Crossrail archaeologists have uncovered evidence of the historic Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company that closed down a century ago.
Archaeological investigations have been underway at Limmo Peninsula, near Canning Town, to document the rich industrial history of the site. The current ongoing works are designed to record remains of the shipyard, its engineering workshops and slipways, and relate any finds to the documented history of the site. The works will be ongoing until May 2012.
The Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company played a hugely important part in London’s development and Newham’s social history, employing thousands of people to produce ships for navies around the globe. It was one of the first UK employers to voluntarily adopt an 8-hour working days. They also set up a football club for their employees using the emblem of crossed hammers. The club became known as “The Hammers” or ‘The Irons’ and is now West Ham United F.C.
Crossrail is constructing two large shafts at the site to enable the launch of two tunnel boring machines this summer that will construct the eastern running tunnels from Limmo towards Farringdon.
The Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company played a significant part in Britain’s industrial history until its closure in 1912. It was the first shipyard in the world to produce iron ships – some of the most famous warships in the world were built and launched from Limmo Peninsula.
The HMS Warrior, the world’s first all-iron warship was built at the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company. When completed in October 1861, HMS Warrior was the largest, fastest, most heavily-armed and most heavily-armoured warship in the world. Now restored, HMS Warrior is docked in Portsmouth.
The success of HMS Warrior resulted in navies all over the world placing orders for vessels. The Company built navy ships for a number of countries including Denmark, Greece, Portugal, Russia, Spain as well as the Ottoman Empire. It also produced iron work for I.K. Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge over the Tamar between Devon and Cornwall.
Jay Carver, Crossrail’s Principal Archaeologist said: “The excavations so far have uncovered evidence for the site railway, forges and a furnace and machine bases with bolts that would have secured the heavy ironworks plant to the floor. We have also found supporting arches and large timber piles that supported the main engineering workshop and expect to reveal one or two or the large ship launch slips during future investigations. Although the site only closed in 1912, there are no longer any detailed plans of the final layout of the works and these results will help piece together how the site operated.”
The study of industrial archaeology from its 19th Century heyday is increasingly important as detailed documents from the time didn’t always survive. To provide a comprehensive archive of the industrial achievements of the capital, investigations like this one at Limmo have an important role to play in filling in gaps in local history while also providing a valuable resource for researchers.
Jay Carver continued: “Unexpectedly, the excavations have also revealed wreckage from a large clinker built boat. This will be tested by a specialist team at the Museum of London to identify when it dates from. The woodwork and materials suggest to us that it was built between 500 and 700 years ago.
The first Crossrail tunnelling boring machine (TBM) will be launched at the Royal Oak Portal and will make its way towards Farringdon via Paddington, Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road.
Later this year, the second pair of machines will be launched from Limmo driving 8.3 km (5.2 miles) west towards Farringdon via Whitechapel and Liverpool Street. A further two TBMs will be launched this winter from Plumstead and will travel 2.6 km (1.6 miles) under the River Thames to North Woolwich.
Background: Cross Rail Press Release – Click Here