Shipbuilding returns to North Woolwich

The Harland and Wolff Ltd Works at Gallions Point, North Woolwich, 1947

Harland and Wolff Ltd Works at Gallions Point (1947) – Britain from Above

For over 50 years the site at Gallions Point, North Woolwich, was the home to Harland and Wolff Ltd’s London works where shipbuilding and repairs were undertaken but like many places in London’s Royal Docks the works closed and the site was cleared to become a new housing development.

North Woolwich (lr) @ Gallions Point 08-07-16

The view from the Gallions Point development looking East

Now, this same site will become home to part of an art project called Tidal Twirlings that is focused on North Woolwich and devised by AIR, supported by London Borough of Newham and Arts Council England.

The Tidal Twirlings project has been running for a number of weeks and one of the commissioned works is a proposal to build a ship – this will take place at Gallions Point in the open area shown in the photograph above (near E16 2SR).

The artist, Dmitri Galitzine, is planning to build the ship with the help of the local community. Dmitiri will be based at Gallions Point for several days a week over a 6 week period (details here) and will be inviting people to help him design and build the vessel which will be made out of material found or donated from within the North Woolwich area, including the river Thames.

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This blog post will be updated as the project progresses and everyone is invited to come along and take part in this community activity that starts on Monday, 8th August 2016.

Update – 8th August

Today was the first day of the project and Dmitri spent most of the time on site talking to various people and exploring the Gallions Point site, including a grand tour of the recycling points..

Ship - Day 1 (1l)

Dmitri also spent some time researching ship designs taking inspiration from passing river traffic.

Ship - Day 1 (2l)

He also made a start on sketching some ideas for the ship and planning  the first stages of the project.

Ship - Day 1 (3l)

Tomorrow should see the arrival of a shipping container that will become the base of operations for the project – everyone is encouraged to come along and have a word with Dmitri or help collect materials.

Update – 11th August

The project now has a state-of-the-art ship fabrication facility on site in North Woolwich thanks to support from Crossrail’s contractors Balfour Beatty and Carney Construction.

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Click on the image below to see a time-lapse video of the box being unloaded on site.

As a bonus the box even came with some shelving although it did need a bit of a clean!

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We were also able to secure a carbon neutral materials transport solution for use on site – this will make the collection of raw materials so much easier.

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Dmitri has also been busy decorating the workshop and collecting quite a lot of materials already – anyone that wants to lend a hand is welcome to come along to the next session on Saturday 13th August from 10am.

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Update 14th August

Busy day down at the North Woolwich shipyard yesterday with lots of visitors coming to see what the project was all about.

We also had quite a few people come along and help with taking things apart and removing nails to provide raw materials for building the ship.

Dmitri also made a prototype cross-section of the boat to see what it looked like as a 3D model rather than just a paper drawing – we also checked that it would fit through the gate to the slipway!!

All in all a productive and successful day – Dmitri will be back at the North Woolwich shipyard Monday to Thursday (15th – 18th August) between 10am and 4pm – why not come along a give him a hand.

Update 18th August

A busy few days down at the shipyard as the task of collecting plastic bottles continues with the container filling nicely and local residents continuing to bring bottles of all shapes and sizes.

We also had a large plastic barrel donated to the project by the team at Gallions Point Marina and this was soon forming a key part of the ship to add buoyancy.

Meanwhile Dmitri has continued to refine the design after making some changes to the prototype and has now constructed the first piece of the final ship.

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A number of local residents also started work on making the sail out of some heavy duty plastic bags that were found in one of the rubbish sheds on site.

Work continues on site and everyone is welcome to come down and bring materials or lend a hand.

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Update 28th August

Another very busy (and hot!) few days down at the shipyard in North Woolwich has led to the ship really taking shape and we have had lots of people pay us a visit to both help with the construction and with the supply of materials – thanks to everyone that came by.

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This time-lapse shows some of the build activity including the fitting of the 3rd cross section to the ship – an exciting day for the project showing the transition from piles of material in to a ship.

As well as work on the main structure further work was done on the sail with lots of locals and visitors helping us out.

We also had a return visit from one of the children from the estate and she had drawn a flag for us. Then she and her Dad turned the drawing in to a painted flag for us.

So, by the end of the week with the main body and the bow structure in place and the side cladding nearly complete on the port side of the ship. Next week the plan is to work on the stern and continue with the cladding work. Come along and help again from Wednesday 31st August.

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Update 5th September

Another busy week last week with lots of great shipbuilding materials being donated by local people along with some more barrels and plastic bottles for buoyancy.

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Dmitri also completed the stern of the ship so now the whole of the main structure is in place and work continued on the cladding of the sides and bottom and a start was made on putting in the decking at the bow.

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Dmitri also took a moment to reflect on whether to enter the cruise market with his ship!

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Build work continues this week with the focus being on getting more barrels installed and working on the decking and cladding + a mast for the sail if time permits.

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Update 12th September

As we enter the final week of the build things have been busy down in the North Woolwich shipyard.

From the outset this has been a community project and local people were asked to bring plastic boats to help make the ship float – this week we started putting the bottles inside the ship.

Dmitri has continued to work on making the structure as sound as possible using bolts and screws – lots of screws!


The following video shows a walk-round of the yard and the boat and shows that the internal structure is complete, most of the buoyancy devices are in place and just the decking, mast and rudder to put in place.

The final week will be spent getting the boat ready for launch so feel free to come along and have a look and lend a hand – the launch will take place at 2pm on Sunday 18th September.

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Final build update

The final week of the build comprised of a number of major activities and included the painting on of the name of the boat which is NYUK KEN in memory of a friend of one of the project supporters that had recently passed away.


The biggest job of the week was to get the mast up on to the ship and safely mounted, this took several volunteers to help Dmitri get the mast in place but it was soon rigged and ready to go.

Dmitri also built a cabin and a boarding ladder and attached an anchor as well as loading up all the plastic bottles that had been contributed by local residents.

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Then it was time for the ship to rest whilst waiting for the day of departure.

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2 thoughts on “Shipbuilding returns to North Woolwich

  1. Pingback: Dmitri’s ship has sailed | Dock, Lock and River

  2. Pingback: #dlr_blog review of 2016 | Dock, Lock and River

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