Category Archives: News

The Port of London Study Group moves to a new venue

Canada Water library, built in 2011 and overlooking the remains of Canada Dock. Source: Wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

From September 2017 the Port of London Study Group will hold its Monday morning meetings* at the Canada Water library, which is immediately above the Canada Water tube station on the Jubilee Line.

Once at the heart of the Surrey Commercial Docks in Rotherhithe, Canada Water and the surrounding area have a rich maritime history.  It is the surviving northern section of the much larger Canada Dock, built in 1876 to serve the Canadian grain and timber trade. A short walk away is the Greenland Dock, the oldest riverside wet dock on the Thames.  Originally called the Great Howland Wet Dock, it was built in 1699 as a shelter for refitting ships rather than as a dock for cargo.  Its name was changed in the 18th century when it became the home of whaling ships bringing in their cargoes from Greenland.  It later became the main hub of London’s timber trade for more than a century until the docks closed in the 1970s.  Now retained as an integral part of the community, it is a fitting reminder of an era when the Rotherhithe peninsula was a thriving centre of overseas trade.

*Autumn Term dates: Monday mornings from 1100-1300 from 9th October to 11th December inclusive. Details of the programme will be published on the Programmes page when finalised.

The Surrey Commercial Docks in 1894

The Surrey Commercial Docks in 1894


Walks along the Thames with Footprints of London guide Rob Smith

footprints-of-london-jpgFor those who enjoy educational walks, Footprints of London guide Rob Smith’s “Walks Along The Thames” seem like a great idea. The first walk is in March.  You can see the other walks by clicking here, and you can book the walks on the Eventbrite website from that page.  Here’s the introduction:

“During 2017 Footprints of London guide Rob Smith will be leading a series of twelve guided walks along the Thames, looking at aspects of the river’s history along the way. Starting in the streets of East London, the walks will go out into the marshland and big skies of Essex and Kent before reaching the sea at Shoeburyness. The walks take in relatively unexplored places that offer some peaceful walking, yet are less than an hours train ride from central London. On the way Rob will talk about themes like industrial and military history, housing, film and archaeology. The story of London really is tied in with this part of the Thames.”

Thames River Crossings Conference, 13th May 2017


The Docklands History Group hosts a conference each year at the Museum of London Docklands in the West India Docks, where The Port of London Study Group is also based.  Chaired by Chris Ellmers, the conference for 2017 will be:  Thames River Crossings and will take place on 13th May.   as well as looking at the bridges and tunnels, the subjects to be covered will include frost fairs, the watermen and ferries,  and also the effect of river crossings on the development of London.

Booking has now opened for this event.    Click here to go to the Docklands History Group’s Conference page where more information is available, including the programme (available to download as a PDF), ticket and booking information and details of how to find the Museum of London Docklands.

The Growth of London as a Port from Roman to Medieval Times. Dr Gustav Milne at Gresham College, on YouTube

A lecture on YouTube by Dr Gustav Milne who delivered the following lecture at Gresham College:  The Growth of London as a Port from Roman to Medieval Times.  Dr Gustav Milne is an Honorary Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.  Gresham College has made the lecture freely available online.

There were dramatic changes in the Roman, Saxon and medieval ports of London, which directly reflected the equally dramatic changes taking place in contemporary society, economy and culture. How might the study of the first 1,500 years of port history (encapsulating profound changes ranging from location, infrastructure and technology to variations in river levels) help when making predictions for the future?

Part of the Mondays at One Maritime London Series The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website.  Gresham College has been giving free public lectures since 1597. This tradition continues today with all of our five or so public lectures a week being made available for free download from our website.

The Great River Race – 3rd September 2016

The Great River Race is held this year on 3rd September.  It runs for 21.6 miles along the Thames from London Docklands to Ham in Surrey.

The Great River Race is London’s River Marathon. A spectacular boat race up the River Thames, it attracts over 330 crews from all over the globe. The Great River Race appeals to every level of competitor! From serious athletes who like winning, to those who enjoy laughter, fancy dress and charity stunts, it’s a great fun day out for both competitors and spectators.

To read more about it see:


Totally Thames 2016 running throughout September

Totally Thames
Following our earlier post about the “Totally Thames” lecture series at the National Maritime Museum, there’s more news about the excellent “Totally Thames” season in September (  The Totally Thames website has been updated with the news that The Thames Festival Trust is presenting a season of events running from the 1st to the 30th of September 2016.  There are some really great events on the programme, covering a spectacularly wide range of things to look forward to including walks, art installations, music, films, exhibitions, and talks.  Have a look at their Events Page for full details.

Cathedral on the marsh: Crossness Pumping Station reopens

Good news on the Guardian website on Sunday 10th July by Maev Kennedy:  Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s Crossness Pumping Station is reopening after a £2.7m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The restoration project has added a new museum display and café, and they are planning to make it more accessible by opening to the public more often.   Here’s an excerpt but see the full story on the above page, which describes what the pumping station was intended to do and how it worked and has other fabulous photos:

By Felix Clay for the Guardian

The Crossness Pumphing Station. Photograph on the Guardian website, by Felix Clay.

A glorious monument to the towering genius of Victorian engineering reopens this week, complete with a smart new cafe and a distinctive whiff of sewage drifting across from the working side of the Crossness sewage pumping station, south-east London.

The astonishing building, described as “a cathedral on the marsh”, was the first of its kind in the world, designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, chief engineer of the Metropolitan board of works, to awe and inspire visitors from across the UK and Europe. They came to marvel at his solution to the appalling problems caused by untreated sewage and contaminated water supplies in a rapidly expanding city, which led to epidemics of killer diseases including cholera.