Traditional boatyards and maritime sites along the River Thames are under threat – as never before – from commercial and residential development.
Where homes and offices are built and sold, often for premium prices, working boatyards are driven out. They cannot compete when property values are driven sky-high by developers.
Yet it is these historic boatyards, slipways, quays, wharves and docks which created Britain’s remarkable maritime history. From the time of the Tudors – especially King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth – right through to Lord Nelson and Winston Churchill – it has been the sailors and boat-builders along the great River Thames who have contributed so much to our national defence and pride.
By linking some of these rare and historic places together, the Thames Heritage Alliance is drawing attention to their importance, to help them survive in the age of high-rise and high-price property development.
It’s been suggested that various Thames-side sites with national heritage value should join together to promote understanding of how small sites along the great river have contributed to our country’s history.
For instance, at Convoys Wharf in Deptford, Henry VIII had his naval shipyards. At Northfleet near Gravesend, there is evidence of use from Roman times through to the industrial period, and at Faversham Creek a remarkable story of gunpowder production through nearly 400 years shows how these small sites played their part in defending the realm.
Now all these sites are under threat. Property developers and planners want to see them redeveloped – at a premium price. History is being swept away – despite a popular upsurge of interest in traditional methods such as boat-building. Water conservation, environmental issues, wildlife, history, culture and education are all at risk.
The Thames Heritage Alliance is seeking to redress the balance.
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