The Thames Barrier, built to
prevent the possibility of catastrophic flooding in London,
was one of the greatest construction achievements of the 20th
London has been flooded by the
Thames on many occasions in its history. In 1236 the
water rose so high that people rowed across Westminster Hall
in boats. Further flooding occurred in 1663 and 1928,
and in 1953 a tidal surge caused great damage in the Thames
estuary below London. To prevent further disasters in
1965 the Greater London Council (GLC) invited proposals to
solve the problem and nine years later work started on the
The barrier is made up of a series
of separate movable gates, positioned end to end across the
river. Each gate is pivoted and set between concrete
piers that house the operating machinery and control equipment.
When not in use the ten gates remain hidden from view piers.
If a high tidal surge threatens,
the gates rotate through 90 degrees from their riverbed position
and close the barrier. The gates rise 6 feet above that
the level reached by the tidal surge of 1953, and the raised
barrier seals part of the upper Thames from the sea, with
a steel wall facing downstream to stem the tide.
The barrier is 1,706 feet from
bank to bank, with four main openings having a span of 200
feet. Completed in 1982, the Thames Barrier is a major advance
in environmental control.
The barrier has been raised more
than 20 times since its completion and, if sea-level rises
as the result of global warming, it will certainly be used
more often in future.
The Visitors' Centre has an audio-visual
presentation and working models explaining how the Barrier
Nearby is the Thames Barrier
Park, at North Woolwich Road, E16, the first new park in London
in recent history. With fountains, playground and a tea pavilion,
the park is popular with families
The Thames Barrier is usually
raised once a month - telephone 020 8305 4188 for details.
For the best view of the Barrier
visit by boat.