Adventures with the Dictionary


You almost cetainly have seen a campshed, otherwise called campshot, campsheeting, campsheathing or campstead, and I was probably standing next to one in Rotherhithe when I took the photo, but I didn’t know what it was. As the dictionary says, it’s “a facing of piles or boarding along the bank of a river, or at the side of an embankment, to protect the bank from the action of the current”. But the word was one I’d never heard before, and I hoped I could also find out where it comes from, but apparently this is unknown. But the big Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest reference to it as 1471, and then some wonderful quotations from following centuries. For example in 1570, “to fill and to planke iiij roddes of the Cambshide against the Thames”, and in 1691 “Surveyors assured me that under St Magnus Church they after the Fire met with old Campshot and Wharfing gain’d from the Thames and… that there were found Campshots much further from the Thames in digging of Cellars”. I suppose these might well have been the Roman wharves. There are 19th century references from newspapers to campshedding in Fulham and Richmond, “the Richmond Vestry…. campshedded and otherwise improved” the eyot below Richmond Bridge. I didn’t know you could get so much from one word. And I notice also that the sign was put up by a big brewery company, so I suppose I now have to look into that too….