Book reviews — April 2016
'The Thames Iron Works 1837-1912: A major shipbuilder on the Thames', by Daniel Harrison
Paperback, 9¾ by 7½ inches, numerous illustrations, 114 pages, £10. Published by Museum of London Archaeology 2015. ISBN-13: 978-1907586347
This slim volume outlines the history of the Thames Ironworks at the mouth of Bow Creek. As well as one of London's major shipbuilders, the Ironworks later diversified into structural engineering, only closing in 1912. Recently known as the Limmo Peninsula (GLIAS Newsletter 257, p4 & GLIAS Newsletter 269, p7), archaeological excavation took place at the site of the Thames Ironworks prior to large scale construction work for Crossrail and this book has a substantial fourth chapter occupying pages 56-97 which deals with the archaeological findings. GLIAS members visited the site while excavation was in progress. Subsequently the area became Crossrail's principal work site for the eastbound tunnel boring machines. It was planned that 1.2 million tonnes of spoil would be exported from here by water from a new jetty at Instone Wharf. When Crossrail is completed in 2018 the area will become available for redevelopment.
As iron ships rather than timber began to be built, The London River became increasingly less economically attractive for the construction of merchant ships. Most of the shipyards in London had closed by the end of the 1860s but the Thames Ironworks kept going by building warships, both for the Royal Navy and foreign powers. The book lists the larger warships built at the Yard. Serious students of shipbuilding in London will not find much here that is very new but there is interesting material on Thomas Ditchburn (1801-1870) and the importance of Peter Rolt (1798-1882), MP for Greenwich, comes over well. It is heartening that the results of archaeological work undertaken in connection with Crossrail which is Europe’s largest infrastructure project are being made public in this way, and at a popular price. Altogether ten titles are promised and another volume in this series on a moated manor house at Stepney Green has already appeared. We had nothing like this for the redevelopment of Woolwich Arsenal. For the general reader this Thames Iron Works book is a splendid introduction to the subject which can be thoroughly recommended. Bob Carr
© GLIAS, 2016