disasters: the first was the Great Plague of 1665, followed a year later by the Great Fire. Plague had been a constant threat in London since Medieval times. The outbreak of 1665 began in St. Giles-in-the-Fields and spread to devastate the over-crowded, impoverished areas of Stepney, Shoreditch, Clerkenwell, Cripplegate, St. Giles’s and Westminster. Within the City itself, it was relatively controlled. Of nearly 100,000 deaths recorded in London in 1665, over 68,000 were the result of plague.

At the time of the great fire, plague was still present in London. Early in the morning of Sunday 2nd September 1666, a baker’s shop in Pudding Lane, near London Bridge caught fire. The houses nearby were overcrowded and made of wood, and the fire quickly spread into the heart of the City and was soon threatening the Royal Exchange, Lombard Street and Cornhill, a very wealthy area.

By the end of the second day, the riverside had been devastated and the fire had engulfed Cornhill, the Poultry and was threatening Cheapside. The Custom House and the Royal Exchange were burnt to the ground and the magnificent Cathedral of old St Paul’s was virtually destroyed. The fire was to continue burning through Cheapside and the London walls at Cripplegate, Newgate and Ludgate. From there it moved along Fleet Street, nearly as far as the Temple Bar. On the fourth day, the wind dropped and the fire slowly came to a halt.

The results were devastating: only a fifth of the walled city remained, with 273 acres of it burnt. Outside the walls, 63 acres were ruined and in total 87 parish churches and 13,200 homes were lost.

Rebuilding the City

The fire was to change the character of London forever. Sir Chistopher Wren and John Evelyn drew up plans to redesign the city. Four kinds of houses were specified by the Rebuilding Act of 1667, to be built only of brick and stone. The new city gradually grew up with wider streets and regular brick houses. Many Livery Companies’ Halls had to be replaced, along with the Custom House and the Royal Exchange. Guildhall was restored but its completion was delayed until 1675. Among the great treasures of this time are the churches rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren. He started work on ten of them, four years after the fire. The remainder, in total fifty-one, were still unfinished well into the next century. Even St. Paul’s itself was not completed until 1712.

Following the fire, the City became a more marked commercial centre under the Lord Mayor. The gentry chose to make their homes to the West, in Covent Garden and Lincoln’s Inn Fields and further out as time progressed. At the end of Charles II’s reign, there were practically no fashionable addresses left within the City.

The Georgians

Between 1760-66 the last gates to the City and surrounding walls were demolished. By this time the City,  was a small part of an ever-increasing area which formed the Capital, with suburbs stretching in every direction as the country people moved to the outskirts of the city.

This was a time of opulent architecture, evidenced in the work of Chambers, Soane, Gibbs, Kent, the brothers Adam and the elder and younger Dance. Amongst the most magnificent buildings are the present Somerset House, rebuilt on the riverfront, and the Bank of England,

Sir John Soane’s greatest triumph. The Mansion House, Horse Guards and Lansdowne House also date from this era. The elegant garden squares of Bloomsbury date from this period as does house numbering and the acceptance of street lighting as a municipal duty.

The 19th Century – Industrial  Revolution and the Victorian Age

Admiral Nelson’s triumph at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 enabled Britain to attain naval supremacy in Europe, which led to the confidence and prosperity which characterised the nation and, in particular, 19th century London. The triumphal Nelson’s column, surrounded by Landseer’s massive lions and set in Trafalgar Square in 1839, epitomised this mood. Other great building work, which shaped the London we know today, had started at Buckingham House in 1826.

George IV had changed his plans to have his parents’ London home merely reconstructed, and decided to transform it into a Royal Palace. The architect, John Nash, took so long to finish the building that, upon the King’s death in 1830, he was quickly replaced. Edward Blore completed the Palace and later added the present east-wing for Queen Victoria (the facade was altered in 1913).

The prosperity of the City of London led to a rapid increase in land prices. The City’s population started to move to the suburbs. In turn, the suburbs regrouped along existing class structures. The Upper and Middle Classes moved to areas such as Hampstead and the West End, while the poorer classes congregated in the East End in overcrowded and sometimes squalid conditions.

Industry, at one time based in homes or small workshops, now required massive machinery to function and was moved to the suburbs and beyond. One important trade, printing and, in particular, the newspaper presses, retained its foothold in Fleet Street, which became a social centre with 37 taverns. London became a massive office with clerks and book-keepers.

The construction of large-scale public railways, linking London to many of the major cities, transformed London’s social and business life. The underground network and tramways followed. The growth of shipping and, in particular, the construction of the famous clippers enabled tea to be transported from China to the Thames. The transport links were crucial in the extending of colonial domination and international trade.

Industrial progress was sometimes double-edged. The invention of the modern water closet resulted in the piping of raw sewage into the Thames, which at the time was the source of London’s water supply. In 1833, 10,000 Londoners died in a cholera epidemic, which led to a law banning burials within the city boundaries.

Victorian Londoners indulged in the view that their city was the heart of the Empire. In 1851, Prince Albert celebrated this sense of Imperial grandeur by holding the Great Exhibition under a massive glass pleasure dome in Hyde Park. As a trade advertisement to the rest of the world, it was a success, but fell short of Albert’s loftier aim of promoting international harmony. Prince Albert endeavoured to further promote the arts and sciences by building various museums, concert halls and educational facilities on land he had purchased in South Kensington. However, the building of the Royal Albert Hall was, unfortunately, not begun until seven years after his death in 1861. The Victoria and Albert Museum of Fine and Applied Arts took another thirty-two years. The cathedral-like Natural History Museum was also erected nearby and opened in 1881. Albert himself is further remembered in the city through his grandiose memorial on the edge of Kensington Gardens.

In 1897, Queen Victoria celebrated her Silver Jubilee with a massive pageant in the streets of London, in which many representatives from far corners of the Empire participated. At the start of the new century, London was a larger, busier place than it had ever been before. One could buy fresh fish from Billingsgate, meat from Smithfield Market, flowers and vegetables from Covent Garden, clocks from Clerkenwell Road, diamonds from Hatton Garden; all kinds of goods were readily available. As a thriving centre of trade and commerce London had become very much the centre of the world’s largest empire.

Giant liners traversed the oceans; electric lighting was beginning to appear, and horseless carriages could occasionally be seen on the streets. Many of the things destined to play a major part in twentieth-century life were here already. But at the same time for most people there was little difference between this London and the city of fifty years previously. Victoria was still on the throne; there was still dire poverty, and those who were without work had to survive on charity and scavenging. The bad winter of 1902 caused great misery and degradation, and things became so desperate that an observer of the time might have felt that such a situation could not possibly go on for long.But at the time the only alleviation remained the institution of workhouses, although philanthropists were constructing almshouses, cheap housing for the poor. Ironically those same almshouses that survive today are sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds.

London at the time was a curious mixture of ostentatious wealth hiding harrowing poverty. Although this was a period of extraordinary prosperity, the normal working man had a hard enough time of it.

World War 1 and Beyond

The music-hall reached its pinnacle at this time, with many new halls being built.Towards the end of the war London had to put up with more sustained and accurate bombing, and this was an early foretaste of what was to come in a couple of decades.

Public transport expanded a great deal in the first quarter of the century, with tramlines being laid and omnibus routes being established. After the Great War there was a great expansion, largely due to the laying of new railway lines, and ‘metroland’, was born, being named after the Metropolitan Line whose trains entered the Hertfordshire countryside and brought the suburbs with them.

Following the agonies of the war, London now became infected with a new gaiety, as many of the Victorian social strictures were finally discarded. The era of the ‘flapper’ had begun, and it was to be nearly half a century before the same kind of easy-going morality and sense of hedonistic enjoyment was to be seen again.

In the thirties the depression and the growing unease about what was happening in Germany had a sobering effect. Since 1666 the skyline of London had changed only gradually; there was a sense of permanence about these dignified buildings.

World War 2 and Beyond

The first world war had not had a major impact on London, but the second one changed the city completely. In 1941 the blitz took place, and bombs rained down nightly on London. The East End felt the brunt of it, but the whole of London suffered. Those people who had to stay in London during the hours of darkness were used to the descent into the public shelters, or into the underground stations, emerging to streets which were different from the ones they saw on their way down.

After the destruction of war came a feeling of optimism and renewal as the rebuilding began. The London County Council, formed in the previous century, now worked to restore services and to exceed what had been before; to implement new standards of health and hygiene in an almost Utopian vision of what London could be. People began to look forward into an exciting future, rather than back into the grim past. Although in 1951 there were still bomb sites to be seen in London and the ration book was an essential part of shopping, the Festival of Britain was held, ostensibly to commemorate the Great Exhibition of a hundred years previously, but also to express the new feeling of optimism and resolve, exemplified by the modernistic design of the Festival Hall.

Ironically, at the time all this was going on, the trolley bus represented a very futuristic environmentally-friendly method of transport, although perhaps it was not seen as such at the time. They were red, double-decker buses which ran on electricity, which they picked up from double poles which engaged overhead wires. The buses themselves were totally non-polluting, large and comfortable, very quiet, and set off with a powerful acceleration. Their only disadvantage was a distressingly frequent tendency for the poles to come off the wires, and it was a common sight to see the conductor with a long wooden pole trying to hook them on again. And the busy conductor also had the task of changing the points, wherever the routes diverged. Perhaps the trolley bus was ahead of its time, but it was certainly a non-polluting form of transport that worked.

The Swinging Sixties

A Londoner living at the end of the fifties and the beginning of the sixties would have been very conscious of the forest of television aerials which were springing up, seemingly overnight. It seemed that every suburban roof sported its own letter ‘H’. It’s unlikely that this Londoner, who might have heard of a new Liverpool group, The Beatles, or might have seen a writer called Jack Kerouac on the bookshelves, or might even have come across a duplicated amateur magazine called Private Eye, would have realised that he was seeing the first rivulets in a flood which would totally change his city.

Suddenly everybody started wearing colourful and extravagant clothes, an air of hedonism and pleasure became apparent, and London began to ‘swing’. Carnaby Street, unknown before the sixties, became one of the most famous streets in London, along with King’s Road, in Chelsea. The Portobello Road street market became a centre of music and fashion, and it was in this area that the first Notting Hill Carnivals began.

London in the sixties had its own unique atmosphere, a heady hallucinogenic gas that induced a feeling of well-being and sensitivity to colour. People flooded in and the tourist industry prospered. The sixties saw people crowding with equal enthusiasm to both open-air rock concerts and political demonstrations.

At the beginning of this decade, the architecture of the city began to change; and there was a brutalism which was out of keeping with the general social atmosphere of the time. Tower blocks were erected all over the city; St Paul’s became concealed in a concrete copse and this tendency came to fruition with the infamous Centre Point.

Since then many of the tower blocks have mercifully been pulled down, and a more imaginative approach has been taken with new buildings. London today has many examples of interesting and pleasing modern buildings, and the puritan aesthetic of the 60s architects is now not so plainly in evidence.

Multicultural London

Various groups of immigrants came to London in the latter part of the 20th century, and made it a very cosmopolitan city. It is now possible to sample cuisine from all over the world within a very small area, and London has benefited from the cultural influences of India, China, Thailand, Japan and Africa and many others.

With the decline of the docks, much building boomed in the East End of London, and whole complexes of housing and commercial buildings appeared on those sites which had been virtually unchanged since the days of Victoria. The most significant of these is the Canary Wharf development, with its own light elevated railway.