> Read Craig’s review of the Thames Barrier Check out my London blog for a full review, with a video
The Thames Flood Barrier was built in 1982 to stop the river flooding London. It is reckoned to have saved us more than seventy times since its opening.
The ten stainless steel pillars are 61 metres wide and sit on concrete blocks down to the bed – making each one as tall as a five-storey building. The gates between them are normally sitting on the bottom, but can be raised to stem the incoming tide.
Flooding has been a problem in London for centuries. The earliest recorded instance of the water level rising above the banks was in 1099, when the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle said the Thames
sprung up to such a height and did so much harm as no man remembered that it ever did before.
The 16th-century saw fish deposited in the grounds of Westminster Hall, and Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary that
last night the greatest tide that ever was remembered in England to have been in this river, all Whitehall having been drowned.
The last great flood to cover London was in 1953, when 300 people lost their lives. Records show that the river has risen a further 50cm since then, and will continue to rise another metre every century.
Global warming is expected to increase the need for defences, and there has been talk of adding another one closer to the sea. But whatever happens, the Thames Flood Barrier will come to the end of its operational life in 2030 – so they’d better be quick!
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