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ExCel London

An example of 1990s urban regeneration, focusing on leisure and service industries

It is possible to reach the ExCeL London from Canary Wharf by taking the DLR to Custom House, changing at Poplar.

Background information

ExCeL London is located on the Royal Victoria Dock, with the Royal Albert Dock to the east, close to London City Airport. These two docks were built in 1855 and 1921 respectively, much later than the docks on the Isle of Dogs, and they were much larger and deeper. Royal Victoria Docks was the first dock to take iron steam ships and the first to use hydraulic cranes and lifts to raise ships. It specialised in tobacco, meat, citrus fruit and bananas. Trade at the Royal Docks peaked in the 1950s and early 1960s with imports of frozen meat from New Zealand and Argentina, and passenger cargo from across the Atlantic. Soon after, however, containerisation and other technological changes, alongside a switch in Britain's trade laws following EEC membership, led to a rapid decline. The docks finally closed in 1981.

The redevelopment of the Royal Docks area began in 1988 when the originating architect, Ray Moxley, was approached by the Association of Exhibition Organisers to locate and design a new exhibition and conference centre within the M25. A turning point was reached when the 100 acre Royal Victoria Dock site was found. This offered three Docklands Light Railway (DLR) stations on the site, the Jubilee line just two stops away, City Airport just five minutes away, and the M25 and M11 just 20 minutes away. Today ExCeL London is one of Europe's largest regeneration projects.

ExCeL London hosts the London Boat Show every year, and has also been the location for major sporting events such as WWE's Smackdown and several high profile boxing matches. In 2012, ExCeL London will host the Olympic boxing, martial arts (judo and taekwondo), table tennis, weightlifting and wrestling.

Around ExCeL London are clues to the area's past. The large Spillers and Tate and Lyle warehouses, the latter of which closed in 1980, remain derelict on the opposite side of the dock, although these are the focus of the part of the planned Silvertown Quays regeneration project. Also on the opposite side, luxury housing sits amongst reclaimed derricks.

The Royal Victoria Footbridge provides an excellent viewpoint over ExCeL London, Canary Wharf, the docks and London City Airport. It is a great place to discuss the locational factors behind the area's past and present industries, and to consider whether London City airport has replaced the Docks as a link with the outside world for the docklands areas.

In comparison with Canary Wharf, ExCeL London has much more greenery. This may be a function of the fact that it is a 1990s regeneration project rather than 1980s, and environmental priorities were slowly changing. The fact that the 2012 regeneration has a very strong emphasis on the environment and sustainability would seem to support this trend.

Fieldwork tasks

The list below shows the range of fieldwork tasks that can be completed at the Excel Centre site.

  • Annotated sketch maps of the land use on both sides of the Royal Victoria Dock to the east from the footbridge over the Dock

  • Annotation of historical map extract to show changes to the area's land use

  • Activity on industrial location

  • Notes on the Excel Centre regeneration project

  • Environmental Quality Survey

  • Photo task

Find out more about ExCeL London

Find out more about Silvertown Quays

The West Silvertown Village Community Foundation was set up to encourage local residents and businesses to work together to develop a sense of community in the area.

Downloadable resources for ExCeL London

There are five activities that can be carried out in the area surrounding ExCeL London. The aim of these activities is twofold. First, to compare ExCeL (a 1990s regeneration project) with Canary Wharf (1980s regeneration) and second, to consider the factors affecting industrial location - both past and present. Some of the activities are the same as those used at Canary Wharf, for purposes of comparison. However, they are included again here in case the site is visited in isolation.

Field sketches - the view from the footbridge

On the footbridge that crosses the Royal Victoria Dock from ExCeL to Silvertown, it is possible to look east towards London City Airport and west towards the O2 and Canary Wharf. In this activity, students are asked to draw an annotated field sketch in each direction. To the east, the annotations should refer to industrial location factors for the industries that are visible. To the west, annotations should highlight evidence of the area's industrial past.

Historical map task

The area around Royal Victoria Docks has changed significantly since the late 19th Century. In this task, students are encouraged to draw in and label current key features such as ExCeL London, London City Airport, new housing and new leisure facilities on a historical map of the area. Subsequent questions focus on industrial change and locational factors.

Notes on ExCeL

This worksheet encourages students to organise their thoughts about the ExCeL London regeneration project, considering the positive and negative aspects to the project in their opinion. They also have to compare the scheme with the regeneration project at Canary Wharf.

Environmental quality survey

Like at the Canary Wharf site, students carry out an environmental quality survey of the area around ExCeL. Completing these surveys at each site enables them to make a comparison of the different locations and regeneration projects that they encounter.

Photo task

The photo task provides a focus for students' digital photography of the area. They are asked to think carefully about the photos they take, taking three photos to sum up the area socially, economically and environmentally. Completing this task at each site visited enables a useful visual comparison to be made.

File nameFiles

File type



ExCel London Field Sketches Worksheet


85 KB

ExCel London Field Sketches Worksheet (1)


28 KB

ExCel London Historical Map


1 MB

ExCel London Historical Map Task


68 KB

ExCel London Historical Map Task (1)


35 KB

ExCel London Notes on ExCel Sheet


55 KB

ExCel London Notes on ExCel Sheet (1)


28 KB

ExCel London Environmental Quality Survey


53 KB

ExCel London Environmental Quality Survey (1)


196 KB

ExCel London Photo Task


27 KB

ExCel London Photo Task (1)


61 KB

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