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Thames Barrier and Information Centre

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The purpose of the Thames Barrier is to protect 125 square kilometres of central London from being flooded by storm surges or exceptionally high tides that can travel up the lower Thames from the North Sea. It was conceived, as a response to the catastrophic flooding of London in 1953 which killed 300 people. It was designed by Rendel, Palmer & Tritton and constructed by a consortium made up of Costain, Hollandsche Beton Maatschappij and Tarmac Construction.  The ingenious gates were manufactured by Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd of Darlington, England.  Work on the barrier began in 1974.  It was completed in 1982 and has been operational ever since.

The Thames Barrier is located between Silvertown in the London Borough of Newham and the ‘New Charlton’ area of the Royal Borough of Greenwich.  It is 520 metres (1,706ft) wide and has 10 steel gates, each weighing 3,300 tones that can be raised into a defensive position.

The Thames Barriers was originally commissioned by the Greater London Council and is now operated by the Environment Agency who monitor current weather conditions and make the decision when to operate the gates.  Information is constantly gathered and analysed from weather satellites & ships, oil rigs, and coastal monitoring stations. The closure of all 10 gates takes about 1.5 hours and costs around £16,000.

As of March 2014 the Thames Barrier has been reactively closed 174 times since it was completed.  Some 87 of these closures protected the city from tidal flooding while 87 closures were used to manage river flooding.  The number of times per year that the barriers are required to close has been steadily increasing over the decades raising questions about the long-term effectiveness of the structure.

The best place to view this engineer marvel is from the Thames Barrier Information and Discovery Centre located on southern side of the river at the offices of the Environment Agency: 1 Unity Way, Woolwich, London, SE18 5NJ.  However, it can also be viewed from the Thames Barrier Park on the opposite side of the river.

A list of closure times for scheduled maintenance is available on the official Government website:


theobalds-park-campsiteTheobalds Park

Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Bulls Cross Ride (Rd), Waltham Cross
Hertfordshire, England, EN7 5HS
+44 (0)1992 620 604

Contact Details

  • Address: 1 Unity Way, Woolwich, London, England, United Kingdom, SE18 5NJ
  • GPS: 51.4946293,0.0414447000000564
  • Phone: 0044 (0) 20 8305 4188
  • Part of UK: England
  • Sat Nav Postcode: SE18 5NJ
  • Entrance Fees: Charges Apply
  • Disabled Access: Good
  • Visibility from Road: Very limited but possible from outside the Anchor & Hope Pub - Riverside Road.
  • Image Credits: Manamana

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