History

Conserving and Promoting Historical and Cultural Resource

The Thames Estuary has always provided easy access for settlers, invaders and traders which is reflected in its rich culture and history. The estuary’s vulnerability to attack is reflected in its historic fortifications, such as Hadleigh Castle and Tilbury Fort.

Stack of nautical timbers at Charlton

The  waterlogged environment provides anaerobic conditions which preserve organic materials,such as man-made, wooden or leather artefacts and plant and insect remains. With every ebb and flow of the tide, objects and structures, large and small, are uncovered. This includes the remains of prehistoric forests that grew more than 5,000 years ago and can still be seen on the foreshore at Erith. Formerly dry land sites along the coastline have now become submerged due to sea-level rises, assisting the preservation of associated organic materials. Up to 10,000 years ago,  England was joined to the European continent and the Thames was part of a single estuary system with the Rhine, the Meuse and the Schelde.

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Redevelopment for homes and factories, road-building and quarrying are all major threats to archealogical remains. Constant ploughing gradually erodes archaeological sites while subsoiling has a more immediate impact. Dredging and maritime gravel extraction can completely remove archeaological sites in the river and estuary.