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London’s last great shipbuilder

The site of the Thames Ironworks (1837-1912) is one of London’s greatest industrial archaeology sites. After 75 years of innovative engineering and shipbuilding, it closed in 1912. The yard once employed thousands and produced large civil engineering structures, battleships, and numerous other vessels for the navies of the world.

A number of engineering workshops were recorded in 2011. In 2012 the extraordinary remains of one of the shipyards main shipbuilding slipways was discovered.

The 400ft long piled slipway was built of large sawn softwood timbers probably sourced from Canada or Norway. A chain, part of a launch vessel and even a pair of work boots were found abandoned.

A grid of huge iron tipped wooden piles that supported the structure were found driven into the river terrace gravel when the slipway timbers were lifted out.

Thames Ironworks built and launched the first armour-plated, iron-hulled warship, HMS Warrior in 1860. HMS Thunderer (launched 1911) was the largest (22,500 tons) and most powerful warship of its day and the last ever built on the Thames.

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