The People, Places, Events, Customs and More from the Victorian Era. Please Scroll Down to Explore Links to Other Sites of Historical Interest:

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Modern Day River Useage

Bringing us up to modern times just for a moment, anyone living - or perhaps more pertinently, working – in London will be aware that their journey to work on Sunday 3rd and Monday 4th October will be hampered greatly by a tube strike.

This also happened on Monday 6th September, but if the media are to be believed, Londoners coped relatively well with the alternative routes provided by TFL (Transport for London) which included utilizing the existing services, and providing extra transport options on the river Thames.

The Thames has been something of a bugbear of mine for around two years now since I took a Thames Clipper service from Embankment pier to Greenwich with Miss Amateur Casual, and found it without a doubt the best transport journey through London we have ever made.

The journey coincided with a bit of research I was doing at the time on the use of the River between 1860 and 1875, and all the references to this period of river-use pointed to the waterway being constantly busy and bustling, and it was even given the moniker “The Silent Highway” such was its heavy stream of traffic.
Goods from as far away as China and India were sailed back to London on huge Clippers which would be unloaded at docks and the goods put in the great warehouses for distribution.

I may do a more in-depth article on the Thames later as it was an integral part of Victorian London life, but to concentrate on the modern era for a moment, my trip on the clipper highlighted the saddening fact that we simply do not use this river to its full potential. 150 odd years ago there were steamers ferrying passengers up and down the river to the many piers, whether it be for pleasure, at Cremorne and Vauxhall gardens, or work at St Pauls Wharf, Blackfriars or the Commercial Docks etc. There were Rafter-men, who floated goods (mostly timber) down the river for the docks, and Watermen who were the river equivalent of cabs (Although the high number of steamers toward the end of the century saw the number of Watermen begin to decline) and, as already mentioned, the goods being brought into docks from all over the world (which began to decline as train usage rose).

However, if you take a walk down the river now you will see a few tourist boats, a hideous creation known as a “Duck Tour” (the vehicle is grotesquely ugly – an aquatic army van it seems that has been painted yellow, but the tour looks marvellous) the aforementioned Thames Clipper service, the odd private speedboat and perhaps a police boat. Other than that the river is barely used, but surely an artery that cuts through the centre of such a vibrant city could be put to better use?

I can think of no better journey to work in the morning than that of a Thames Clipper, upon which you can get a drink from the bar and gaze out at the river and the passing buildings (some interesting old wharves converted into flats can be seen, as well as the obvious St Pauls, Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

But I wondered, is it just London? Are there any rivers in Britain (or anywhere) that are still properly used? Last year we spent a few days in Budapest, Hungary, and the same could be said of the Danube – other than the tourist boat that we were on, the river was largely bare.

I’d be interested to hear if any UK rivers still provide an essential service, so if you know of any, please leave a comment.  

If you will be affected by the tube strikes, you may find this link to the LBC website helpful, which contains all the latest.

No comments:

Post a Comment