|The Thames Barrier (1984 - present)|
|London's flood defence|
|The Thames Barrier. © NMM|
The Thames Barrier is a unique structure built to protect London against flooding caused by tidal surges from the North Sea.
It is the world's largest movable flood barrier, spanning 520 metres (a third of a mile) across the Thames at Woolwich Reach.
|Ship passing through the Thames Barrier. © NMM|
|Tilbury under water in 1953. © NMM|
On 31 January 1953 Britain and the Netherlands suffered one of the worst floods in their history. Huge waves battered the east coast, and a devastating tidal surge rushed up the Thames, with sea levels 3 metres above normal in some places.
London was very fortunate to escape the worst of the flooding. The Thames and the Lea burst their banks and damaged more than 1100 houses in Silvertown and Canning Town, but the floods did not reach central London. Although London escaped disaster in 1953, the floods showed just how vulnerable the city could be.
|One of the many failed proposals for a Thames Barrier. © NMM|
After the floods, an enquiry was set up to work out ways of protecting London in the future. As the old system of embankments was clearly no longer adequate, the enquiry recommended the construction of a flood barrier across the Thames.
|1950s||The port is in its heyday and the river still carried heavy traffic|
|31 January 1953||One of the worst floods in British history causes the Thames to burst its banks. An enquiry was set up to work out ways of protecting London in the future.|
|1960s||It seemed clear that a barrier with movable gates was the way forward|
|1972||Approval was finally given for a barrier at Woolwich|
|1975||Work began to build the Thames Barrier|
|October 1982||The Thames Barrier became operational|
|May 1984||The Thames Barrier was officially opened by the Queen|