Despite rumours of the contrary, wharf does not stand for ‘ware-house at river front’. The word wharf originates from the Old English ‘hwearf’, which meant bank or shore.
There were once as many as 1,700 wharves on the bank of the River Thames.
The site was originally a brew house, which was bought by Alexander Hay in 1651. However, the building was severely damaged in the Great Fire Of Southwark in 1676.
It remained with the Hay family until Francis Theodore Hay, Master of the Waterman’s Company and King’s Waterman to George III and IV, died in 1838.
The next owner John Humphrey Jnr who acquired a lease on the property and commissioned William Cubitt to convert it into a wharf with an enclosed dock, thus becoming Hay’s Wharf in 1856.
However, only five years later, the wharf was damaged by another fire, the Great Fire Of Tooley Street, which overall caused £2million of damage due to the goods destroyed in the warehouses.
At its height, 80% of the dry produce imported into London passed through the wharves, and on this account the area between Tower Bridge & London Bridge on the Southside was nicknamed ‘the Larder of London‘.
The wharf was seriously damaged again by bombing during World War II. London’s trade was severely dented following the war and over the subsequent years, more and more wharves shut down and fell into neglect. With ships getting bigger, Hay’s enclosed dock wasn’t big enough to fit most of the vessels, so fell into disuse.
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
In the 1980s, with the increasing urban regeneration of the Thames Corridor and nearby London Docklands, the area was acquired by the St Martin’s Property Corporation, the real estate arm of the State of Kuwait.
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 designed by the young architect Arthur Timothy while he worked with Michael Twigg Brown Architects.
This scheme was implemented by Twigg Brown Architects as part of their masterplan for the renewal strategy. At the centre of the Galleria is a 60 ft moving bronze sculpture of a ship, called ‘The Navigators’ by sculptor David Kemp, it was unveiled in 1987 – it commemorated the Galleria’s shipping heritage.
The pub at the riverside entrance, ‘The Horniman, is named to commemorate one of the main tea-producing companies associated with the original trade here.
Lesley – wiki