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West Ham reconnecting with their Thames Ironworks heritage

Southend rowers Southend rowers

Friday, March 14, 2014
10:00 AM

Southend rowers embark on marathon trip to Olympic stadium

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When West Ham United move to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford in 2016 it will finally reconnect them with the waterways on which the club was born in the 19th century as Thames Ironworks.

And one group of intrepid sailors are looking to highlight that fact with a 38-mile endurance tow from Southend Pier to the new stadium to raise funds and awareness for the work of the Thames Ironworks Trust.

Southend Coastal Rowing Club, whose chairman is Hammers season ticket holder Pat O’Connor, will be undertaking the rowing marathon in August, but not just in any boat.

Rather than use modern lightweight sliding seat boats it seemed more appropriate for the rowers to use a gig almost identical to those rowed by Thames Lightermen back in the days of Thames Ironworks.

The row is to take place on Saturday, August 2. It will depart Southend Pier and head up the Thames going past Canvey Island, Tilbury Docks, the QE2 Bridge and the Woolwich Ferry before reaching the Millennium Dome and turning right up Bow Creek until reaching the Olympic Stadium.

The Thames Ironworks Heritage Trust are looking to restore a boat and found a museum close to the stadium which will prove a permanent reminder of the link between the Thames Ironworks and West Ham United.

There is a plan to restore a fully functional recently discovered RNLI Lifeboat named ‘the Helen Smitton’ which was built by Thames Ironworks over 100 years ago and to have it moored at a specifically built boathouse and small museum.

It will offer educational heritage tours of the surrounding waterways that focus on this industrial heritage, teaching local young people the history of the area, something that is at risk of being lost as the area slowly gentrifies. Boat trips would also be available to football fans on match days.

Once West Ham United move to the Olympic Stadium it is hoped that these waterway tours will provide work and training for locals, and will generate surplus funds that can be invested back into charitable causes based along the East London stretch of the Thames.

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