Event archive

Event Organiser: Ingenieurs et Scientifique de France

The Thames Barrier - from birth to robust middle age, webinar

  • Webinar
  • Online
  • 23 June 2021
  • 18:00 - 19:15
The Thames Barrier - from birth to robust middle age, webinar

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The need for a barrier to protect London was identified by the severe flooding of the East Coast in 1953.

The Thames was still used for substantial commercial traffic, and the Port of London set onerous conditions for prevention of flooding. Conventional solutions for moveable barriers were not able to meet these requirements so it was not until an innovative solution was conceived around 1970 that detailed design and procurement could commence.

Because of their strategic importance, the moveable rising sector gates were subject to particular scrutiny including testing to destruction of a one sixth scale model at Imperial College in 1973. The need for this investigation was fuelled by contemporary concerns about design rules for plated steel structures, with major bridge collapses in Wales, Germany and Australia. Procurement and construction also presented major challenges and the Barrier was finally commissioned by 1984.

Rising sea levels and long-term post glacial settlement mean that the flooding risk continues to increase. The Environment Agency is already considering the next solution, which will probably need to be in commission by 2070.


Dr Graham Owens

Graham worked at the Steel Construction Institute from its inception in 1986, and as Director from 1992 until his retirement in 2008. Previously he was a Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer at Imperial College, with particular responsibility for the MSc in Structural Steel Design. He was a Research Assistant at IC from 1970 to 1973. He was awarded Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2003 and was President of the Institution of Structural Engineers in 2009.

His initial involvement with the Thames Barrier was from 1971 to 1975. He continues his occasional involvement with the Barrier, advising the Environment Agency who ensures its safety and integrity.

Event venue

United Kingdom

For more information please contact:

Shelly-Ann Russell

e: [email protected]