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June 17th, 2010
A Wealth of History on the Thames

Thursday Thirteen

I’ve read a lot of non-fiction books about England and England history recently. Thames: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd inspired my topic for Thursday Thirteen this week.

Thirteen Facts and Interesting Tidbits About the Thames River

1. The Thames is the longest river in England but not the longest in Britain. The Severn is approximately five miles longer.

2. The Thames is 215 miles long, 191 miles of it navigable.

3. The royals used the Thames as part of their celebrations. During the sixteenth century Henry VIII and Elizabeth I sailed down the Thames in luxurious barges. It was a way of interacting with the people. When Anne Boleyn sailed down the Thames for her coronation, it was said that the barges following her stretched for four miles. She also sailed down the Thames a few years later to get to the Tower.

4. During the sixteenth century the Thames was full of ships. People said the Thames looked like forest of masts. In 1724 Daniel Defoe calculated that at any one time around two thousand vessels were on the water.

5. The Mayflower sailed from Rotherhithe on the Thames.

6. In 1665 and 1666, during the time of plague and the Fire people took refuge on the Thames.

7. The river was linked with excess and bad language, smuggling and theft. People who worked on or near the river were considered disreputable.

8. The workers in the grain and corn warehouses of Milwall Docks were known as “toe-rags” because of the sacking they wore over their boots. The word became a synonym for a despised individual.

9. Mud-larks were usually very young children or old women who spent their days wading through the mud banks during low tide for bits of coal, wood or metal.

10. Venetian galleys brought in sugar, spices and silken garments and returned to their home ports with raw wool from England. By the fourteenth century around one hundred thousand sacks of wool were transported each year.

11. The first steamships appeared on the river in 1801. They were used mainly for towing larger sailing vessels.

12. The Thames is a tidal river, which means high tides and floods are a danger to Londoners. There were major floods in 1809, 1823, 1849, 1852, 1877, 1894. In 1927 fourteen people drowned during floods. The Thames Barrier was built to counteract the effects of the tide. The barrier can hold back 50 thousand tons of water, but it’s said it will be obsolete by 2030. Meanwhile the tides keep getting larger.

13. Between the seventh and seventeenth centuries the Thames froze on eleven occasions. The worst was in 1434-5 when the river froze from the end of November to mid-February. When the Thames froze Londoners celebrated with Frost Fairs. There was food and entertainment on the ice, the last taking place in 1814. When the thaw started, it always happened quickly and the ice broke up in hours.

Have you visited London and seen the Thames?

27 comments to “A Wealth of History on the Thames”

  1. Great info there. I know the Thames well. It was also responsible for developing sewage systems. When it began to stink so bad that Parliament had to be suspended, the money was found for the new system of tunnels under London that exist to this day.

  2. You ask: Have you visited London and seen the Thames?

    I answer: Indeed, I have! In fact, my favorite hotel is right next to it, alongside the London Eye. I have to pay a little more, but it’s sooo worth it, to me. :)

    “The Mayflower sailed from Rotherhithe on the Thames.”
    And once it was gone, the Brits all breathed a sigh of relief and got roaring drunk to celebrate! LOL!

    Happy TT!

  3. I did NOT know that about the Mayflower…very educational 13 this week.

    Come join me and read my Thursday post of you can. It’s HERE

  4. Very fascinating. The river has play stage to so much history.

  5. Anthony – what fascinates me about London is the number of rivers that flow under the city or have disappeared. I can imagine the river got very polluted with all the ships and factories along with all the people.

  6. Kimberly – I love visiting London but haven’t been for a few years now. I have great memories of the city since we lived there for six years.

    Anni – I’m glad you enjoyed my post.

  7. Nessa – definitely. If only rivers could talk. :wink:

  8. I always learn something new on your blog. Thanks for the info.

    Happy T13!

  9. Interesting facts!

    I’m very fond of the Thames. My wife and I were in the navy when we met, and managed to both get posted to London for six months before our wedding. We sailed on the Thames every weekend we could. Happy days. :)

  10. Yes- I have enjoyed Thames :)

    Have a great Thursday!

  11. I enjoyed your T13 very much, learned a lot!

  12. I have never been. This was neat, though, and reminded me of a fun movie. In “Split Second” London is flooded and Rutger Hauer plays a cranky cop with a psychic link to the bad guy. Thank you for sharing!

  13. One day I will visit London and see the Thames.

  14. Very interesting! The second book in my Modern Day Vampires series takes place in London, so I feature the Thames in that story!


    My TT is at http://paigetylertheauthor.blogspot.com/

  15. I have not. But my dearest travel wish is to see GB, and I WILL get there one of these days!

  16. It’s only 215 miles long? Well, I suppose you can’t expect much longer than that on an island, even a big island.

    If the ice can break in hours, no way I’d set up a booth on it.

  17. I have not seen the Thames.
    I enjoyed all the information in your post today. I learned something new.

  18. I would so love to visit London and the River Thames some day. Seeing it filled with thousands of ships’ masts must have been quite a sight!

  19. Love the interesting facts you always share. I have never been to London but I’d love to go one day.

  20. Such interesting factoids. London is on my list, but I think I will skip going in winter, freezing Thames or not… lol

  21. Never visited but love the history!

  22. I’ve never been out of the U.S. I’m not much for traveling but I like to read about others doing it. lol

  23. Paige – there aren’t as many vampire books set in London. It sounds interesting.

  24. Tatiana – thank you. I’m glad you enjoy my TTs

  25. Ahh, one day, I’ll get to England. Maybe. Hopefully.

  26. *sigh* I want to go to Great Britain too.

  27. never had a clue but now that i do – lovely

    check mine at http://bit.ly/bNGC3a