Draining The Thames

London Newspaper Group — CN/WPN 01-04-1983

The papers of the London Newspaper Group were published on a Friday. The 1st April 1983 happened to be a Friday and provided an irresistable tempatation to pull our readers' legs...

Barrier — key to history?

By Christopher Long

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A unique opportunity to investigate London's history will be provided by a plan to drain the River Thames for about a week during the summer.

The plan to empty the river is described as an invaluable opportunity resulting from the installation of the Thames Flood Barrier which will make it possible, for the first time, to expose the muddy river bed.

This will allow archaeologists to dig for hidden evidence of London's past, buried for centuries and previously inaccessible.

"We've always known that rubbish tips and river beds have been a rich source of artefacts at sites all over the world," says the Greater London Archaeological Trust who will be undertaking the week-long race against time to explore the river bed before engineers flood the river again.

The exercise will prove to be a mammoth engineering task involving batteries of powerful pumps, the diversion of water via canals and sewage systems, the raising of the Flood Barrier, helped by low summer rainfall.

Co-ordination of the project will be carried out by the Greater London Council and the riparian boroughs while a wide range of interested groups and public bodies will be carrying out their own research projects along the section of the Thames from Teddington Lock to Woolwich.

The Metropolitan Police, for example, say that this will give them a chance to solve mysteries that have baffled them for years.

Guns, knives and other implements of murder are bound to be revealed in the river bed and there is even a chance that mysteries such as the case of Jack the Ripper might become clearer.

Amateur archaeologists with metal detectors will have a chance to search for coins, lost treasure and other items of treasure trove.

The Greater London Archaeological Trust say, however, that important sites such as those near the original Roman crossing points and under London Bridge will be out of bounds to the amateurs.

A complicated exercise will now be carried out to arrange for the temporary moving of ships and boats – notably HMS Belfast – prior to the start of the draining exercise.

Chelsea's houseboats will not be affected.

"These craft are flat-bottomed and will sit on the mud as they usually do at low tide," a spokesman said.

The total cost of the project, jointly financed by the GLC and the London Boroughs Association, with a grant from the Department of the Environment, will total more than £3.2 million – one of the most expensive undertakings of its sort in Europe.

Already there is a plan to make the last day of the week a London Festival. Cricket matches are planned between Chelsea Bridge and Battersea Bridge and a fireworks display opposite County Hall.

Local opinion in Chelsea was mixed this week following the news of the great 'drain away' plan.

"I think it's a great idea!" said a pensioner at The Royal Hospital. "I expect it'll remind me of Flanders during the First War but I shall enjoy having a look at it."

Others were not so pleased.

"I suppose this is another of Ken Livingstone's plans to attract attention to himself and as usual the residents of Chelsea will just be left with an unsightly view and probably a pretty evil-smelling odour down our street," commented Mrs April Hubbub of Foulis Terrace, Chelsea.

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The above story, published on April Fool's Day, was taken seriously by some people and not least by groups who had booked boat-trips on the Thames! Others rang various local authorities, some of which gave the impression that they were aware of something of the sort and solemnly referred the complainants to other authorities for more details!

© (1983) Christopher Long. Copyright, Syndication & All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
The text and graphical content of this and linked documents are the copyright of their author and or creator and site designer, Christopher Long, unless otherwise stated. No publication, reproduction or exploitation of this material may be made in any form prior to clear written agreement of terms with the author or his agents.

Christopher Long

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