A dip into Thames history

As a Londoner born and bred (albeit temporarily displaced) I’m enjoying the posts that arrive in my inbox from from the Cabbie Blog.

I can thoroughly recommend this blog for those with London stamped through their bones like seaside rock.

I particularly enjoyed this one about the Thames and its rich (euphemism for smelly) history.


The River Thames is etched into England’s psyche, over the years it has played a central role in the life of the nation, historically used for coronations, processions, invasion and funerals.

In 1929 the MP John Burns famously described the river as “The St Lawrence is water, the Mississippi is muddy water, but the Thames is liquid history”.

[K]ing Henry VIII loved his palaces at Greenwich and Richmond, but once he had sight of Cardinal Wolsey’s palace at Hampton Court he did not rest until he “persuaded” Wolsey to “give” it to him.

Queen Elizabeth I also loved Greenwich and Richmond, and it was at Richmond Palace in 1603 that she died. Her body was brought downstream to Westminster for her funeral on a magnificent black barge; the poet William Campden described the scene as follows:

“The Queen was brought by water to Whitehall. At every stroke of oars did tears fall”.

Less romantic was Henry VIII’s final trip from London to Windsor – he was due to be buried in St George’s Chapel there. During the overnight stop between London and Windsor, his barge moored at Syon House in Isleworth. His coffin suddenly split open, and dogs were found licking his remains.

The banks of the Thames became the favoured location for buildings of all kinds…


11 thoughts on “A dip into Thames history

    1. It seems that a lot of place-names in the US are spelled like the UK versions but pronounced more literally. Never having travelled across the pond myself, Greenwich Village was the first I came across in the 60s.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks for posting that Cathy.
    Some things I knew, some I didn’t and others I half knew.
    Joseph Bazalgette speeded up the flow of the Thames and built London’s sewers to reduce the stench from the Thames and improve public health.
    With London as with the Fens, the management of water is vitally important.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We had ideas of investing in a narrowboat when I retired; you don’t need a river licence for the waterways here in the Fens, although we’d no doubt have wanted to go farther afield but, finances being uncertain, it never happened. We invested in an old Autotrail motorhome instead (a bit bigger than Fred’s).


      1. We ( well I ) also fancied the idea of a boat when Cyberspouse had done his thirty years in the Met. But property keeps its value and a boat might sink, also not a lot of room for my visiting Aussie relatives. so we opted for being by the sea and, after six years on the waiting list, a beach hut ( wooden box ) – it doesn’t move, but you can pretend you’re on a sea cruise.

        Liked by 1 person

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