Hay’s Galleria is named after its original owner, the merchant Alexander Hay, who acquired the property – then a brewhouse – in 1651. In around 1840 John Humphrey Jnr acquired a lease on the property. He asked William Cubitt (who was father-in-law to two of Humphrey’s sons) to convert it into a ‘wharf’, in fact an enclosed dock, in 1856 and it was renamed Hay’s Wharf.
During the nineteenth century, the wharf was one of the chief delivery points for ships bringing tea to the Pool of London. At its height, 80% of the dry produce imported to London passed through the wharf, and on this account the Wharf was nicknamed ‘the Larder of London’. The Wharf was largely rebuilt following the Great Fire of Southwark in June 1861 and then continued in use for nearly a century until it was badly bombed in September 1940 during the Second World War. The progressive adoption of containerisation during the 1960s led to the shipping industry moving to deep water ports further down the Thames and the subsequent closure of Hay’s Wharf in 1970.
Redevelopment – Hay’s Galleria
In the 1980s, with the increasing urban regeneration of the Thames Corridor and nearby London Docklands, the majority of the area was acquired by the St Martin’s Property Corporation, the real estate arm of the State of Kuwait. The easterly end of the site was developed as London Bridge City of which Hay’s Galleria’ forms part. The decision was made to retain the dock and to restore its tea and produce warehouses surrounding it to provide office accommodation and shops. The dock gates were permanently closed, the ‘impounded’ area of the dock was covered with a floor to the sill of the wharf-sides and the entire space was enclosed with a glass roof. This scheme was implemented by Twigg Brown Architects as part of their masterplan for the renewal strategy. In a fountain at the centre of the Galleria is a 60 ft moving bronze sculpture of a ship, called ‘The Navigators’ by sculptor David Kemp, unveiled in 1987 to commemorate the Galleria’s shipping heritage.
The development was supported by the London Docklands Development Corporation. After its completion and opening in 1987, Hays Galleria became the first new visitor attraction of that period on the south of the river.