Earlier this month, the TDP team took the opportunity to visit a few sites in the east of London we don’t get to very often.

Trinity Buoy Wharf

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At the confluence of the Bow Creek and the Thames, for centuries Trinity Buoy Wharf was at the heart of Britain’s maritime history. From 1803 to 1988, it was the workshop for Trinity House the organisation tasked with maintaining England and Wales’ lighthouses and navigation aids, and several Thames shipbuilders were based in this area. It’s a wonderful place to visit today, with London’s only lighthouse, it’s now home to art and cultural projects and the fabulous Fat Boy’s Diner. The foreshore is not to be sniffed at either. We went in search of ship’s timbers from the ship building yards that were based here. We didn’t find any ship timbers, but there are two interesting causeways, and the remains of slipways from Orchard’s Yard. Definitely a site we will return to for some fieldwork!

See more photos from our visit on Flickr

Tripcockness

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Tripcockness is the point at the eastern end of Woolwich Arsenal. It’s a really interesting site, but very much a love it or hate it location, with its copious mud! There’s a large expanse of peat and preserved trees, dated to the Bronze Age, as well as the infamous hulked barges. One is a Thames lighter, but the other four are probably unique. We suspect they were ballast lighters, built by a mechanic at the Arsenal, rather than a shipwright, which would explain why they have features more in common with a cart than a boat. They seem to have been deliberately hulked to protect the foreshore as the Arsenal expanded. We also had a look at the Arsenal slipway, which would have been used to deliver goods and raw materials and load completed cannons and ordinance.

See more photos from our visit on Flickr

Coldharbour

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Coldharbour is right on the edge of our area, near Rainham marshes and next to Rainham Landfill site. It’s a boat graveyard, which is exciting in and of itself! But these are no ordinary boats, they’re concrete barges, that is, barges made from concrete. During WW2, concrete was used for boat construction as an alternative to timber which was in short supply. The famous Mulberry Harbours, which were used for the D-Day landings, were made with concrete barges. There’s a suggestion that these barges were used for Mulberry Harbours and placed here after the North Sea Floods in 1953, again to protect the foreshore. We’d love to find out more about them, if you have any information, please do get in touch.

See more photos from our visit on Flickr

Gallion’s Point

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Gallion’s Point is next to the entrance to the Royal Docks. Here there is the remains of a Thames Sailing Barge, one of the best surviving ones we have on the foreshore in London, and it’s a very atmospheric location. Sadly, there are signs that the barge has had more damage since our last visit, and sections, particularly at the stern, are breaking up.

See more photos from our visit on Flickr