The Thames Festival Trust is running a heritage project on London’s boatyards, working with our partner, the Museum of London. The project will examine and document the rich history of boatbuilding along the tidal Thames, from the Thames Barrier up to Teddington Lock.

With a documented history that extends back to medieval times and beyond, London’s boatyards have played a significant role in not only London’s history, but internationally. From the ocean vessels built at Rotherhithe, Deptford and Woolwich, to the pleasure boats built around Richmond from Tudor times, and the barges and tugs built around Brentford. The boatyards of the Thames were also integral to the war effort in World War II, with many actively involved in ‘Operation Dynamo’ at Dunkirk.

Drawing on personal reminiscences of those who have worked at the boatyards, this project will bring to light this important history, so much of which has yet to be uncovered. The project will explore the living memory of these yards particularly within the last fifty years, when so many have been forced to close or be redeveloped. We will seek to document the skills and innovations of boatbuilding which made the London boatyards so significant, as well as making valuable film and photographic documentation, and oral history recordings of boatyards, many of which have been under-threat of disappearing.

Did you or someone you know work in a boatyard in London?


We’d love to hear from anyone who would be willing to share their memories of the boatyards on the Thames, whether it was in the 1950s or the 1990s. We will be conducting oral recordings of people with a history of working in these yards throughout May. 

If you would like to be involved and have your memories recorded, please contact Bea on bmoyes@thamesfestival.org.

Main photograph: Brian Liddle