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Erith ( ) is a place in the London Borough of Bexleymarker, south east Londonmarker on the River Thames. Erith's town centre has undergone a series of modernisations since 1961.



Work at the former British Gypsum site in Church Manorway by the Museum of Londonmarker Archaeological Service showed that the area had a dense forest of oak, yew and alder during the Neolithic Period, which by the Bronze Age had given way in part to sedge fen.

Their work at the former site of Erith School in Belmont Road revealed the presence of prehistoric settlement, and of a substantial settlement or farmstead dating from the first century.

Following the collapse of Roman rule at the beginning of the 5th Century, Britain was colonised by invaders from northern Europe called the Anglo-Saxons. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells us that they won the Battle of Crayford in 457, slaying many men in the process, and shortly after claimed the whole of Kentmarker. Their different way of life was reflected in their pattern of settlement. The town and country estates of the Roman bureaucrats gave way to a network of villages, occupied by warriors and farmers. Erith was one of these villages, and has a Saxon name, thought to have been derived from a word meaning `muddy harbour' or `gravelly landing place'. There was probably a church on the site of the present St John the Baptist church during Roman times and almost certainly a Saxon building. The early settlement was based around this church, meaning that the centre of Erith was once west of its current location.

The earliest reference to the area is in a Latin charter of 695 recording a grant by the Bishop of the East Saxons of certain lands at Erith. In early times the area may also have been known as Lesnes or Lessness. After the Norman Conquest in 1066marker Erith passed into the possession of Bishop Odo and is mentioned in the Domesday Survey. In 1315 a Royal Charter was granted for a market to be held in Erith every Thursday. However, it was noted in 1776 that the market had long been discontinued.

Medieval onwards

Erith owes its existence to the Thames and was, until the 1850s, essentially a small riverside port, given prominence by Henry VIII's decision to open a naval dockyard in the town. At that time, and until the 19th Century, Erith was a popular anchorage. Ships often discharged some cargo here before proceeding through the shallows upstream. In 1797 Edward Hasted described Erith as 'consisting of one small street of houses, which leads to the water side', and mentions two annual fairs, on Ascension Day and Michaelmas Day. In 1831 Erith's population was 1533 people, and it was described (in 1840), as being 'composed chiefly of two streets, one leading down to the water side, the other branching off to the left towards the church'.

The Local Government Act 1894 brought into existence Erith Urban District, which became the Municipal Borough of Erithmarker in 1938. It included Northumberland Heathmarker and Belvederemarker.

In 1961, plans were put forward by local planners to redevelop Erith into a modern, sleek shopping and working environment. This involved clearing the substandard housing by the riverside and the old street layout in order to accommodate more cars.

In 1965, under the London Government Act 1963, the Erith Municipal Borough was abolished and its area transferred to Greater London to form part of the present-day London Borough of Bexleymarker. The new boundary of the city went far beyond the original London postal districts. Royal Mail decided not to echo this change by expanding the London postal district, due to cost considerations. Therefore Erith (along with the majority of Bexley Borough) does not come under the SE postcode areamarker and continues to be serviced from Dartfordmarker, Kent, with DA postal codes.

Demolition of the old town started in 1966 when the mayor of Bexley smashed Headley Mitchells shop window, and continued in phases until 1980, leaving few reminders of the old town centre (viz: Queens Church, The Cross Keys pub, police station, the Carnegie Library and Christ Church).

From the river front there are two point block residential towers opened in the early seventies, the playhouse (begun in 1973) and two rather drab shopping centres (1969 and 1973). Recently, these shopping centres have been refaced and extended to provide new social housing and better quality shops to complement the W.M.Morrison's supermarket to the east of town in an attempt to make Erith more attractive and welcoming. The site formerly used by outdoor markets became a car park serving the improved pedestrianised centre.

In 1975/76 everything to the south of Pier Road was swept away for more modern housing and a new dual carriageway, which still stands today.

In 1996, the two sites of Erith School, the East and West buildings, merged onto one site on Avenue Road. In 2005, the school was awarded Specialist Schools status by the Government, recognising its excellence in PE, Maths and ICT. A new sixth form block opened in 2007. Its Community Sports Centre is used during the evenings and weekends by a variety of teams.


Erith Iron Works was established in 1864 in Anchor Bay by William Anderson. From 1881 Erith was home to a large cable works founded by William Callender. This became British Insulated Callender's Cables (BICC), and eventually Pirelli who announced its partial closure in 2003. The remainder became Prysmian.

During the First World War Erith was an extremely important area for the manufacture of guns and ammunition, largely due to the presence of the large Vickers works in the Fraser Road area.In the Second World War, Erith found itself in the thick of the conflict, being directly on the German bombing routes from Europe to London, and also because of the nearby armament factories.


Since the late 1990’s Erith has been undergoing significant changes with the Erith Western Thames Gateway project being the culmination of a number of years of regeneration.

The regeneration of the area falls within the remit of the Thames Gateway project, with Erith being a key focus for Bexley Councilmarker as its only population centre on the River Thames.

Since 2000 a significant number of new flats have been constructed by the River Thames by private companies such as George Wimpy. It is expected that the Erith Western Gateway, that will include a significant number of new riverside flats, will continue to rejuvenate the area which suffered from the blight of post World War Two rebuilding. The area under consideration in the Erith Western Gateway is a large, underused area of the town centre. Bexley Councilmarker are seeking to provide a mixed use development with the potential for 6,000 square metres of new commercial space and over 500 new homes.

The London Borough of Bexley announced the selection of Crest Nicholson/Orbit South to take forward the Erith Western Gateway regeneration scheme. The timing and construction of the gateway is uncertain.

Sport and leisure

A new swimming pool was recently built adjoining the sports centre and the David Ives Stadium, which is home to Bexley Athletic Club and Erith Town F.C.marker ('The Dockers'), who play in the Kent League. (Note Erith and Belvedere Football Club play in Wellingmarker). Erith Rugby Club play at Northumberland Heathmarker Recreation Ground.

The Erith Playhousemarker Theatre is the largest in London Borough of Bexleymarker and there is a museum about the history of the area. A new library with meeting room opened in Spring 2009 opposite the Health Centre.

The Erith Symphony Orchestra closed in 1972 and it was almost 30 years before another orchestra was heard in town, when the Dartford-based, Orchestra of the Thames Gateway gave a concert there in 2004 and in subsequent years.

Erith is home to the longest pier in London, on the River Thames. It has been recently adapted from commercial to leisure use, and is popular with anglers. The annual Erith Riverside Festival has been held for a number of years in Riverside Gardens alongside the Thames. Erith Rowing Club is a successful and friendly club located in former police premises on the waterfront, accessed from Erith High Street. Downstream, Erith Yacht Club is very active in both competitive and social sailing, based on the edge of Crayford Marshes with consent for a new clubhouse.

Erith is the starting point for the LOOP (London Outer Orbital Path) and one of the starting points for the Green Chain Walk. The Thames Path National Trail which runs to the source of the River Thames at Kemblemarker begins at nearby Crayford Ness.

The initial broadcasts of pirate radio station West and North Kent Radio (WNKR) took place at Norvic House, Larner Road, Erith, during the bank holiday weekend in August 1987, on a frequency of 91.8FM. The station now transmits pre-recorded music shows on the medium wave (188 metres/1593 kHz) at weekends, with some Internet streaming options offered since 2000 [14069].


  • A traditional (anonymous) rhyme has it that:
:"There are men in the village of Erith that nobody seeth or heareth,
:and there looms on the marge of the river a barge, that nobody roweth or steereth".


The largest part of Erith is in the Erith ward of the London Borough of Bexleymarker. The local councillors are Bernard Clewes MBE (Conservative) and Chris Ball and Margaret O'Neill (both Labour). The eastern part of Erith is in North End wardmarker and the southern part in Colyers wardmarker.

Most of Erith lies within the Erith and Thamesmeadmarker constituency. The current M.P. is John Austin (Labour). The eastern part of Erith is within the Bexleyheath and Crayfordmarker constituency. The M.P. is David Evennett (Conservative).

Erith is in the Bexley and Bromley London Assembly constituency and is represented on the London Assembly by James Cleverly (Conservative).

Community interests are represented by Erith Town Forum. In the eastern part of Erith (in North End ward) community interests are also represented by Slade Green Community Forum. [14070]


For education in Erith see the main London Borough of Bexley article

Places of Worship

Christadelphian Hall, Lesney Park Rd. Erith

Christ Church, Victoria Rd. Erith

Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witness, Fraser Rd, Erith

Northend Baptist Church, Larner Rd, Erith

Northumberland Road Baptist Church, Belmont Road, Erith

Our Lady of the Angels, Carlton Road, Erith

Queen Street Baptist Church, Erith

St. Augustines Church (Slade Green), Slade Green Rd, Erith

St. Johns the Baptist Church, West Street, Erith

St. Paul's Church, Mill Road, Erith

The Treasure House, Bexley Road, Erith

Transport and locale

Erith is in Travelcard Zone 6.

Nearest places


Erith railway station is only a short walk from the town centre. Peak service includes trains to London Charing Cross and London Cannon Street, via Woolwich and Greenwich, every 15 minutes. Peak service to the east includes trains every 15 minutes to Dartford, and a limited service to Crayford or Gravesend and Gillingham. Trains on a Sunday run twice an hour. There is a 24hr cab service at the gate of the station.

Nearest railway stations



External links

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