Exploring the Industrial History

Photo: Southwark Local History Library and archive.

Artefacts found on the Thames foreshore act as a window in to the lives of Londoners over thousands of years. For over two hundred and fifty years Bankside was packed with factories, wharves and warehouses. Pottery factories lined the Thames for most of this time, and the proximity to the river meant that heavy, raw materials could be shipped in by barge and fragile, finished pots could be gently floated out. Gradually, during the 1970's, the wharves fell into disuse, factories were demolished and high rise, high-end housing developments spread along the riverbank.

Local people, some who worked in these industries, were cut off from the river and its industrial history was soon forgotten as Bankside developed into one of London’s top cultural hubs.

The project Back to the River reconnected local communities and people to the history of the river through a range of workshops and talks led by artist Raewyn Harrison and archaeologist Mike Webber who created a temporary large public installation along the Thames foreshore in front of Tate Modern, with the help of participants and passers-by.