The Thames Ironworks Heritage Trust launched in November aims to bring boat building (and apprentice training) back to the north bank of the Thames in East London by restore a series of boats made over a century ago by the Thames Ironworks Shipbuilding Company, and then employing them to conduct heritage tours of the waterways in and around Stratford’s Olympic Park.
The drawing above from the Thames Ironworks Gazette published in 1899 shows some of the lifeboats made by the Thames Ironworks company at that time. The company also built ships including HMS Warrior, the first ironclad supplied to the Royal Navy – Warrior is still afloat and moored at Portsmouth.
The trust’s plan is audacious, you have to say. It already has access to a number of Thames Ironworks-made lifeboats but it can’t really get started until it has established itself a site for a new boatyard close to the site of the original Thames Ironworks company.
Once operating, it will offer offering routes to training in qualifications conferred by the Guild of Registered Tourist Guides, boatmasters licenses, and City and Guilds qualifications
The trust is confident the economics can be made to work – with over 9m tourists and others expected to visit the Olympic Park each year, it believes the heritage tour service should run at profit sufficient to support its operations and make regular contributions to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution – but the first step is to fund the project’s early stages, including educating the first group of shipwrights.
Here are some links for more information:
Thames Ironworks Heritage Trust: Homepage includes links to history, plans, lifeboats and so on
Thames Ironworks Heritage Trust: Twitter feed
Thames Ironworks Heritage Trust: Facebook page
Shipshape Network: About the Thames Ironworks Heritage Trust
Shipshape Network: Heritage Trust aims to revive Thames shipbuilding
West Ham United Football Club: The Thames Ironworks lives on!
The good folks at the Peggy Bawn Press have written to point out that the Thames Ironworks built many lifeboats to GL Watson’s plans, and have written an interesting post about one particular example: The Weekend Watson – Charles Henry Ashley
And here’s a great map of the Thames Ironworks site from 1894: