Thursday, 31 May 2012

The River Thames

London was a port long before a city had been established. It was the Romans in 50AD who settled on the banks of the Thames calling the settlement Londinium. It then developed into a major trading and ship building port through history from the Saxons, Normans and Tudors. Walking along the shore by the river you can still find clay pipes dating back hundreds of years. The Thames is a tidal river and its force and tidal currents should never be forgotten. However, I did take the risk(!) and climbed down to the foreshore to see if I could find anything.

All I found was a discarded oyster shell. Impossible to say how old it might be as the eating of oysters dates back to early Roman times.
By 1576 London was the world's foremost trading port. By the 18th century the port was struggling to cope. The docks were expanding rapidly. Smaller boats carrying coal and grain from other British ports, still used riverside whaves, but congestion on the Thames led to purpose built docks large enough for ocean going vessels. Walking by the Thames today you can see many of the warehouses rising like huge cliffs from the banks of the Thames. These days they have been converted into large apartments, with balconies overlooking the Thames.


This is about 100m from Tower Bridge in an area called Shad Thames ( a corruption of the name St John of Thames). Here you can see how the warehouses were linked by a network of metal bridges so that the workers could move loads from one building to another. Now they form part of these very exclusive and expensive properties often costing millions to buy due to their close proximity to the city and the views they have over the Thames! Unfortunately my pension doesn't quite cover the asking price.

Walking eastwards along the Thames path you can see further evidence of these walkways:


Interpersed between the warehouses are of course the drinking houses for the Thames workers. This one is called the Mayflower and it is here that the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for America.

Although life on the Thames has changed dramatically over the centuries, London is still one of Britain’s leading ports and the Thames has over 70 operational wharves.




  1. I never knew many of these facts. Thanks for bringing me up to speed. I think it would be splendid to live in London or even Londinium like you do. :-)

  2. Very interesting post ! I recognized the Pub ! I have been there I remember. During the 10 years my son lived in London I visited 60 Pubs and made drawings with little notes. I loved to draw the people in the Pubs. This one was really special because of its history ! I still have my little drawing book.

  3. My husband, who is an American, now living the UK with me... his family arrived on the shores of the USA, in the Mayflower. We shall have to visit this spot I think.... a full circle for his family history would be complete.


  4. I knew nothing about this part of the city before now, thank you! I love rivers with an old and rich history... it's like they provide a connection with the past! :o)


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