Archaeological investigations at Limmo Peninsula have uncovered the remains of the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company which played an important part in London’s development and Newham’s social history, employing thousands of people to produce ships for navies around the globe. 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.
The Thames Ironworks occupied the entire Limmo Peninsula between 1847 and 1912. The works played a significant part in Britain’s industrial history and was the first shipyard in the world to produce all iron ships. Some of the most famous warships in the world were built and launched from Limmo Peninsula.
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 also produced iron work for I.K. Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge over the Tamar between Devon and Cornwall.
The SS Robin, the world’s last remaining steam coaster, was also built at the Thames Ironworks. Built in 1890, she recently underwent extensive £1.9m conservation work, part funded by Crossrail, and now sits proudly on her new purpose-built display pontoon in Newham. SS Robin is currently undergoing final fit-out works before she opens to the public in 2013.
Archaeologists have uncovered evidence for forges, a furnace and bases with bolts that would have secured the heavy ironworks machine plant to the floor. Supporting arches from the main engineering building have also been revealed and the team are piecing together the yard’s layout by mapping these to documented evidence from the time.
SS Robin is one of only three Core Collection (Grade 1) vessels of the National Historic Fleet in London – the other two being Cutty Sark and HMS Belfast. Of these three illustrious ships, SS Robin is the only one to have been built in London.
The Woolwich Warren was established as an ordnance storage depot in 1671. An ammunition laboratory (the Royal Laboratory) was added in 1695, and a gun foundry followed in 1717. By 1777 it had expanded greatly in size and a 2.5mile long brick boundary wall, was constructed.In 1814–16 a canal (the Ordnance Canal) was dug.
In 1805, during the reign of King George III, Woolwich Warren became known as the Royal Arsenal. By this time, Woolwich was a busy military centre, with the
Woolwich Dockyard to the west of the Arsenal, and the Royal Military Academy and the headquarters of the Royal Artillery to the south. Several buildings within the Royal Arsenal are attributed to architect Sir John Vanbrugh, who designed Blenheim Palace.
The remains of the officer’s quarters, the pattern room building, the base of a water tower and the police barracks were recorded. Three decommissioned cannons, dating from 1834–1850’s were also found.