River Thames

River Thames

Overview
The River Thames flows through southern England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London
Central London
Central London is the innermost part of London, England. There is no official or commonly accepted definition of its area, but its characteristics are understood to include a high density built environment, high land values, an elevated daytime population and a concentration of regionally,...

, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

, Reading
Reading, Berkshire
Reading is a large town and unitary authority area in England. It is located in the Thames Valley at the confluence of the River Thames and River Kennet, and on both the Great Western Main Line railway and the M4 motorway, some west of London....

, Henley-on-Thames
Henley-on-Thames
Henley-on-Thames is a town and civil parish on the River Thames in South Oxfordshire, England, about 10 miles downstream and north-east from Reading, 10 miles upstream and west from Maidenhead...

, Windsor
Windsor, Berkshire
Windsor is an affluent suburban town and unparished area in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire, England. It is widely known as the site of Windsor Castle, one of the official residences of the British Royal Family....

, Kingston upon Thames
Kingston upon Thames
Kingston upon Thames is the principal settlement of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames in southwest London. It was the ancient market town where Saxon kings were crowned and is now a suburb situated south west of Charing Cross. It is one of the major metropolitan centres identified in the...

 and Richmond.

The river gives its name to several geographical and political entities including the Thames Valley
Thames Valley
The Thames Valley Region is a loose term for the English counties and towns roughly following the course of the River Thames as it flows from Oxfordshire in the west to London in the east. It includes parts of Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, North Hampshire, Surrey and west London...

, a region of England centred around the river between Oxford and west London, the Thames Gateway
Thames Gateway
The Thames Gateway is an area of land stretching east from inner east London on both sides of the River Thames and the Thames Estuary. The area, which includes much brownfield land, has been designated a national priority for urban regeneration, taking advantage of the development opportunities...

, the area centred around the tidal Thames, and the Thames Estuary
Thames Estuary
The Thames Mouth is the estuary in which the River Thames meets the waters of the North Sea.It is not easy to define the limits of the estuary, although physically the head of Sea Reach, near Canvey Island on the Essex shore is probably the western boundary...

 to the east of London.
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Encyclopedia
The River Thames flows through southern England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London
Central London
Central London is the innermost part of London, England. There is no official or commonly accepted definition of its area, but its characteristics are understood to include a high density built environment, high land values, an elevated daytime population and a concentration of regionally,...

, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

, Reading
Reading, Berkshire
Reading is a large town and unitary authority area in England. It is located in the Thames Valley at the confluence of the River Thames and River Kennet, and on both the Great Western Main Line railway and the M4 motorway, some west of London....

, Henley-on-Thames
Henley-on-Thames
Henley-on-Thames is a town and civil parish on the River Thames in South Oxfordshire, England, about 10 miles downstream and north-east from Reading, 10 miles upstream and west from Maidenhead...

, Windsor
Windsor, Berkshire
Windsor is an affluent suburban town and unparished area in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire, England. It is widely known as the site of Windsor Castle, one of the official residences of the British Royal Family....

, Kingston upon Thames
Kingston upon Thames
Kingston upon Thames is the principal settlement of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames in southwest London. It was the ancient market town where Saxon kings were crowned and is now a suburb situated south west of Charing Cross. It is one of the major metropolitan centres identified in the...

 and Richmond.

The river gives its name to several geographical and political entities including the Thames Valley
Thames Valley
The Thames Valley Region is a loose term for the English counties and towns roughly following the course of the River Thames as it flows from Oxfordshire in the west to London in the east. It includes parts of Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, North Hampshire, Surrey and west London...

, a region of England centred around the river between Oxford and west London, the Thames Gateway
Thames Gateway
The Thames Gateway is an area of land stretching east from inner east London on both sides of the River Thames and the Thames Estuary. The area, which includes much brownfield land, has been designated a national priority for urban regeneration, taking advantage of the development opportunities...

, the area centred around the tidal Thames, and the Thames Estuary
Thames Estuary
The Thames Mouth is the estuary in which the River Thames meets the waters of the North Sea.It is not easy to define the limits of the estuary, although physically the head of Sea Reach, near Canvey Island on the Essex shore is probably the western boundary...

 to the east of London. The tidal section of the river is covered in more detail under Tideway
Tideway
The Tideway is a name given to the part of the River Thames in England that is subject to tides. This stretch of water is downstream from Teddington Lock and is just under long...

.

Summary



With a total length of 346 km (215 mi), the Thames is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. It rises at Thames Head
Thames Head
Thames Head is a site in Gloucestershire, traditionally identified as the source of the River Thames, a major river which runs through the centre of London. It lies near the village of Kemble and the town of Cirencester....

 in Gloucestershire, and flows into the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 at the Thames Estuary
Thames Estuary
The Thames Mouth is the estuary in which the River Thames meets the waters of the North Sea.It is not easy to define the limits of the estuary, although physically the head of Sea Reach, near Canvey Island on the Essex shore is probably the western boundary...

. It has a special significance in flowing through London, the capital of the United Kingdom, although London only includes a short part of its course. The river is tidal in London with a rise and fall of 7 metres (23 ft); tides reaching up to Teddington Lock
Teddington Lock
Teddington Lock is a complex of three locks and a weir on the River Thames in England at Ham in the western suburbs of London. The lock is on the southern Surrey side of the river....

. The catchment area
Drainage basin
A drainage basin is an extent or an area of land where surface water from rain and melting snow or ice converges to a single point, usually the exit of the basin, where the waters join another waterbody, such as a river, lake, reservoir, estuary, wetland, sea, or ocean...

 covers a large part of South Eastern and Western England and the river is fed by over 20 tributaries. The river contains over 80 islands, and having both seawater and freshwater stretches, it supports a variety of wildlife.

The river has supported human activity from its source to its mouth for thousands of years providing habitation, water power, food and drink. It has also acted as a major highway through the Port of London
Port of London
The Port of London lies along the banks of the River Thames from London, England to the North Sea. Once the largest port in the world, it is currently the United Kingdom's second largest port, after Grimsby & Immingham...

 for international trade, internally along its length and by its connection to the British canal system. The river’s strategic position has seen it at the centre of many events and fashions in British history, earning it a description by John Burns as “Liquid History”. It has been a physical and political boundary over the centuries and generated a range of river crossings. More recently, the river has become a major leisure area supporting tourism and pleasure outings as well as the sports of rowing, sailing, skiffing, kayaking, and punting. The river has had a special appeal to writers, artists, musicians and film-makers and is well-represented in the arts. It is still the subject of various debates about its course, nomenclature and history.

Etymology


The Thames, from Middle English Temese, is derived from the Celtic name for the river, Tamesas (from *tamēssa), recorded in Latin as Tamesis and underlying modern Welsh Tafwys "Thames". The name probably meant "dark" and can be compared to other cognates such as Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 tamas
Tamas (philosophy)
In the Samkhya school of philosophy, tamas is one of the three gunas , the other two being rajas and sattva or purity). Tamas is the template for inertia or resistance to action...

, Irish teimheal and Welsh tywyll "darkness" (Proto-Celtic *temeslos) and Middle Irish teimen "dark grey", though Richard Coates
Richard Coates
Richard Coates is an English linguist. He is professor of linguistics at the University of the West of England in Bristol. He was formerly professor of linguistics at the University of Sussex, where he served as Dean of the School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences from 1998 to 2003...

 mentions other theories: Kenneth Jackson's
Kenneth H. Jackson
Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson was an English linguist and a translator who specialised in the Celtic languages. He demonstrated how the text of the Ulster Cycle of tales, written circa AD 1100, preserves an oral tradition originating some six centuries earlier and reflects Celtic Irish society of the...

 that it is non Indo-European (and of unknown meaning), and Peter Kitson's that it is IE but pre-Celtic, and has a name indicating muddiness from a root *tã-, 'melt'.
Note also other river names such as Teme
Teme
Teme may refer to:In geography:* River Teme, located in Wales* Teme River, located in New ZealandIn philosophy:* Teme , a term coined by author Susan Blackmore meaning technological meme.Other:...

, Tavy
River Tavy
The Tavy is a river on Dartmoor, Devon, England. The name derives from the Brythonic root "Taff", the original meaning of which has now been lost...

, Teviot
River Teviot
The River Teviot, or Teviot Water, is a river of the Scottish Borders area of Scotland, and a tributary of the River Tweed.It rises in the western foothills of Comb Hill on the border of Dumfries and Galloway...

, Teifi (cf Tafwys).

The river's name has always been pronounced with a simple t /t/; the Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

 spelling was typically Temese and Celtic
Celtic languages
The Celtic languages are descended from Proto-Celtic, or "Common Celtic"; a branch of the greater Indo-European language family...

 Tamesis
Tamesis
Tamesis was the ancient name for the River Thames.Sculptures entitled Tamesis and Isis by Anne Seymour Damer can be found on the bridge at Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. The original terracotta and plaster models were exhibited at the Royal Academy, London, in 1785. They are now on show at the...

. The th spelling lends an air of Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 to the name and was added during the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

, possibly to reflect or support a claim that the name was derived from River Thyamis
River Thyamis
The Thyamis , also known as Glycis or Kalamas, is a river in the Epirus region of Greece. It flows into the Ionian Sea. The names of the Chameria region , as well as the former Cham minority, derive from the river's name...

 in the Epirus
Epirus
The name Epirus, from the Greek "Ήπειρος" meaning continent may refer to:-Geographical:* Epirus - a historical and geographical region of the southwestern Balkans, straddling modern Greece and Albania...

 region of Greece, whence early Celt
Celt
The Celts were a diverse group of tribal societies in Iron Age and Roman-era Europe who spoke Celtic languages.The earliest archaeological culture commonly accepted as Celtic, or rather Proto-Celtic, was the central European Hallstatt culture , named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria....

ic tribes were erroneously thought to have migrated.

Indirect evidence for the antiquity of the name 'Thames' is provided by a Roman potsherd found at Oxford, bearing the inscription Tamesubugus fecit (Tamesubugus made this). It is believed that Tamesubugus's name was derived from that of the river.

The Thames through Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

 is sometimes given the name the River Isis
The Isis
The Isis is the name given to the part of the River Thames above Iffley Lock which flows through the city of Oxford. The name is especially used in the context of rowing at the University of Oxford...

. Historically, and especially in Victorian
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

 times, gazetteers and cartographers insisted that the entire river was correctly named the River Isis from its source down to Dorchester-on-Thames
Dorchester, Oxfordshire
Dorchester-on-Thames is a village and civil parish on the River Thame in Oxfordshire, about northwest of Wallingford and southeast of Oxford. Despite its name, Dorchester is not on the River Thames, but just above the Thame's confluence with it...

, and that only from this point, where the river meets the River Thame
River Thame
The River Thame is a river in Southern England. It is a tributary of the larger and better-known River Thames.The general course of the River Thame is north-east to south-west and the distance from its source to the River Thames is about 40 miles...

 and becomes the "Thame-isis" (supposedly subsequently abbreviated to Thames) should it be so called. Ordnance Survey
Ordnance Survey
Ordnance Survey , an executive agency and non-ministerial government department of the Government of the United Kingdom, is the national mapping agency for Great Britain, producing maps of Great Britain , and one of the world's largest producers of maps.The name reflects its creation together with...

 maps still label the Thames as "River Thames or Isis" down to Dorchester. However since the early 20th century this distinction has been lost in common usage even in Oxford, and some historians suggest the name Isis—although possibly named after the Egyptian
Egyptian mythology
Ancient Egyptian religion was a complex system of polytheistic beliefs and rituals which were an integral part of ancient Egyptian society. It centered on the Egyptians' interaction with a multitude of deities who were believed to be present in, and in control of, the forces and elements of nature...

 goddess of that name
Isis
Isis or in original more likely Aset is a goddess in Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. She was worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the matron of nature and magic...

—is nothing more than a contraction of Tamesis, the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 (or pre-Roman Celtic) name for the Thames.

Richard Coates
Richard Coates
Richard Coates is an English linguist. He is professor of linguistics at the University of the West of England in Bristol. He was formerly professor of linguistics at the University of Sussex, where he served as Dean of the School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences from 1998 to 2003...

 suggests that while the river was as a whole called the Thames, part of it, where it was too wide to ford, was called *(p)lowonida. This gave the name to a settlement on its banks, which became known as Londinium
Londinium
The city of London was established by the Romans around AD 43. It served as a major imperial commercial centre until its abandonment during the 5th century.-Origins and language:...

, from the Indo-European roots *pleu- "flow" and *-nedi "river" meaning something like the flowing river or the wide flowing unfordable river.

Another theory of the origin of the name was published in 2009. Many ancient watery words and river names begin with a vowel, especially A. Examples include Latin amnis (big stream) and aqua, rivers Avon, Amber, Amstel, etc. Among those many rivers is the one variously called Ems (German), Emme (Switzerland), Eems, Ames (Dutch) or Amnis (Latin). The latter rivers are characterised by a big estuary or water body. From around its mouth people migrated up the Thames estuary, as early Anglo-Saxon settlers. People also left that area in the period of sea level rise before 100 BC and known as the Dunkirk 1B transgression, about when Belgae arrived in Britain according to Julius Caesar. In their region of origin they would have spoken a Germanic language, in which a locative preposition 'te', ancestral to English "at", could have supplied an initial T to 'eems' creating Temse or Temese. If so, Thames originally meant ‘at the place where the estuary begins’ and would originally not refer to the river itself but to the place where people settled (actually: London) just upstream of the dangerous tidal zone. There, travellers could be ferried to the other side. Therefore some travellers began to speak about the 'Tems' ("at the eems") as a specific (ferry-) section of the river, extending later the name to the whole river.

Tamese was referred to as a place, not a river in the Ravenna Cosmography
Ravenna Cosmography
The Ravenna Cosmography was compiled by an anonymous cleric in Ravenna around AD 700. It consists of a list of place-names covering the world from India to Ireland. Textual evidence indicates that the author frequently used maps as his source....

.

For merchant seamen, the Thames has long been just 'the London River'. Londoners often refer to it simply as 'the river', in expressions such as 'south of the river'.

Course of the river





The usually quoted source of the Thames is at Thames Head
Thames Head
Thames Head is a site in Gloucestershire, traditionally identified as the source of the River Thames, a major river which runs through the centre of London. It lies near the village of Kemble and the town of Cirencester....

 (at ). This is about a mile north of the village of Kemble
Kemble, Gloucestershire
Kemble is a village in Gloucestershire, England.It lies four miles from Cirencester and is the settlement closest to Thames Head, the source of the River Thames. Kemble Church is part of the Thameshead benefice, comprising the communities of Kemble, Ewen, Poole Keynes, Somerford Keynes, and...

 in southern Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean....

, near the town of Cirencester
Cirencester
Cirencester is a market town in east Gloucestershire, England, 93 miles west northwest of London. Cirencester lies on the River Churn, a tributary of the River Thames, and is the largest town in the Cotswold District. It is the home of the Royal Agricultural College, the oldest agricultural...

, in the Cotswolds
Cotswolds
The Cotswolds are a range of hills in west-central England, sometimes called the Heart of England, an area across and long. The area has been designated as the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty...

. Seven Springs near Cheltenham
Cheltenham
Cheltenham , also known as Cheltenham Spa, is a large spa town and borough in Gloucestershire, on the edge of the Cotswolds in the South-West region of England. It is the home of the flagship race of British steeplechase horse racing, the Gold Cup, the main event of the Cheltenham Festival held...

, where the river Churn rises, is also sometimes quoted as the Thames' source, as this location is furthest from the mouth, and adds some 14 miles (22.5 km) to the length. The spring
Spring (hydrosphere)
A spring—also known as a rising or resurgence—is a component of the hydrosphere. Specifically, it is any natural situation where water flows to the surface of the earth from underground...

s at Seven Springs also flow throughout the year, while those at Thames Head are only seasonal. The Thames is the longest river entirely in England, but the River Severn
River Severn
The River Severn is the longest river in Great Britain, at about , but the second longest on the British Isles, behind the River Shannon. It rises at an altitude of on Plynlimon, Ceredigion near Llanidloes, Powys, in the Cambrian Mountains of mid Wales...

, which is partly in Wales, is the longest river in the United Kingdom.

The Thames flows through or alongside Ashton Keynes
Ashton Keynes
Ashton Keynes is a village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England, near the border with Gloucestershire, about 6 miles south of Cirencester and 4 miles north of Cricklade. According to the 2001 census the parish had a population of 1,420. The village lies within the Cotswold Water Park and is...

, Cricklade
Cricklade
Cricklade is a town and civil parish on the River Thames in north Wiltshire in England, midway between Swindon and Cirencester.On 25 September 2011 Cricklade was awarded The Royal Horticultural Society's 'Champion of Champions' award in the Britain in Bloom competition.Cricklade is twinned with...

, Lechlade
Lechlade
Lechlade, or Lechlade-on-Thames, is a town at the southern edge of the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire, England. It is the highest point at which the River Thames is navigable. The town is named after the River Leach that joins the Thames near here....

, Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

, Abingdon
Abingdon, Oxfordshire
Abingdon or archaically Abingdon-on-Thames is a market town and civil parish in Oxfordshire, England. It is the seat of the Vale of White Horse district. Previously the county town of Berkshire, Abingdon is one of several places that claim to be Britain's oldest continuously occupied town, with...

, Wallingford, Goring-on-Thames
Goring-On-Thames
Goring-on-Thames is a large village and civil parish on the River Thames in South Oxfordshire, about south of Wallingford.-Geography:...

, Reading
Reading, Berkshire
Reading is a large town and unitary authority area in England. It is located in the Thames Valley at the confluence of the River Thames and River Kennet, and on both the Great Western Main Line railway and the M4 motorway, some west of London....

, Henley-on-Thames
Henley-on-Thames
Henley-on-Thames is a town and civil parish on the River Thames in South Oxfordshire, England, about 10 miles downstream and north-east from Reading, 10 miles upstream and west from Maidenhead...

, Marlow
Marlow, Buckinghamshire
Marlow is a town and civil parish within Wycombe district in south Buckinghamshire, England...

, Maidenhead
Maidenhead
Maidenhead is a town and unparished area within the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, in Berkshire, England. It lies on the River Thames and is situated west of Charing Cross in London.-History:...

, Windsor
Windsor, Berkshire
Windsor is an affluent suburban town and unparished area in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire, England. It is widely known as the site of Windsor Castle, one of the official residences of the British Royal Family....

, Eton
Eton, Berkshire
Eton is a town and civil parish in Berkshire, England, lying on the opposite bank of the River Thames to Windsor and connected to it by Windsor Bridge. The parish also includes the large village of Eton Wick, 2 miles west of the town, and has a population of 4,980. Eton was in Buckinghamshire until...

, Staines
Staines
Staines is a Thames-side town in the Spelthorne borough of Surrey and Greater London Urban Area, as well as the London Commuter Belt of South East England. It is a suburban development within the western bounds of the M25 motorway and located 17 miles west south-west of Charing Cross in...

, Sunbury
Sunbury-on-Thames
Sunbury-on-Thames, also known as Sunbury, is a town in the Surrey borough of Spelthorne, England, and part of the London commuter belt. It is located 16 miles southwest of central London and bordered by Feltham and Hampton, flanked on the south by the River Thames.-History:The earliest evidence of...

, Weybridge
Weybridge
Weybridge is a town in the Elmbridge district of Surrey in South East England. It is bounded to the north by the River Thames at the mouth of the River Wey, from which it gets its name...

 and Thames Ditton
Thames Ditton
Thames Ditton is a village in Surrey, England, bordering Greater London. It is situated 12.2 miles south-west of Charing Cross between the towns of Kingston upon Thames, Surbiton, Esher and East Molesey...

 before entering the Greater London
Greater London
Greater London is the top-level administrative division of England covering London. It was created in 1965 and spans the City of London, including Middle Temple and Inner Temple, and the 32 London boroughs. This territory is coterminate with the London Government Office Region and the London...

 area. The present course is the result of several minor redirections of the main channel around Oxford, Abingdon and Maidenhead and more recently the creation of specific cuts to ease navigation.

From the outskirts of Greater London, the river passes Hampton Court, Surbiton
Surbiton
Surbiton, a suburban area of London in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, is situated next to the River Thames, with a mixture of Art-Deco courts, more recent residential blocks and grand, spacious 19th century townhouses blending into a sea of semi-detached 20th century housing estates...

, Kingston
Kingston upon Thames
Kingston upon Thames is the principal settlement of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames in southwest London. It was the ancient market town where Saxon kings were crowned and is now a suburb situated south west of Charing Cross. It is one of the major metropolitan centres identified in the...

, Teddington
Teddington
Teddington is a suburban area in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in south west London, on the north bank of the River Thames, between Hampton Wick and Twickenham. It stretches inland from the River Thames to Bushy Park...

, Twickenham
Twickenham
Twickenham is a large suburban town southwest of central London. It is the administrative headquarters of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and one of the locally important district centres identified in the London Plan...

, Richmond
Richmond upon Thames
Richmond is a town in southwest London, England and is part of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. It is located west-southwest of Charing Cross....

 (with a famous view of the Thames from Richmond Hill), Syon House
Syon House
Syon House, with its 200-acre park, is situated in west London, England. It belongs to the Duke of Northumberland and is now his family's London residence...

 and Kew
Kew
Kew is a place in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in South West London. Kew is best known for being the location of the Royal Botanic Gardens, now a World Heritage Site, which includes Kew Palace...

 before flowing through central London. In central London, the river forms one of the principal axes of the city, from the Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace, is the meeting place of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom—the House of Lords and the House of Commons...

 to the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

 and was the southern boundary of the medieval city, with Southwark
Southwark
Southwark is a district of south London, England, and the administrative headquarters of the London Borough of Southwark. Situated east of Charing Cross, it forms one of the oldest parts of London and fronts the River Thames to the north...

 on the opposite bank.

Past central London, the river passes between Greenwich
Greenwich
Greenwich is a district of south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich.Greenwich is best known for its maritime history and for giving its name to the Greenwich Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time...

 and the Isle of Dogs
Isle of Dogs
The Isle of Dogs is a former island in the East End of London that is bounded on three sides by one of the largest meanders in the River Thames.-Etymology:...

, before flowing through the Thames Barrier
Thames Barrier
The Thames Barrier is the world's second-largest movable flood barrier and is located downstream of central London. Its purpose is to prevent London from being flooded by exceptionally high tides and storm surges moving up from the sea...

, which protects central London from flooding by storm surge
Storm surge
A storm surge is an offshore rise of water associated with a low pressure weather system, typically tropical cyclones and strong extratropical cyclones. Storm surges are caused primarily by high winds pushing on the ocean's surface. The wind causes the water to pile up higher than the ordinary sea...

s. Below the barrier, the river passes Dagenham
Dagenham
Dagenham is a large suburb in East London, forming the eastern part of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and located east of Charing Cross. It was historically an agrarian village in the county of Essex and remained mostly undeveloped until 1921 when the London County Council began...

, Dartford
Dartford
Dartford is the principal town in the borough of Dartford. It is situated in the northwest corner of Kent, England, east south-east of central London....

, Tilbury
Tilbury
Tilbury is a town in the borough of Thurrock, Essex, England. As a settlement it is of relatively recent existence, although it has important historical connections, being the location of a 16th century fort and an ancient cross-river ferry...

 and Gravesend
Gravesend, Kent
Gravesend is a town in northwest Kent, England, on the south bank of the Thames, opposite Tilbury in Essex. It is the administrative town of the Borough of Gravesham and, because of its geographical position, has always had an important role to play in the history and communications of this part of...

 before entering the Thames Estuary
Thames Estuary
The Thames Mouth is the estuary in which the River Thames meets the waters of the North Sea.It is not easy to define the limits of the estuary, although physically the head of Sea Reach, near Canvey Island on the Essex shore is probably the western boundary...

 near Southend-on-Sea
Southend-on-Sea
Southend-on-Sea is a unitary authority area, town, and seaside resort in Essex, England. The district has Borough status, and comprises the towns of Chalkwell, Eastwood, Leigh-on-Sea, North Shoebury, Prittlewell, Shoeburyness, Southchurch, Thorpe Bay, and Westcliff-on-Sea. The district is situated...

.

Catchment area and discharge



The Thames River Basin District, including the Medway catchment, covers an area of 16133 square kilometres (6,229 sq mi). The river basin includes both rural and heavily urbanised areas in the east and northern parts while the western parts of the catchment are predominantly rural. The area is among the driest in the United Kingdom. Water resources consist of ground-water from aquifers and water taken from the Thames and its tributaries, much of it stored in large bank-side reservoirs. The Thames itself provides two thirds of London’s drinking water while groundwater supplies about 40 per cent of public water supplies in the total catchment area. Groundwater is an important water source, especially in the drier months, so maintaining its quality and quantity is extremely important. Groundwater is vulnerable to surface pollution, especially in highly urbanised areas.

The non-tidal section



Brooks, canals and rivers, within an area of 9950 square kilometres (3,842 sq mi), combine to form 38 main tributaries feeding the Thames between its source and Teddington Lock
Teddington Lock
Teddington Lock is a complex of three locks and a weir on the River Thames in England at Ham in the western suburbs of London. The lock is on the southern Surrey side of the river....

, the usual tidal limit. However, high spring tides can raise the head water level in the reach above Teddington and can occasionally reverse the river flow for a short time. In these circumstances, tidal effects can be observed upstream as far as Molesey Weir which is near Hampton Court Palace. Before Teddington Lock was built in 1810–12, the river was tidal as far as Staines. The tributaries of the River Thames include the rivers Churn
River Churn
The River Churn is one of the Cotswold rivers that feeds into the River Thames catchment. It arises at Seven Springs near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England and flows south across the Cotswold dip slope, passing through Cirencester and joining the River Thames near Cricklade in Wiltshire...

, Leach
River Leach
The River Leach is a river tributary to the River Thames, in England which runs mostly in Gloucestershire. It is approximately 18 miles long, springing from the limestone uplands of the Cotswolds. In parts of its course it becomes a seasonal bourn, only running above ground when there is...

, Cole
River Cole, Wiltshire
The River Cole is a tributary of the River Thames in England which flows through Wiltshire and Oxfordshire, where it forms part of the border between the two counties....

, Ray
River Ray
The River Ray is a river in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, England. It rises at Quainton Hill and flows west through a flat countryside for around 25 km or 15 miles. It passes the village of Ambrosden and then flows through Otmoor...

, Coln
River Coln
The River Coln is a river in Gloucestershire, England. It rises at Brockhampton to the east of Cheltenham, and flows in a south/south-easterly direction through the Cotswold Hills via Andoversford, Withington, Fossbridge, Bibury, Coln St Aldwyns and Fairford...

, Windrush
River Windrush
The River Windrush is a river in the English Cotswolds, forming part of the River Thames catchment.The Windrush starts in the Cotswold Hills in Gloucestershire northeast of Taddington, which is north of Guiting Power, Temple Guiting, Ford and Cutsdean...

, Evenlode
River Evenlode
The River Evenlode is a river in England which is a tributary of the Thames in Oxfordshire. It rises near Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire in the Cotswold Hills and flows south-east passing near Stow-on-the-Wold, Charlbury, Bladon, and Cassington, and its valley provides the route of the southern...

, Cherwell
River Cherwell
The River Cherwell is a river which flows through the Midlands of England. It is a major tributary of the River Thames.The general course of the River Cherwell is north to south and the 'straight-line' distance from its source to the Thames is about...

, Ock
River Ock
The River Ock is a small English river which is a tributary of the River Thames. It has as its catchment area the Vale of White Horse, a low-lying and wide valley in South Oxfordshire and flows into the River Thames, at Abingdon on the reach above Culham Lock.-Course:The River Ock rises near the...

, Thame
River Thame
The River Thame is a river in Southern England. It is a tributary of the larger and better-known River Thames.The general course of the River Thame is north-east to south-west and the distance from its source to the River Thames is about 40 miles...

, Pang
River Pang
The River Pang is a small chalk stream river in the west of the English county of Berkshire, and a tributary of the River Thames. It runs for approximately from its source near the village of Compton to its confluence with the Thames in the village of Pangbourne.The river, and its water voles, are...

, Kennet
River Kennet
The Kennet is a river in the south of England, and a tributary of the River Thames. The lower reaches of the river are navigable to river craft and are known as the Kennet Navigation, which, together with the Avon Navigation, the Kennet and Avon Canal and the Thames, links the cities of Bristol...

, Loddon
River Loddon
The River Loddon is a river in the English counties of Berkshire and Hampshire. It is a tributary of the River Thames, rising within the urban area of Basingstoke and flowing to meet the Thames near the village of Wargrave...

, Colne
River Colne, Hertfordshire
The Colne is a river in England which is a tributary of the River Thames. It flows mainly through Hertfordshire and forms the boundary between the South Bucks district of Buckinghamshire and the London Borough of Hillingdon...

, Wey
River Wey
The River Wey in Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex is a tributary of the River Thames with two separate branches which join at Tilford. The source of the north branch is at Alton, Hampshire and of the south branch at both Blackdown south of Haslemere, and also close to Gibbet Hill, near Hindhead...

 and Mole
River Mole, Surrey
The River Mole is a tributary of the River Thames in southern England. It rises in West Sussex near Gatwick Airport and flows north west through Surrey for to the Thames near Hampton Court Palace. The river gives its name to the Surrey district of Mole Valley...

. In addition there are many backwaters and distributaries and some man-made channels such as the Longford River
Longford River
The Longford River is an artificial waterway that diverts water 19km from the River Colne at Longford to Bushy Park and Hampton Court Palace where it reaches the Thames on the reach above Teddington Lock....

.

An artificial secondary channel to the Thames, the Jubilee River
Jubilee River
The Jubilee River is a hydraulic channel in southern England. It is 11.6 km in length and is on average 45 metres wide. It was constructed in the late 1990s and early 2000s to take overflow from the River Thames and so alleviate flooding to areas in and around the towns of Maidenhead,...

, was built between Maidenhead and Windsor for flood relief and completed in 2002

The non-tidal section of the river is managed by the Environment Agency
Environment Agency
The Environment Agency is a British non-departmental public body of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and an Assembly Government Sponsored Body of the Welsh Assembly Government that serves England and Wales.-Purpose:...

 which is responsible for both managing the flow of water to control flooding, and providing for navigation. The volume and speed of water down the river is managed by adjusting the gates at each of the weirs and at high water levels are usually dissipated over flood plains adjacent to the river. Occasionally flooding is unavoidable, and the Agency issues Flood Warnings. During heavy rainfall the Thames occasionally receives raw sewage discharge due to sanitary sewer overflow
Sanitary sewer overflow
Sanitary sewer overflow is a condition whereby untreated sewage is discharged into the environment prior to reaching treatment facilities thereby escaping wastewater treatment. When caused by rainfall it is also known as wet weather overflow. It is primarily meaningful in developed countries,...

.

The tidal section




Below Teddington Lock (about 55 miles (89 km) upstream of the Thames Estuary) the river is subject to tidal activity
Tide
Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the moon and the sun and the rotation of the Earth....

 from the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

. Before the lock was installed the river was tidal as far as Staines, about 16 miles (25.7 km) upstream. London, capital of Roman Britain
Roman Britain
Roman Britain was the part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire from AD 43 until ca. AD 410.The Romans referred to the imperial province as Britannia, which eventually comprised all of the island of Great Britain south of the fluid frontier with Caledonia...

, was established on two hills, now known as Cornhill and Ludgate Hill
Ludgate Hill
Ludgate Hill is a hill in the City of London, near the old Ludgate, a gate to the City that was taken down, with its attached gaol, in 1780. Ludgate Hill is the site of St Paul's Cathedral, traditionally said to have been the site of a Roman temple of the goddess Diana. It is one of the three...

. These provided a firm base for a trading centre at the lowest possible point on the Thames. A river crossing was built at the site of London Bridge
London Bridge
London Bridge is a bridge over the River Thames, connecting the City of London and Southwark, in central London. Situated between Cannon Street Railway Bridge and Tower Bridge, it forms the western end of the Pool of London...

. London Bridge is now used as the basis for published tide tables giving the times of high tide
Tide
Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the moon and the sun and the rotation of the Earth....

. High tide reaches Putney about 30 minutes later than London Bridge, and Teddington about an hour later. The tidal stretch of the river is known as "the Tideway
Tideway
The Tideway is a name given to the part of the River Thames in England that is subject to tides. This stretch of water is downstream from Teddington Lock and is just under long...

". Tide tables are published by the Port of London Authority
Port of London Authority
The Port of London Authority is a self-funding public trust established in 1908 by the Port of London Act to govern the Port of London. Its responsibility extends over the Tideway of the River Thames and the authority is responsible for the public right of navigation and for conservancy of the...

 and are available online. Times of high and low tides are also broadcast on Twitter.

The principal tributaries of the River Thames
Tributaries of the River Thames
This article lists the tributaries of the River Thames, in England. It also includes significant backwaters and waterways which also have confluences with the main stream of the River Thames.Most of the tributaries are natural, but a few were man-made...

 on the Tideway include the rivers Brent
River Brent
The Brent is a river within Greater London which is a tributary of the River Thames. It is 17.9 miles long, running north-east to south-west, and it joins the Thames on the Tideway at Brentford, Hounslow.- Hydronymy and etymology :...

, Wandle
River Wandle
The River Wandle is a river in south-east England. The names of the river and of Wandsworth are thought to have derived from the Old English "Wendlesworth" meaning "Wendle's Settlement". The river runs through southwest London and is about long...

, Effra
River Effra
The River Effra is a river in south London, England. It is now mainly underground. The name cannot be traced back much earlier than 1840 , so speculation that it came from a Celtic word for torrent is unwarranted...

, Westbourne
River Westbourne
The River Westbourne is a river in London, England. It flows from Hampstead down through Hyde Park to Sloane Square and into the River Thames at Chelsea...

, Fleet
River Fleet
The River Fleet is the largest of London's subterranean rivers. Its two headwaters are two streams on Hampstead Heath; each is now dammed into a series of ponds made in the 18th century, the Hampstead Ponds and the Highgate Ponds. At the south edge of Hampstead Heath these two streams flow...

, Ravensbourne
River Ravensbourne
The River Ravensbourne is a tributary of the River Thames in South London, England. It flows into the River Thames on the Tideway at Deptford, where its tidal reach is known as Deptford Creek.- Geography :...

 (the final part of which is called Deptford Creek), Lea, Roding, Darent
River Darent
The River Darent or River Darenth is a Kentish tributary of the River Thames in England. Its name is believed to be from a Celtic word meaning 'river where oak-trees grow'...

 and Ingrebourne
River Ingrebourne
The River Ingrebourne, 27 miles in length, is a tributary of the River Thames. It is considered a strategic waterway in London, forming part of the Blue Ribbon Network...

. At London, the water is slightly brackish
Brackish water
Brackish water is water that has more salinity than fresh water, but not as much as seawater. It may result from mixing of seawater with fresh water, as in estuaries, or it may occur in brackish fossil aquifers. The word comes from the Middle Dutch root "brak," meaning "salty"...

 with sea salt, being a mix of sea and fresh water.

This part of the river is managed by the Port of London Authority
Port of London Authority
The Port of London Authority is a self-funding public trust established in 1908 by the Port of London Act to govern the Port of London. Its responsibility extends over the Tideway of the River Thames and the authority is responsible for the public right of navigation and for conservancy of the...

. The flood threat here comes from high tides and strong winds from the North Sea, and the Thames Barrier was built in the 1980s to protect London from this risk.

Islands




The River Thames contains over 80 islands ranging from the large estuarial marshlands of the Isle of Sheppey
Isle of Sheppey
The Isle of Sheppey is an island off the northern coast of Kent, England in the Thames Estuary, some to the east of London. It has an area of . The island forms part of the local government district of Swale...

, Isle of Grain
Isle of Grain
The Isle of Grain, in the north of Kent, England, is the easternmost point of the Hoo Peninsula. No longer an island, the Isle is almost all marshland and the Grain Marshes are an important habitat for birdlife...

 and Canvey Island
Canvey Island
Canvey Island is a civil parish and reclaimed island in the Thames estuary in England. It is separated from the mainland of south Essex by a network of creeks...

 to small tree-covered islets like Rose Isle
Rose Isle
Rose Isle is an island in the River Thames in England just downstream of Kennington Railway Bridge on the reach above Sandford Lock, near Kennington, Oxfordshire....

 in Oxfordshire and Headpile Eyot
Headpile Eyot
Headpile Eyot is long narrow island in the River Thames in England just above Bray Lock, near Bray, Berkshire.The island is small and tree-covered and is the location of Bronze Age finds.-See also:*Islands in the River Thames...

 in Berkshire. They run all the way from the Isle of Sheppey
Isle of Sheppey
The Isle of Sheppey is an island off the northern coast of Kent, England in the Thames Estuary, some to the east of London. It has an area of . The island forms part of the local government district of Swale...

 in Kent to Fiddler's Island
Fiddler's Island
Fiddler's Island is an island in the River Thames at Oxford in England. It is situated south of Port Meadow on the reach above Osney Lock.The thin island sits between the Thames and Castle Mill Stream. On the south of the island a short stream known as the Sheepwash Channel divides the island from...

 in Oxfordshire. Some of the largest inland islands, for example Formosa Island
Formosa Island
Formosa Island is an island in the River Thames in England at Cookham Lock near Cookham, Berkshire, with two smaller adjacent islands.The island is one of the largest on the non-tidal river Thames with of woodland. It can be reached by footbridge from Cookham...

 near Cookham and Andersey Island
Andersey Island
Andersey Island is a large island in the River Thames in England near Abingdon, Oxfordshire on the reach above Culham Lock.The island is created by a division in the stream of the river between the main navigation channel and the Swift Ditch backwater. The Swift Ditch used to be the main course of...

 at Abingdon, were created naturally when the course of the river divided into separate streams. In the Oxford area the river splits into several streams across the floodplain
Floodplain
A floodplain, or flood plain, is a flat or nearly flat land adjacent a stream or river that stretches from the banks of its channel to the base of the enclosing valley walls and experiences flooding during periods of high discharge...

 (Seacourt Stream, Castle Mill Stream
Castle Mill Stream
Castle Mill Stream is a backwater of the River Thames in the west of Oxford, England. It is 5.5 km long.-Course:The stream leaves the main course of the Thames at the south end of Port Meadow, immediately upstream of Medley Footbridge. It then flows under the Cherwell Valley railway line and turns...

, Bulstake Stream
Bulstake Stream
Bulstake Stream, also spelt Bullstake Stream, is a backwater of the River Thames at Oxford, England. It leaves the main stream of the Thames at a river junction known as Four Rivers, at the south west corner of Fiddler's Island. It immediately flows past Tumbling Bay, the site of a bathing place...

 and others), creating several islands (Fiddler's Island
Fiddler's Island
Fiddler's Island is an island in the River Thames at Oxford in England. It is situated south of Port Meadow on the reach above Osney Lock.The thin island sits between the Thames and Castle Mill Stream. On the south of the island a short stream known as the Sheepwash Channel divides the island from...

, Osney
Osney
Osney, Osney Island, or Osney Town is a riverside community in the west of the city of Oxford, England. It is located off the Botley Road, just west of the city's main railway station, on an island surrounded by the River Thames, known in Oxford as the Isis. Osney is part of the city council ward...

 and others). Desborough Island
Desborough Island
Desborough Island is a large artificially-created island in the River Thames on the reach above Sunbury Lock in Surrey, England. The island was formed in 1930s by the digging of a channel - the Desborough Cut - by the Thames Conservancy...

, Ham Island
Ham Island
Ham Island, is an island in the River Thames in England. It was created when the course of the river was diverted, via a cut, to avoid a weir and provide a navigable route through to Old Windsor Lock....

 at Old Windsor and Penton Hook Island
Penton Hook Island
Penton Hook Island is an island in the River Thames in England adjacent to Penton Hook Lock, near Laleham, Surrey. At this point the natural course of the river makes a large loop or "hook" round the island, although this is now closed off by the weir...

 were artificially created by lock cuts and navigation channels. Chiswick Eyot
Chiswick Eyot
Chiswick Eyot is a small, narrow, uninhabited ait in the River Thames. It is on the Tideway near Chiswick, in the Borough of Hounslow, London, England, and has an area of ....

 is a familiar landmark on the Boat Race course, while Glover's Island
Glover's Island
Originally called Petersham Ait, Glover's Island is situated in Horse Reach on the River Thames, between Richmond lock and Teddington Lock in the Borough of Richmond upon Thames, London, England....

 forms the centrepiece of the spectacular view from Richmond Hill
Richmond Hill, London
Richmond Hill in Richmond, London is a hill that rises gently on its northern side from the ancient Thames meadowlands around the site of Richmond Palace up to and slightly beyond the Richmond Gate entrance to Richmond Park, the former royal hunting grounds enclosed by Charles I...

. Islands with a historical interest are Magna Carta Island
Magna Carta Island
Magna Carta Island is an island in the River Thames in England, on the reach above Bell Weir Lock. It is in Berkshire across the river from the water-meadows at Runnymede. The island was transferred from Buckinghamshire to Berkshire in 1974....

 at Runnymede, Fry's Island
Fry's Island
Fry's Island, also known as De Montfort Island, is an island in the River Thames in England. The island is on the reach above Caversham Lock at Reading, Berkshire. The centre of Reading is to the south and the suburb of Caversham to the immediate north.Fry's Island is a natural island, the only...

 at Reading and Pharaoh's Island
Pharaoh's Island, River Thames
Pharaoh's Island is an island in the River Thames, in Surrey, England. The island is located above Shepperton Lock. It was given to Admiral Nelson following the Battle of the Nile who used it as a fishing retreat....

 near Shepperton. In more recent times Platts Eyot
Platts Eyot
Platts Eyot is an island on the River Thames at Hampton, in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, England, on the reach between Molesey Lock and Sunbury Lock....

 at Hampton
Hampton, London
Hampton is a suburban area, centred on an old village on the north bank of the River Thames, in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in England. Formerly it was in the county of Middlesex, which was formerly also its postal county. The population is about 9,500...

 was the place where MTB
Motor Torpedo Boat
Motor Torpedo Boat was the name given to fast torpedo boats by the Royal Navy, and the Royal Canadian Navy.The capitalised term is generally used for the Royal Navy boats and abbreviated to "MTB"...

s were built, Tagg's Island
Tagg's Island
Tagg's Island is an island in the River Thames in England on the reach above Molesey Lock and just above Ash Island. Although it is close to the Surrey bank near East Molesey, Surrey, it is connected to the further Middlesex bank by a long single track road bridge and is within the London Borough...

 near Molesey was associated with the impresario Fred Karno
Fred Karno
Frederick John Westcott , best known by his stage name Fred Karno, was a theatre impresario of the British music hall. Karno is credited with inventing the custard-pie-in-the-face gag. Among the young comedians who worked for him were Charlie Chaplin and Arthur Jefferson, who later adopted the...

, and Eel Pie Island
Eel Pie Island
Eel Pie Island is an island in the River Thames in England at Twickenham, in the Borough of Richmond upon Thames, London. It is situated on the Tideway and can be reached only by footbridge or boat...

 at Twickenham was the birthplace of the South East’s R&B music scene.

Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 and the Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace, is the meeting place of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom—the House of Lords and the House of Commons...

 (commonly known today as the Houses of Parliament) were built on Thorney Island
Thorney Island (London)
Thorney Island was the eyot on the Thames, upstream of mediæval London, where Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster were built...

 which used to be an eyot.

Geological and topographic history






The River Thames can first be identified as a discrete drainage line as early as 58 million years ago, in the Thanetian
Thanetian
The Thanetian is, in the ICS' Geologic timescale, the latest age or uppermost stratigraphic stage of the Paleocene Epoch or series. It spans the time between and . The Thanetian is preceded by the Selandian age and followed by the Ypresian age...

 stage of the late Palaeocene epoch. Until around 500,000 years ago, the Thames flowed on its existing course through what is now Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire is a county in the South East region of England, bordering on Warwickshire and Northamptonshire , Buckinghamshire , Berkshire , Wiltshire and Gloucestershire ....

, before turning to the north east through Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England. The county town is Hertford.The county is one of the Home Counties and lies inland, bordered by Greater London , Buckinghamshire , Bedfordshire , Cambridgeshire and...

 and East Anglia
East Anglia
East Anglia is a traditional name for a region of eastern England, named after an ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom, the Kingdom of the East Angles. The Angles took their name from their homeland Angeln, in northern Germany. East Anglia initially consisted of Norfolk and Suffolk, but upon the marriage of...

 and reaching the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 near Ipswich
Ipswich
Ipswich is a large town and a non-metropolitan district. It is the county town of Suffolk, England. Ipswich is located on the estuary of the River Orwell...

. At this time the river system headwaters lay in the English West Midlands
West Midlands (region)
The West Midlands is an official region of England, covering the western half of the area traditionally known as the Midlands. It contains the second most populous British city, Birmingham, and the larger West Midlands conurbation, which includes the city of Wolverhampton and large towns of Dudley,...

 and may, at times, have received drainage from the North Wales
North Wales
North Wales is the northernmost unofficial region of Wales. It is bordered to the south by the counties of Ceredigion and Powys in Mid Wales and to the east by the counties of Shropshire in the West Midlands and Cheshire in North West England...

 Berwyn Mountains. Streams and rivers like the River Brent
River Brent
The Brent is a river within Greater London which is a tributary of the River Thames. It is 17.9 miles long, running north-east to south-west, and it joins the Thames on the Tideway at Brentford, Hounslow.- Hydronymy and etymology :...

, Colne Brook
Colne Brook
The Colne Brook is a river in England that branches off the River Colne at Uxbridge Moor and flows into the River Thames at Hythe End, just below Bell Weir Lock....

 and Bollo Brook
Bollo Brook
Bollo Brook or Bollar Brook is a subterranean river in West London which flows into the River Thames.Bollo Brook rises in Acton and to the west of Turnham Green and enters the grounds of Chiswick House. There it is joined by a stream from a lake near Sydney House to the west...

 either flowed into the then river Thames or went out to sea on the course of the present-day river Thames.

The arrival of an ice sheet
Ice sheet
An ice sheet is a mass of glacier ice that covers surrounding terrain and is greater than 50,000 km² , thus also known as continental glacier...

 in the Quaternary
Quaternary
The Quaternary Period is the most recent of the three periods of the Cenozoic Era in the geologic time scale of the ICS. It follows the Neogene Period, spanning 2.588 ± 0.005 million years ago to the present...

 Ice Age
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

, about 450,000 years ago, dammed the river in Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England. The county town is Hertford.The county is one of the Home Counties and lies inland, bordered by Greater London , Buckinghamshire , Bedfordshire , Cambridgeshire and...

, causing large ice lakes which eventually burst their banks and caused the river to be diverted onto its present course through London. Progressively, the channel was pushed south to form the St Albans depression by the repeated advances of the ice sheet. This created a new river course through Berkshire
Berkshire
Berkshire is a historic county in the South of England. It is also often referred to as the Royal County of Berkshire because of the presence of the royal residence of Windsor Castle in the county; this usage, which dates to the 19th century at least, was recognised by the Queen in 1957, and...

 and on into London, after which the river rejoined its original course in southern Essex
Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

, near the present River Blackwater estuary. Here it entered a substantial freshwater lake in the southern North Sea basin. The overspill of this lake caused the formation of the Dover Straits or Pas-de-Calais gap between Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 and France. Subsequent development led to the continuation of the course which the river follows at the present day.

Most of the bedrock
Bedrock
In stratigraphy, bedrock is the native consolidated rock underlying the surface of a terrestrial planet, usually the Earth. Above the bedrock is usually an area of broken and weathered unconsolidated rock in the basal subsoil...

 of the Vale of Aylesbury is largely made up of clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

 and chalk
Chalk
Chalk is a soft, white, porous sedimentary rock, a form of limestone composed of the mineral calcite. Calcite is calcium carbonate or CaCO3. It forms under reasonably deep marine conditions from the gradual accumulation of minute calcite plates shed from micro-organisms called coccolithophores....

 that was formed at the end of the ice age
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

 and at one time was under the Proto-Thames. Also at this time the vast underground reserves of water that make the water table
Water table
The water table is the level at which the submarine pressure is far from atmospheric pressure. It may be conveniently visualized as the 'surface' of the subsurface materials that are saturated with groundwater in a given vicinity. However, saturated conditions may extend above the water table as...

 higher than average in the Vale of Aylesbury were created.

The last advance from that Scandinavian ice flow to have reached this far south covered much of NW Middlesex and finally forced the Proto-Thames to take roughly its present course. At the height of the last ice age
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

 around 10,000 BCE, Britain was connected to mainland Europe by a large expanse of land known as Doggerland
Doggerland
Doggerland is a name given by archaeologists and geologists to a former landmass in the southern North Sea that connected the island of Great Britain to mainland Europe during and after the last Ice Age, surviving until about 6,500 or 6,200 BCE, though gradually being swallowed by rising sea levels...

 in the southern North Sea basin. At this time, the Thames' course did not continue to Doggerland, but flowed southwards from the eastern Essex coast where it met the Rhine, the Meuse and the Scheldt flowing from what are now the Netherlands and Belgium. These rivers formed a single river—the Channel River
Channel River
The Channel River was the extension of the River Rhine in modern-day France, the River Thames in modern-day England and other rivers into what is now the English Channel during periods of low sea level during the ice ages.-External links:*...

 (Fleuve Manche)—that passed through the Dover Strait and drained into the Atlantic Ocean in the western English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

.

The ice sheet which stopped around present day Finchley, deposited Boulder clay
Boulder clay
Boulder clay, in geology, is a deposit of clay, often full of boulders, which is formed in and beneath glaciers and ice-sheets wherever they are found, but is in a special sense the typical deposit of the Glacial Period in northern Europe and North America...

 to form Dollis Hill
Dollis Hill
Dollis Hill is an area of north-west London. It lies close to Willesden, in the London Borough of Brent. As a result, Dollis Hill is sometimes referred as being part of Willesden, especially by the national press...

 and Hanger Hill. Its torrent of meltwater
Meltwater
Meltwater is the water released by the melting of snow or ice, including glacial ice and ice shelfs over oceans. Meltwater is often found in the ablation zone of glaciers, where the rate of snow cover is reducing...

 gushed through the Finchley Gap and south towards the new course of the Thames, and proceeded to carve out the Brent Valley in the process. Upon the valley sides there can be seen other terraces of brickearth
Brickearth
Brickearth is a term used in southeast England for loess, a wind-blown dust deposited under extremely cold, dry, peri- or postglacial conditions. The name arises from its use in making house bricks. The Brickearth is normally represented on 1:50,000 solid and drift edition geological maps...

; laid over and sometimes interlayered with the clays. These deposits were brought in by the winds during the periglacial periods, suggesting that wide flat marshes were then part of the landscape, which the new river Brent proceeded to cut down. The steepness of the valley sides is witness to the very much lower mean sea levels caused by the glaciation locking up so much water upon the land masses, thus causing the river water to flow rapidly seaward and so erode its bed quickly downwards.

The original land surface was around 110 to 130 metres (350 to 400 ft) above the current sea level. The surface had sandy deposits from an ancient sea, laid over sedimentary clay (this is the Blue London Clay
London Clay
The London Clay Formation is a marine geological formation of Ypresian age which crops out in the southeast of England. The London Clay is well known for the fossils it contains. The fossils from the Lower Eocene indicate a moderately warm climate, the flora being tropical or subtropical...

). All the erosion down from this higher land surface and sorting action by these changes of water flow and direction formed what is known as the Thames River Gravel Terraces. Since Roman times and perhaps earlier, however, the isostatic
Isostasy
Isostasy is a term used in geology to refer to the state of gravitational equilibrium between the earth's lithosphere and asthenosphere such that the tectonic plates "float" at an elevation which depends on their thickness and density. This concept is invoked to explain how different topographic...

 rebound from the weight of previous ice sheets, and its interplay with the eustatic change in sea level, has resulted in the old valley of river Brent, together with that of the Thames, silting up again. Thus along much of the Brent's present-day course one can make out the water meadows of rich alluvium, which is augmented by frequent floods.

After taking its present-day course, much of the banks of the Thames Estuary
Thames Estuary
The Thames Mouth is the estuary in which the River Thames meets the waters of the North Sea.It is not easy to define the limits of the estuary, although physically the head of Sea Reach, near Canvey Island on the Essex shore is probably the western boundary...

 and the Thames Valley
Thames Valley
The Thames Valley Region is a loose term for the English counties and towns roughly following the course of the River Thames as it flows from Oxfordshire in the west to London in the east. It includes parts of Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, North Hampshire, Surrey and west London...

 in London was partly covered in marshland, as was the adjoining Lower Lea Valley
Lower Lea Valley
The Lower Lea Valley is the southern end of the Lea Valley, surrounding the River Lea , which runs along the boundary of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets on its western bank and the London Boroughs of Waltham Forest and Newham on its eastern bank, into the River Thames. The river forms the...

. The streams and rivers like the River Lea, Tyburn Brook
Tyburn Brook
Tyburn Brook is a tributary stream to the River Westbourne. Both watercourses are subterranean.Although similarly named, the Tyburn Brook does not connect with the River Tyburn.-See also:*Subterranean rivers of London...

 and Bollo Brook
Bollo Brook
Bollo Brook or Bollar Brook is a subterranean river in West London which flows into the River Thames.Bollo Brook rises in Acton and to the west of Turnham Green and enters the grounds of Chiswick House. There it is joined by a stream from a lake near Sydney House to the west...

 drained into the river, while some islands like Thorney Island
Thorney Island (London)
Thorney Island was the eyot on the Thames, upstream of mediæval London, where Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster were built...

 formed over the ages. The northern tip of the ancient parish of Lambeth, for example, was a marshland known as Lambeth Marshe, but it was drained in the 18th century and is remembered in the Lower Marsh
Lower Marsh
Lower Marsh is a street in the Waterloo neighbourhood of London, England. It is the location of Lower Marsh Market.The northern tip of the ancient parish of Lambeth was marshland known as Lambeth Marshe, but it was drained in the 18th century and is remembered in the Lower Marsh street name...

 street name. Sometime after the opening of Waterloo railway station in 1848 the locality around the station and Lower Marsh became known as Waterloo
Waterloo, London
Waterloo is a district of London, England, and part of the London Borough of Lambeth. It is situated east of Charing Cross. The area is part of a business improvement district known as Waterloo Quarter, which includes The Cut and the Old Vic and Young Vic theatres, including some sections in the...

. Lower Marsh is a street in the Waterloo
Waterloo, London
Waterloo is a district of London, England, and part of the London Borough of Lambeth. It is situated east of Charing Cross. The area is part of a business improvement district known as Waterloo Quarter, which includes The Cut and the Old Vic and Young Vic theatres, including some sections in the...

 neighbourhood of London. It is the location of Lower Marsh Market
Lower Marsh Market
Lower Marsh Market is a street market on Lower Marsh, in the Waterloo neighbourhood adjacent to Waterloo railway station in the London Borough of Lambeth.-References:...

.

The East End of London
East End of London
The East End of London, also known simply as the East End, is the area of London, England, United Kingdom, east of the medieval walled City of London and north of the River Thames. Although not defined by universally accepted formal boundaries, the River Lea can be considered another boundary...

, also known simply as the East End, was the area of London east of the medieval walled City of London
City of London
The City of London is a small area within Greater London, England. It is the historic core of London around which the modern conurbation grew and has held city status since time immemorial. The City’s boundaries have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages, and it is now only a tiny part of...

 and north of the River Thames, although it is not defined by universally accepted formal boundaries; the river River Lea can be considered another boundary. Most of the local riverside was also marshland. The land was drained and became farmland; it was built on after the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

. Use of the term "East End" in a pejorative sense began in the late 19th century,

Canvey Island
Canvey Island
Canvey Island is a civil parish and reclaimed island in the Thames estuary in England. It is separated from the mainland of south Essex by a network of creeks...

 in southern Essex (area 18.45 km²; pop. 37,479) is a civil parish and once marshy, but now fully reclaimed island in the Thames estuary
Thames Estuary
The Thames Mouth is the estuary in which the River Thames meets the waters of the North Sea.It is not easy to define the limits of the estuary, although physically the head of Sea Reach, near Canvey Island on the Essex shore is probably the western boundary...

 in England. It is separated from the mainland of south Essex
Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

 by a network of creeks. Lying below sea level it is prone to flooding at exceptional tides, but has nevertheless been inhabited since the Roman invasion of Britain.

Wildlife




Various species of birds feed off the river or nest on it, some being found both at sea and inland. These include Cormorant
Great Cormorant
The Great Cormorant , known as the Great Black Cormorant across the Northern Hemisphere, the Black Cormorant in Australia and the Black Shag further south in New Zealand, is a widespread member of the cormorant family of seabirds...

, Black-headed Gull
Black-headed Gull
The Black-headed Gull is a small gull which breeds in much of Europe and Asia, and also in coastal eastern Canada. Most of the population is migratory, wintering further south, but some birds in the milder westernmost areas of Europe are resident...

, and Herring Gull. The Mute Swan
Mute Swan
The Mute Swan is a species of swan, and thus a member of the duck, goose and swan family Anatidae. It is native to much of Europe and Asia, and the far north of Africa. It is also an introduced species in North America, Australasia and southern Africa. The name 'mute' derives from it being less...

 is a familiar sight on the river but the escaped Black Swan
Black Swan
The Black Swan is a large waterbird, a species of swan, which breeds mainly in the southeast and southwest regions of Australia. The species was hunted to extinction in New Zealand, but later reintroduced. Within Australia they are nomadic, with erratic migration patterns dependent upon climatic...

 is more rare. The annual ceremony of Swan upping
Swan Upping
Swan Upping is an annual ceremonial and practical activity in Britain in which mute swans on the River Thames are rounded up, caught, marked, and then released....

 is an old tradition of counting stocks. Non-native geese that can be seen include Canada Geese
Canada Goose
The Canada Goose is a wild goose belonging to the genus Branta, which is native to arctic and temperate regions of North America, having a black head and neck, white patches on the face, and a brownish-gray body....

, Egyptian Geese
Egyptian Goose
The Egyptian Goose is a member of the duck, goose and swan family Anatidae. It is in the shelduck subfamily Tadorninae, and is the only extant member of the genus Alopochen...

, and Bar-headed Geese
Bar-headed Goose
The Bar-headed Goose is a goose which breeds in Central Asia in colonies of thousands near mountain lakes and winters in South Asia, as far south as peninsular India. It lays three to eight eggs at a time in a ground nest....

, and ducks include the familiar native Mallard
Mallard
The Mallard , or Wild Duck , is a dabbling duck which breeds throughout the temperate and subtropical Americas, Europe, Asia, and North Africa, and has been introduced to New Zealand and Australia....

, plus introduced Mandarin Duck
Mandarin Duck
The Mandarin Duck , or just Mandarin, is a medium-sized perching duck, closely related to the North American Wood Duck. It is 41–49 cm long with a 65–75 cm wingspan.-Description:...

 and Wood Duck
Wood Duck
The Wood Duck or Carolina Duck is a species of duck found in North America. It is one of the most colourful of North American waterfowl.-Description:...

. Other water birds to be found on the Thames include the Great Crested Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
The Great Crested Grebe is a member of the grebe family of water birds.- Description :The Great Crested Grebe is long with a wingspan. It is an excellent swimmer and diver, and pursues its fish prey underwater. The adults are unmistakable in summer with head and neck decorations...

, Coot
Eurasian Coot
The Eurasian Coot, Fulica atra, also known as Coot, is a member of the rail and crake bird family, the Rallidae. The Australian subspecies is known as the Australian Coot.-Distribution:...

, Moorhen
Moorhen
Moorhens, sometimes called marsh hens, are medium-sized water birds that are members of the rail family Rallidae. They constitute the genus Gallinula....

, Heron
Grey Heron
The Grey Heron , is a wading bird of the heron family Ardeidae, native throughout temperate Europe and Asia and also parts of Africa. It is resident in the milder south and west, but many birds retreat in winter from the ice in colder regions...

, and Kingfisher
European Kingfisher
The Common Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, also known as Eurasian Kingfisher or River Kingfisher, is a small kingfisher with seven subspecies recognized within its wide distribution across Eurasia and North Africa...

. Many types of British birds also live alongside the river, although they are not specific to the river habitat.

The Thames contains both sea water and fresh water, thus providing support for seawater and freshwater fish. Salmon, which inhabit both environments, have been reintroduced and a succession of fish ladder
Fish ladder
A fish ladder, also known as a fishway, fish pass or fish steps, is a structure on or around artificial barriers to facilitate diadromous fishes' natural migration. Most fishways enable fish to pass around the barriers by swimming and leaping up a series of relatively low steps into the waters on...

s have been built into weir
Weir
A weir is a small overflow dam used to alter the flow characteristics of a river or stream. In most cases weirs take the form of a barrier across the river that causes water to pool behind the structure , but allows water to flow over the top...

s to enable them to travel upstream. On 5 August 1993 the largest non-tidal salmon in recorded history was caught close to Boulters Lock in Maidenhead
Maidenhead
Maidenhead is a town and unparished area within the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, in Berkshire, England. It lies on the River Thames and is situated west of Charing Cross in London.-History:...

. The specimen weighed 6.5 kg or 14.5 pounds and measured 88 cm or 22 inches in length. The eel
European eel
The European eel, Anguilla anguilla, is a species of eel, a snake-like, catadromous fish. They can reach in exceptional cases a length of 1½ m, but are normally much smaller, about 60–80 cm, and rarely more than 1 m....

 is particularly associated with the Thames and there were formerly many eel traps. Freshwater fish of the Thames and its tributaries include brown trout
Brown trout
The brown trout and the sea trout are fish of the same species....

, chub
European chub
The European chub , sometimes called the round chub, fat chub, chevin, pollard or simply "the" chub, is a freshwater fish of the family Cyprinidae...

, dace
Common dace
The common dace , also known as the dace or the Eurasian dace, is a fresh- or brackish-water fish belonging to the family Cyprinidae. It is an inhabitant of the rivers and streams of Europe north of the Alps as well as in Asia. It is most abundant in France and Germany, and has also spread to...

, roach, barbel
Barbel (fish species)
Barbels are group of small carp-like freshwater fish, almost all of the genus Barbus. They are usually found in gravel and rocky-bottomed slow-flowing waters with high dissolved oxygen content. A typical adult barbel will range from 25 to 100 cm in length and weigh anywhere between 200 g...

, perch
European perch
The European perch, Perca fluviatilis, is a predatory species of perch found in Europe and Asia. In some areas it is known as the redfin perch or English perch, and it is often known simply as perch. The species is a popular quarry for anglers and has been widely introduced beyond its native area,...

, pike
Northern Pike
The northern pike , is a species of carnivorous fish of the genus Esox...

, bleak, and flounder
Flounder
The flounder is an ocean-dwelling flatfish species that is found in coastal lagoons and estuaries of the Northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.-Taxonomy:There are a number of geographical and taxonomical species to which flounder belong.*Western Atlantic...

. Colonies of short-snouted seahorse
Short-snouted seahorse
The short-snouted seahorse, Hippocampus hippocampus, is a species of seahorse in the family Syngnathidae. It is endemic to the Mediterranean Sea and parts of the North Atlantic, particularly around Italy and the Canary Islands...

s have also recently been discovered in the river.

The Thames is also host to some invasive crustaceans, including the signal crayfish
Signal crayfish
The signal crayfish, Pacifastacus leniusculus, is a North American species of crayfish. It was introduced to Europe in the 1960s to supplement the Scandinavian Astacus astacus fisheries, which were being damaged by crayfish plague, but the imports turned out to be a carrier of that disease...

 and the Chinese Mitten Crab
Chinese mitten crab
The Chinese mitten crab, Eriocheir sinensis is a medium-sized burrowing crab, named for its furry claws that look like mittens, that is native in the coastal estuaries of eastern Asia from Korea in the north to the Fujian province of China in the south...

.

On 20 January 2006 a 16–18 ft (5 m) northern bottle-nosed whale was seen in the Thames as far upstream as Chelsea. This was extremely unusual: this whale is generally found in deep sea waters. Crowds gathered along the riverbanks to witness the extraordinary spectacle but there was soon concern, as the animal came within yards of the banks, almost beaching, and crashed into an empty boat causing slight bleeding. About 12 hours later, the whale is believed to have been seen again near Greenwich
Greenwich
Greenwich is a district of south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich.Greenwich is best known for its maritime history and for giving its name to the Greenwich Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time...

, possibly heading back to sea. A rescue attempt lasted several hours, but the whale died on a barge. See River Thames whale
River Thames whale
The River Thames whale was a juvenile female Northern Bottlenose whale which was discovered swimming in the River Thames in central London on Friday 20 January 2006. According to the BBC, she was five metres long and weighed about seven tonnes...

.

Human aspects


The River Thames has served several roles in human history, being an economic resource, a water highway, a boundary, a fresh water source, also a source of food and more recently a leisure facility. In 1929 John Burns
John Burns
John Elliot Burns was an English trade unionist and politician of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly associated with London politics. He was a socialist and then a Liberal Member of Parliament and Minister. He was anti-alcohol and a keen sportsman...

, one time MP for Battersea, responded to an American's unfavourable comparison of the Thames with the Mississippi
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

 by coining the expression "The Thames is liquid history".

Human history pre-1607








There is evidence of human habitation living off the river along its length dating back to Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 times. The British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 has a decorated bowl (3300–2700 BC), found in the River at Hedsor
Hedsor
Hedsor is a small village and civil parish in Wycombe district in Buckinghamshire, England, in the very south of the county, near the River Thames and Bourne End....

, Buckinghamshire and a considerable amount of material was discovered during the excavations of Dorney Lake
Dorney Lake
Dorney Lake is a purpose-built rowing lake in the United Kingdom. It is located at grid reference near the village of Dorney, Buckinghamshire, and near the towns of Windsor and Eton, close to the River Thames. The lake is privately owned and financed by Eton College, who have spent £17 million...

. A number of Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 sites and artefacts have been discovered along the banks of the River including settlements at Lechlade
Lechlade
Lechlade, or Lechlade-on-Thames, is a town at the southern edge of the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire, England. It is the highest point at which the River Thames is navigable. The town is named after the River Leach that joins the Thames near here....

, Cookham
Cookham
Cookham is a village and civil parish in the north-easternmost corner of Berkshire in England, on the River Thames, notable as the home of the artist Stanley Spencer. It lies north of Maidenhead close to the border with Buckinghamshire...

 and Sunbury-on-Thames
Sunbury-on-Thames
Sunbury-on-Thames, also known as Sunbury, is a town in the Surrey borough of Spelthorne, England, and part of the London commuter belt. It is located 16 miles southwest of central London and bordered by Feltham and Hampton, flanked on the south by the River Thames.-History:The earliest evidence of...

. So extensive have the changes to this landscape been that what little evidence there is of man's presence before the ice came has inevitably shown signs of transportation here by water and reveals nothing specifically local. Likewise, later evidence of occupation, even since the arrival of the Romans, may lie next to the original banks of the Brent but have been buried under centuries of silt.

Some of the earliest written accounts of the Thames occur in Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

’s account of his second expedition to Britain in 54BC when the Thames presented a major obstacle and he encountered the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 Belgic
Belgae
The Belgae were a group of tribes living in northern Gaul, on the west bank of the Rhine, in the 3rd century BC, and later also in Britain, and possibly even Ireland...

 tribes the Catuvellauni
Catuvellauni
The Catuvellauni were a tribe or state of south-eastern Britain before the Roman conquest.The fortunes of the Catuvellauni and their kings before the conquest can be traced through numismatic evidence and scattered references in classical histories. They are mentioned by Dio Cassius, who implies...

 and the Atrebates
Atrebates
The Atrebates were a Belgic tribe of Gaul and Britain before the Roman conquests.- Name of the tribe :Cognate with Old Irish aittrebaid meaning 'inhabitant', Atrebates comes from proto-Celtic *ad-treb-a-t-es, 'inhabitants'. The Celtic root is treb- 'building', 'home' The Atrebates (singular...

 along the river. The confluence of the Thames and Cherwell was the site of early settlements and the River Cherwell marked the boundary between the Dobunni
Dobunni
The Dobunni were one of the Celtic tribes living in the British Isles prior to the Roman invasion of Britain. There are seven known references to the tribe in Roman histories and inscriptions. The latter part of the name possibly derives from Bune, a cup or vessel...

 tribe to the west and the Catuvellauni
Catuvellauni
The Catuvellauni were a tribe or state of south-eastern Britain before the Roman conquest.The fortunes of the Catuvellauni and their kings before the conquest can be traced through numismatic evidence and scattered references in classical histories. They are mentioned by Dio Cassius, who implies...

 tribe to the east (these were pre-Roman Celt
Celt
The Celts were a diverse group of tribal societies in Iron Age and Roman-era Europe who spoke Celtic languages.The earliest archaeological culture commonly accepted as Celtic, or rather Proto-Celtic, was the central European Hallstatt culture , named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria....

ic tribes). In the late 1980s a large Romano-British
Romano-British
Romano-British culture describes the culture that arose in Britain under the Roman Empire following the Roman conquest of AD 43 and the creation of the province of Britannia. It arose as a fusion of the imported Roman culture with that of the indigenous Britons, a people of Celtic language and...

 settlement was excavated on the edge of the village of Ashton Keynes
Ashton Keynes
Ashton Keynes is a village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England, near the border with Gloucestershire, about 6 miles south of Cirencester and 4 miles north of Cricklade. According to the 2001 census the parish had a population of 1,420. The village lies within the Cotswold Water Park and is...

 in Wiltshire, in advance of extensive gravel extraction.

Under the Emperor Claudius
Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

 in AD 43 the Romans occupied England and, recognising the River's strategic and economic importance, built fortifications along the Thames valley including a major camp at Dorchester
Dorchester, Oxfordshire
Dorchester-on-Thames is a village and civil parish on the River Thame in Oxfordshire, about northwest of Wallingford and southeast of Oxford. Despite its name, Dorchester is not on the River Thames, but just above the Thame's confluence with it...

. Two hills, now known as Cornhill and Ludgate Hill
Ludgate Hill
Ludgate Hill is a hill in the City of London, near the old Ludgate, a gate to the City that was taken down, with its attached gaol, in 1780. Ludgate Hill is the site of St Paul's Cathedral, traditionally said to have been the site of a Roman temple of the goddess Diana. It is one of the three...

, provided a firm base for a trading centre at the lowest possible point on the Thames called Londinium where a bridge was built. The next Roman bridge upstream was at Staines
Staines
Staines is a Thames-side town in the Spelthorne borough of Surrey and Greater London Urban Area, as well as the London Commuter Belt of South East England. It is a suburban development within the western bounds of the M25 motorway and located 17 miles west south-west of Charing Cross in...

 (Pontes) to which point boats could be swept up on the rising tide with no need for wind or muscle power. A Romano-British settlement grew up north of the confluence, partly because the site was naturally protected from attack on the east by the River Cherwell
River Cherwell
The River Cherwell is a river which flows through the Midlands of England. It is a major tributary of the River Thames.The general course of the River Cherwell is north to south and the 'straight-line' distance from its source to the Thames is about...

 and on the west by the River Thames. This settlement dominated the pottery trade in what is now central southern England and pottery was distributed by boats on the Thames and its tributaries.

Many of the Thames’ riverside settlements trace their origins back to very early roots and the suffix—“ing” in towns such as Goring
Goring-On-Thames
Goring-on-Thames is a large village and civil parish on the River Thames in South Oxfordshire, about south of Wallingford.-Geography:...

 and Reading
Reading, Berkshire
Reading is a large town and unitary authority area in England. It is located in the Thames Valley at the confluence of the River Thames and River Kennet, and on both the Great Western Main Line railway and the M4 motorway, some west of London....

 owe their origins to the Saxons. Recent research suggests that these peoples preceded the Romans rather than replaced them. The river’s long tradition of farming, fishing, milling and trade with other nations started with these peoples and has continued to the present day. Competition for the use of the river created the centuries-old conflict between those who wanted to dam the river to build millraces and fish traps and those who wanted to travel and carry goods on it. Economic prosperity and the foundation of wealthy monasteries by the Anglo-Saxons attracted unwelcome visitors and by around AD 870 the Vikings were sweeping up the Thames on the tide and creating havoc as in their destruction of Chertsey Abbey
Chertsey Abbey
Chertsey Abbey, dedicated to St Peter, was a Benedictine monastery located at Chertsey in the English county of Surrey.It was founded by Saint Erkenwald, later Bishop of London, in 666 AD and he became the first abbot. In the 9th century it was sacked by the Danes and refounded from Abingdon Abbey...

.

Once King William
William I of England
William I , also known as William the Conqueror , was the first Norman King of England from Christmas 1066 until his death. He was also Duke of Normandy from 3 July 1035 until his death, under the name William II...

 had won total control of the strategic Thames Valley he went on to invade the rest of England. He had many castles built, including those at Wallingford
Wallingford Castle
Wallingford Castle was a major medieval castle situated in Wallingford in the English county of Oxfordshire , adjacent to the River Thames...

, Rochester, Windsor
Windsor, Berkshire
Windsor is an affluent suburban town and unparished area in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire, England. It is widely known as the site of Windsor Castle, one of the official residences of the British Royal Family....

 and most importantly the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

. Many details of Thames activity are recorded in the Domesday book
Domesday Book
Domesday Book , now held at The National Archives, Kew, Richmond upon Thames in South West London, is the record of the great survey of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086...

. The following centuries saw the conflict between King and Barons coming to a head in AD 1215 when King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta
Magna Carta
Magna Carta is an English charter, originally issued in the year 1215 and reissued later in the 13th century in modified versions, which included the most direct challenges to the monarch's authority to date. The charter first passed into law in 1225...

 on an island in the Thames at Runnymede
Runnymede
Runnymede is a water-meadow alongside the River Thames in the English county of Berkshire, and just over west of central London. It is notable for its association with the sealing of Magna Carta, and as a consequence is the site of a collection of memorials...

. This granted them among a host of other things under Clause 23 the right of Navigation. Another major consequence of John’s reign was the completion of the multi-piered London Bridge
London Bridge
London Bridge is a bridge over the River Thames, connecting the City of London and Southwark, in central London. Situated between Cannon Street Railway Bridge and Tower Bridge, it forms the western end of the Pool of London...

 which acted as a barricade and barrage on the river, affecting the tidal flow upstream and increasing the likelihood of freezing over. In Tudor and Stuart times the Kings and Queens loved the river and built magnificent riverside palaces at Hampton Court
Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Greater London; it has not been inhabited by the British royal family since the 18th century. The palace is located south west of Charing Cross and upstream of Central London on the River Thames...

, Kew
Kew
Kew is a place in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in South West London. Kew is best known for being the location of the Royal Botanic Gardens, now a World Heritage Site, which includes Kew Palace...

, Richmond on Thames, Whitehall
Whitehall
Whitehall is a road in Westminster, in London, England. It is the main artery running north from Parliament Square, towards Charing Cross at the southern end of Trafalgar Square...

 and Greenwich
Greenwich
Greenwich is a district of south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich.Greenwich is best known for its maritime history and for giving its name to the Greenwich Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time...

.

The 16th and 17th centuries saw the City of London grow with the expansion of world trade. The wharves of the Pool of London were thick with seagoing vessels while naval dockyards were built at Deptford
Deptford
Deptford is a district of south London, England, located on the south bank of the River Thames. It is named after a ford of the River Ravensbourne, and from the mid 16th century to the late 19th was home to Deptford Dockyard, the first of the Royal Navy Dockyards.Deptford and the docks are...

. The Dutch navy even entered the Thames in 1667 in the raid on the Medway
Raid on the Medway
The Raid on the Medway, sometimes called the Battle of the Medway, Raid on Chatham or the Battle of Chatham, was a successful Dutch attack on the largest English naval ships, laid up in the dockyards of their main naval base Chatham, that took place in June 1667 during the Second Anglo-Dutch War...

.

Human history post-1606


During a series of cold winters the Thames froze over above London Bridge: the first Frost Fair in 1607 saw a tent city set up on the river, and a number of amusements, including ice bowling.

In good conditions barges travelled daily from Oxford to London carrying timber and wool, foodstuffs and livestock, battling with the millers on the way. The stone from the Cotswolds
Cotswolds
The Cotswolds are a range of hills in west-central England, sometimes called the Heart of England, an area across and long. The area has been designated as the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty...

 used to rebuild St Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire in 1666 was brought all the way down from Radcot. The Thames provided the major highway between London and Westminster in the 16th and 17th centuries; the clannish guild of watermen ferried Londoners from landing to landing and tolerated no outside interference. In 1715 Thomas Doggett
Thomas Doggett
Thomas Doggett was an Irish actor.Doggett was born in Dublin, and made his first stage appearance in London in 1691 as Nincompoop in Thomas D'Urfey's Love for Money. In this part, and as Solon in the same author's Marriage-Hater Matched, he became popular...

 was so grateful to a local waterman for his efforts to ferry him home pulling against the tide, that he set up a rowing race for professional watermen known as "Doggett's Coat and Badge
Doggett's Coat and Badge
Doggett's Coat and Badge is the prize and name for the oldest rowing race in the world. Up to six apprentice Watermen of the River Thames in England compete for this prestigious honour, which has been held every year since 1715. The 4 miles 5 furlongs race is held on the Thames between London...

".

By the 18th century, the Thames was one of the world's busiest waterways, as London became the centre of the vast, mercantile British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 and progressively over the next century the docks expanded in the Isle of Dogs and beyond. Efforts were made to resolve the navigation conflicts upstream by building locks along the Thames. After temperatures began to rise again, starting in 1814, the river stopped freezing over completely. The building of a new London Bridge
London Bridge
London Bridge is a bridge over the River Thames, connecting the City of London and Southwark, in central London. Situated between Cannon Street Railway Bridge and Tower Bridge, it forms the western end of the Pool of London...

 in 1825, with fewer pillars than the old, allowed the river to flow more freely and reduced the likelihood of freezing over in cold winters.

The Victorian era was an era of imaginative engineering. In the 'Great Stink' of 1858, pollution in the river reached such an extreme that sittings of the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 at Westminster had to be abandoned. A concerted effort to contain the city's sewage by constructing massive sewers
Sanitary sewer
A sanitary sewer is a separate underground carriage system specifically for transporting sewage from houses and commercial buildings to treatment or disposal. Sanitary sewers serving industrial areas also carry industrial wastewater...

 on the north and south river embankments followed, under the supervision of engineer Joseph Bazalgette
Joseph Bazalgette
Sir Joseph William Bazalgette, CB was an English civil engineer of the 19th century. As chief engineer of London's Metropolitan Board of Works his major achievement was the creation of a sewer network for central London which was instrumental in relieving the city from cholera epidemics, while...

. Meanwhile, similar huge undertakings took place to ensure the water supply, with the building of reservoirs and pumping stations on the river to the west of London. The embankments in London house the water supply to homes, plus the sewers, and protect London from flood. The coming of railways added both spectacular and ugly railway bridges to the earlier road bridges but reduced commercial activity on the river. However sporting and leisure use increased with the establishment of regatta
Regatta
A regatta is a series of boat races. The term typically describes racing events of rowed or sailed water craft, although some powerboat race series are also called regattas...

s such as Henley
Henley Royal Regatta
Henley Royal Regatta is a rowing event held every year on the River Thames by the town of Henley-on-Thames, England. The Royal Regatta is sometimes referred to as Henley Regatta, its original name pre-dating Royal patronage...

 and The Boat Race
The Boat Race
The event generally known as "The Boat Race" is a rowing race in England between the Oxford University Boat Club and the Cambridge University Boat Club, rowed between competing eights each spring on the River Thames in London. It takes place generally on the last Saturday of March or the first...

. On 3 September 1878, one of the worst river disasters in England took place, when the crowded pleasure boat collided with the Bywell Castle
Bywell Castle
Bywell Castle is situated in the village of Bywell overlooking the River Tyne, four miles east of Corbridge, Northumberland, England . It is a Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument...

, killing over 640 people.

The growth of road transport
Road transport
Road transport or road transportation is transport on roads of passengers or goods. A hybrid of road transport and ship transport is the historic horse-drawn boat.-History:...

 and the decline of the Empire, in the years following 1914, reduced the economic prominence of the river. During World War II the protection of the Thames was crucial to the defence of the country. Defences included the Maunsell forts in the estuary and barrage balloons to counter German bombers using the distinctive shape of the river to navigate during The Blitz
The Blitz
The Blitz was the sustained strategic bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941, during the Second World War. The city of London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 76 consecutive nights and many towns and cities across the country followed...

. Although the Port of London remains one of the UK's three main ports, most trade has moved downstream from central London. The decline of manufacturing industry and improved sewage treatment have led to a massive clean-up since the filthy days of the late 19th and early- to mid-20th centuries, and aquatic life has returned to its formerly 'dead' waters. Alongside the river runs the Thames Path
Thames Path
The Thames Path is a National Trail, opened in 1996, following the length of the River Thames from its source near Kemble in Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier at Charlton. It is about long....

, providing a route for walkers and cyclists.

In the early 1980s a massive flood-control device, the Thames Barrier
Thames Barrier
The Thames Barrier is the world's second-largest movable flood barrier and is located downstream of central London. Its purpose is to prevent London from being flooded by exceptionally high tides and storm surges moving up from the sea...

, was opened. It is closed several times a year to prevent water damage to London's low-lying areas upstream (as in the 1928 Thames flood
1928 Thames flood
The 1928 Thames flood was a disastrous flood of the River Thames that affected much of riverside London on 7 January 1928, as well as places further downriver. Fourteen people were drowned in London and thousands were made homeless when flood waters poured over the top of the Thames Embankment and...

 for example). In the late 1990s, the 7 miles (11 km) long Jubilee River
Jubilee River
The Jubilee River is a hydraulic channel in southern England. It is 11.6 km in length and is on average 45 metres wide. It was constructed in the late 1990s and early 2000s to take overflow from the River Thames and so alleviate flooding to areas in and around the towns of Maidenhead,...

 was built as a flood
Flood
A flood is an overflow of an expanse of water that submerges land. The EU Floods directive defines a flood as a temporary covering by water of land not normally covered by water...

 channel for the Thames around Maidenhead and Windsor.

The active river



One of the major resources provided by the Thames is the water distributed as drinking water by Thames Water
Thames Water
Thames Water Utilities Ltd, known as Thames Water, is the private utility company responsible for the public water supply and waste water treatment in large parts of Greater London, the Thames Valley, Surrey, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Kent, and some other areas of in the United Kingdom...

, whose area of responsibility covers the length of the River Thames. The Thames Water Ring Main
Thames Water Ring Main
The Thames Water Ring Main is a major part of London's water supply infrastructure that consists of an approximately 80 km system of mostly concrete pipelines used to transfer potable water from water treatment works in the Thames and River Lee catchments to distribution within London.The...

 is the main distribution mechanism for water in London, with one major loop linking the Hampton
Hampton, London
Hampton is a suburban area, centred on an old village on the north bank of the River Thames, in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in England. Formerly it was in the county of Middlesex, which was formerly also its postal county. The population is about 9,500...

, Walton
Walton-on-Thames
Walton-on-Thames is a town in the Elmbridge borough of Surrey in South East England. The town is located south west of Charing Cross and is between the towns of Weybridge and Molesey. It is situated on the River Thames between Sunbury Lock and Shepperton Lock.- History :The name "Walton" is...

, Ashford
Ashford, Surrey
Ashford is a town almost entirely in the Surrey borough of Spelthorne in England, with a small part falling within Greater London. It is a suburban development situated 15 miles west south-west of Charing Cross in London and forms part of the London commuter belt...

 and Kempton Park
Kempton Park, Surrey
Kempton Park is a locality in the Spelthorne district of Surrey, which is the location of Kempton Park Racecourse.Kempton Park appears on the Middlesex Domesday Map as Chenetone. It was held by Robert, Count of Mortain...

 Water Treatment Works with central London.

In the past, commercial activities on the Thames included fishing (particularly eel trapping), coppicing
Coppicing
Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management which takes advantage of the fact that many trees make new growth from the stump or roots if cut down. In a coppiced wood, young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level...

 willow
Willow
Willows, sallows, and osiers form the genus Salix, around 400 species of deciduous trees and shrubs, found primarily on moist soils in cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere...

s and osiers which provided wood, and the operation of watermill
Watermill
A watermill is a structure that uses a water wheel or turbine to drive a mechanical process such as flour, lumber or textile production, or metal shaping .- History :...

s for flour and paper production and metal beating. These activities have disappeared. There was a proposal to build a hydro-electric plant at Romney Lock
Romney Lock
Romney Lock is a lock on the River Thames in England near Windsor and Eton. It is on the Windsor side of the river next to a boatyard and adjoins Romney Island, a long strip of land in the middle of the river. The first lock was built by the Thames Navigation Commission in 1798.The weir is some...

 to power Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is a medieval castle and royal residence in Windsor in the English county of Berkshire, notable for its long association with the British royal family and its architecture. The original castle was built after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I it...

; but as of January 2008 this scheme appears to have been abandoned.

The Thames is popular for a wide variety of riverside housing, including high-rise flats in central London and chalets on the banks and islands upstream. Some people live in houseboats, typically around Brentford
Brentford
Brentford is a suburban town in west London, England, and part of the London Borough of Hounslow. It is located at the confluence of the River Thames and the River Brent, west-southwest of Charing Cross. Its former ceremonial county was Middlesex.-Toponymy:...

 and Tagg's Island
Tagg's Island
Tagg's Island is an island in the River Thames in England on the reach above Molesey Lock and just above Ash Island. Although it is close to the Surrey bank near East Molesey, Surrey, it is connected to the further Middlesex bank by a long single track road bridge and is within the London Borough...

.

The tidal river


In London there are many sightseeing tours in tourist boats, past the more famous riverside attractions such as the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

 as well as regular riverboat services co-ordinated by London River Services
London River Services
London River Services is a division of Transport for London , which manages passenger transport on the River Thames in London, UK. They do not own or operate any boats but license the services of other operators...

.

The upper river


In summer, passenger services operate along the entire non-tidal river from Oxford to Teddington. The two largest operators are Salters Steamers
Salters Steamers
Salters Steamers, formerly known as Salter Bros, is an old family firm based around boating on the River Thames, originally established in 1858. The company runs passenger services in summer along the whole length of the River Thames between Oxford and Staines. They also hire boats from Oxford ,...

 and French Brothers. Salters operate services between Folly Bridge
Folly Bridge
Folly Bridge is a stone bridge over the River Thames carrying the Abingdon Road, south from the centre of Oxford, England. It was erected 1825–27, to designs of a little-known architect, Ebenezer Perry , who practiced in London....

, Oxford and Staines. The whole journey takes 4 days and requires several changes of boat. French Brothers operate passenger services between Maidenhead and Hampton Court.
Along the course of the river a number of smaller private companies also offer river trips at Wallingford, Reading and Hampton Court. Many companies also provide boat hire on the river.

The leisure navigation and sporting activities on the river have given rise to a number of businesses including boatbuilding, marinas, ships chandlers and salvage services.

Police and lifeboats


The river is policed by five police forces. The Thames Division is the River Police arm of London’s Metropolitan Police
Metropolitan police
Metropolitan Police is a generic title for the municipal police force for a major metropolitan area, and it may be part of the official title of the force...

, while Surrey Police
Surrey Police
Surrey Police is the territorial police force responsible for policing the county of Surrey in the south of England.The force is led by Chief Constable Mark Rowley and has its headquarters at Mount Browne, Guildford, Surrey...

, Thames Valley Police
Thames Valley Police
Thames Valley Police, formerly known as Thames Valley Constabulary, is the territorial police force responsible for policing the Thames Valley area covered by the ceremonial counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire....

, Essex Police
Essex Police
Essex Police is a territorial police force responsible for policing the county of Essex in the east of England.It is one of the largest non-metropolitan police forces in the United Kingdom, employing approximately 3,600 police officers and operating across an area of over and with a population of...

 and Kent Police
Kent Police
Kent Police is the territorial police force for Kent in England, including the unitary authority of Medway.-Area and organisation:The force covers an area of with an approximate population of 1,660,588 . The Chief Constable is currently Ian Learmonth, who was appointed in 2010 and is the former...

 have responsibilities on their parts of the river outside the metropolitan area. There is also a London Fire Brigade
London Fire Brigade
The London Fire Brigade is the statutory fire and rescue service for London.Founded in 1865, it is the largest of the fire services in the United Kingdom and the fourth-largest in the world with nearly 7,000 staff, including 5,800 operational firefighters based in 112 fire...

 fire boat on the river. The river claims a number of lives each year.

As a result of the Marchioness disaster
Marchioness disaster
The Marchioness disaster occurred on the River Thames in London in the early hours of 20 August 1989. The pleasure boat Marchioness sank after being run down by the dredger Bowbelle, near Cannon Street Railway Bridge. There were 131 people on the Marchioness. Some were members of the crew, some...

 in 1989 when 51 people died, the Government asked the Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Maritime and Coastguard Agency
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is a UK executive agency working to prevent the loss of lives at sea and is responsible for implementing British and International maritime law and safety policy.This involves coordinating search and rescue at sea through Her Majesty's Coastguard , ensuring that...

, the Port of London Authority
Port of London Authority
The Port of London Authority is a self-funding public trust established in 1908 by the Port of London Act to govern the Port of London. Its responsibility extends over the Tideway of the River Thames and the authority is responsible for the public right of navigation and for conservancy of the...

 and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution
Royal National Lifeboat Institution
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is a charity that saves lives at sea around the coasts of Great Britain, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, as well as on selected inland waterways....

 (RNLI) to work together to set up a dedicated Search and Rescue service for the tidal River Thames. As a result, there are four lifeboat stations on the river Thames at Teddington
Teddington
Teddington is a suburban area in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in south west London, on the north bank of the River Thames, between Hampton Wick and Twickenham. It stretches inland from the River Thames to Bushy Park...

 (Teddington lifeboat station
Teddington Lifeboat Station
Teddington Lifeboat Station is a lifeboat station in Teddington, in west London, on the River Thames. It is one of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution's newest lifeboat stations and is also one of the first to cover a river rather than estuarial waters or the sea...

), Chiswick
Chiswick
Chiswick is a large suburb of west London, England and part of the London Borough of Hounslow. It is located on a meander of the River Thames, west of Charing Cross and is one of 35 major centres identified in the London Plan. It was historically an ancient parish in the county of Middlesex, with...

 (Chiswick lifeboat station), Victoria Embankment
Victoria Embankment
The Victoria Embankment is part of the Thames Embankment, a road and river walk along the north bank of the River Thames in London. Victoria Embankment extends from the City of Westminster into the City of London.-Construction:...

/Waterloo Bridge
Waterloo Bridge
Waterloo Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge crossing the River Thames in London, England between Blackfriars Bridge and Hungerford Bridge. The name of the bridge is in memory of the British victory at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815...

 (Tower Lifeboat Station
Tower Lifeboat Station
The Tower Lifeboat Station is a lifeboat station on the River Thames in London, UK, operated by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. It is located at Victoria Embankment on the North Bank of the Thames, next to Waterloo Bridge....

) and Gravesend
Gravesend, Kent
Gravesend is a town in northwest Kent, England, on the south bank of the Thames, opposite Tilbury in Essex. It is the administrative town of the Borough of Gravesham and, because of its geographical position, has always had an important role to play in the history and communications of this part of...

 (Gravesend lifeboat station).

Navigation



The Thames is maintained for navigation by powered craft from the estuary as far as Lechlade
Lechlade
Lechlade, or Lechlade-on-Thames, is a town at the southern edge of the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire, England. It is the highest point at which the River Thames is navigable. The town is named after the River Leach that joins the Thames near here....

 in Gloucestershire and for very small craft to Cricklade
Cricklade
Cricklade is a town and civil parish on the River Thames in north Wiltshire in England, midway between Swindon and Cirencester.On 25 September 2011 Cricklade was awarded The Royal Horticultural Society's 'Champion of Champions' award in the Britain in Bloom competition.Cricklade is twinned with...

. Between the sea and Teddington Lock
Teddington Lock
Teddington Lock is a complex of three locks and a weir on the River Thames in England at Ham in the western suburbs of London. The lock is on the southern Surrey side of the river....

, the river forms part of the Port of London
Port of London
The Port of London lies along the banks of the River Thames from London, England to the North Sea. Once the largest port in the world, it is currently the United Kingdom's second largest port, after Grimsby & Immingham...

 and navigation is administered by the Port of London Authority
Port of London Authority
The Port of London Authority is a self-funding public trust established in 1908 by the Port of London Act to govern the Port of London. Its responsibility extends over the Tideway of the River Thames and the authority is responsible for the public right of navigation and for conservancy of the...

. From Teddington Lock to the head of navigation, the navigation authority is the Environment Agency
Environment Agency
The Environment Agency is a British non-departmental public body of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and an Assembly Government Sponsored Body of the Welsh Assembly Government that serves England and Wales.-Purpose:...

. Both the tidal river through London and the non-tidal river upstream are intensively used for leisure navigation. All craft using the river Thames must be licensed.

The river is navigable to large ocean-going ships as far upstream as the Pool of London
Pool of London
The Pool of London is a part of the Tideway of the River Thames from London Bridge to below Tower Bridge. It was the original part of the Port of London. The Pool of London is divided into two parts, the Upper Pool and Lower Pool...

 and London Bridge
London Bridge
London Bridge is a bridge over the River Thames, connecting the City of London and Southwark, in central London. Situated between Cannon Street Railway Bridge and Tower Bridge, it forms the western end of the Pool of London...

. Although London's upstream enclosed docks have closed and central London sees only the occasional visiting cruise ship
Cruise ship
A cruise ship or cruise liner is a passenger ship used for pleasure voyages, where the voyage itself and the ship's amenities are part of the experience, as well as the different destinations along the way...

 or warship
Naval ship
A naval ship is a ship used for combat purposes, commonly by a navy. Naval ships are differentiated from civilian ships by construction and purpose...

, the tidal river remains one of Britain's main ports. Around 60 active terminals cater for shipping of all types including ro-ro ferries, cruise liners and vessels carrying containers
Containerization
Containerization is a system of freight transport based on a range of steel intermodal containers...

, vehicles, timber, grain, paper, crude oil
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

, petroleum products, liquified petroleum gas
Liquified petroleum gas
Liquefied petroleum gas is a flammable mixture of hydrocarbon gases used as a fuel in heating appliances and vehicles. It is increasingly used as an aerosol propellant and a refrigerant, replacing chlorofluorocarbons in an effort to reduce damage to the ozone layer...

, etc. There is a regular traffic of aggregate
Construction Aggregate
Construction aggregate, or simply "aggregate", is a broad category of coarse particulate material used in construction, including sand, gravel, crushed stone, slag, recycled concrete and geosynthetic aggregates. Aggregates are the most mined material in the world...

 or refuse
Waste
Waste is unwanted or useless materials. In biology, waste is any of the many unwanted substances or toxins that are expelled from living organisms, metabolic waste; such as urea, sweat or feces. Litter is waste which has been disposed of improperly...

 vessels, operating from wharves
Wharf
A wharf or quay is a structure on the shore of a harbor where ships may dock to load and unload cargo or passengers.Such a structure includes one or more berths , and may also include piers, warehouses, or other facilities necessary for handling the ships.A wharf commonly comprises a fixed...

 in the west of London. The tidal Thames links to the canal network at the River Lea Navigation, the Regent's Canal
Regent's Canal
Regent's Canal is a canal across an area just north of central London, England. It provides a link from the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal, just north-west of Paddington Basin in the west, to the Limehouse Basin and the River Thames in east London....

 at Limehouse Basin
Limehouse Basin
The Limehouse Basin in Limehouse, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets provides a navigable link between the Regent's Canal and the River Thames, through the Limehouse Basin Lock. A basin in the north of Mile End, near Victoria Park connects with the Hertford Union Canal leading to the River Lee...

, and the Grand Union Canal
Grand Union Canal
The Grand Union Canal in England is part of the British canal system. Its main line connects London and Birmingham, stretching for 137 miles with 166 locks...

 at Brentford.

There is no speed limit on the Tideway downstream of Wandsworth Bridge
Wandsworth Bridge
Wandsworth Bridge crosses the River Thames in west London. It carries the A217 road between the areas of Battersea, near Wandsworth Town Station, in the London Borough of Wandsworth on the south of the river, and the areas of Sands End and Parsons Green, in the London Borough of Hammersmith and...

, although boats are not allowed to create undue wash. Upstream of Wandsworth Bridge a speed limit is in force for powered craft to protect the riverbank environment and to provide safe conditions for rowers and other river users. The speed limit of 8 knots (16 km/h) applies to powered craft on this tidal part and 4.3 knots (8 km/h) on the non-tidal Thames. The Environment Agency has patrol boats (named after tributaries of the Thames) and can enforce the limit strictly since river traffic usually has to pass through a lock at some stage. There are pairs of transit markers
Navigation transit markers
Navigation Transit Markers are posts placed alongside a navigation to allow powered craft to check their speed. There are examples along the River Thames in England....

 at various points along the non-tidal river that can be used to check speed – a boat travelling legally taking a minute or more to pass between the two markers.


The non-tidal River Thames is divided into reaches by the 44 locks
Lock (water transport)
A lock is a device for raising and lowering boats between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways. The distinguishing feature of a lock is a fixed chamber in which the water level can be varied; whereas in a caisson lock, a boat lift, or on a canal inclined plane, it is...

. The locks are staffed for the greater part of the day, but can be operated by experienced users out of hours. This part of the Thames links to existing navigations at the River Wey Navigation, the River Kennet
River Kennet
The Kennet is a river in the south of England, and a tributary of the River Thames. The lower reaches of the river are navigable to river craft and are known as the Kennet Navigation, which, together with the Avon Navigation, the Kennet and Avon Canal and the Thames, links the cities of Bristol...

 and the Oxford Canal
Oxford Canal
The Oxford Canal is a narrow canal in central England linking Oxford with Coventry via Banbury and Rugby. It connects with the River Thames at Oxford, to the Grand Union Canal at the villages of Braunston and Napton-on-the-Hill, and to the Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury Junction in Bedworth just...

.

History of the management of the river



In the Middle Ages the Crown
The Crown
The Crown is a corporation sole that in the Commonwealth realms and any provincial or state sub-divisions thereof represents the legal embodiment of governance, whether executive, legislative, or judicial...

 exercised general jurisdiction over the Thames, one of the four royal rivers, and appointed water bailiff
Water bailiff
A water bailiff is a law enforcement officer responsible for the policing of bodies of water, such as a river, lake or coast. The position has existed in many jurisdictions throughout history.-Scotland:...

s to oversee the river upstream of Staines. The City of London
City of London
The City of London is a small area within Greater London, England. It is the historic core of London around which the modern conurbation grew and has held city status since time immemorial. The City’s boundaries have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages, and it is now only a tiny part of...

 exercised jurisdiction over the tidal Thames. However, navigation was increasingly impeded by weirs and mills, and in the 14th century the river probably ceased to be navigable for heavy traffic between Henley and Oxford. In the late 16th century the river seems to have been reopened for navigation from Henley to Burcot.

The first commission concerned with the management of the river was the Oxford-Burcot Commission
Oxford-Burcot Commission
The Oxford-Burcot Commission was the first Commission concerned with the management of the River Thames, appointed by an Act of Parliament of 1605 by James I to make the stretch of river from Burcot to Oxford navigable. The Commission took responsibility for the management of the River Thames...

, formed in 1605 to make the river navigable between Burcot and Oxford.

In 1751 the Thames Navigation Commission
Thames Navigation Commission
The Thames Navigation Commission used to manage the River Thames in southern England. In particular, they were responsible for installing or renovating many of the locks on the river in the 18th and early 19th centuries.- History :...

 was formed to manage the whole non-tidal river above Staines. The City of London
City of London
The City of London is a small area within Greater London, England. It is the historic core of London around which the modern conurbation grew and has held city status since time immemorial. The City’s boundaries have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages, and it is now only a tiny part of...

 long claimed responsibility for the tidal river. A long running dispute between the City and the Crown over ownership of the river was not settled until 1857, when the Thames Conservancy
Thames Conservancy
The Thames Conservancy was a historical body responsible for the management of the River Thames in England. It was founded in 1857, initially replacing the jurisdiction of the City of London up to Staines and later taking responsibility for the whole river from Cricklade in Wiltshire to the sea at...

 was formed to manage the river from Staines downstream. In 1866 the functions of the Thames Navigation Commission were transferred to the Thames Conservancy, which thus had responsibility for the whole river.

In 1909 the powers of the Thames Conservancy over the tidal river, below Teddington, were transferred to the Port of London Authority
Port of London Authority
The Port of London Authority is a self-funding public trust established in 1908 by the Port of London Act to govern the Port of London. Its responsibility extends over the Tideway of the River Thames and the authority is responsible for the public right of navigation and for conservancy of the...

.

In 1974 the Thames Conservancy became part of the new Thames Water Authority
Thames Water Authority
The Thames Water Authority was one of ten Regional Water Authorities created in the UK in 1975 to bring together all the water management functions of the Region in one public body....

. When Thames Water was privatised in 1990, its river management functions were transferred to the National Rivers Authority
National Rivers Authority
The National Rivers Authority was one of the forerunners of the Environment Agency of England and Wales, existing between 1989 and 1996. Before 1989 the regulation of the aquatic environment had largely been carried out by the ten Regional Water Authorities...

, in 1996 subsumed into the Environment Agency
Environment Agency
The Environment Agency is a British non-departmental public body of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and an Assembly Government Sponsored Body of the Welsh Assembly Government that serves England and Wales.-Purpose:...

.

The river as a boundary


Until enough crossings were established, the river presented a formidable barrier, with Belgic tribes and Anglo-Saxon kingdoms being defined by which side of the river they were on. When English counties were established their boundaries were partly determined by the Thames. On the northern bank were the ancient counties of Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean....

, Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire is a county in the South East region of England, bordering on Warwickshire and Northamptonshire , Buckinghamshire , Berkshire , Wiltshire and Gloucestershire ....

, Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

, Middlesex
Middlesex
Middlesex is one of the historic counties of England and the second smallest by area. The low-lying county contained the wealthy and politically independent City of London on its southern boundary and was dominated by it from a very early time...

 and Essex
Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

. On the southern bank were the counties of Wiltshire
Wiltshire
Wiltshire is a ceremonial county in South West England. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. It contains the unitary authority of Swindon and covers...

, Berkshire
Berkshire
Berkshire is a historic county in the South of England. It is also often referred to as the Royal County of Berkshire because of the presence of the royal residence of Windsor Castle in the county; this usage, which dates to the 19th century at least, was recognised by the Queen in 1957, and...

, Surrey
Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

, and Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

. However the 214 bridges and 17 tunnels that have been built to date have changed the dynamics and made cross-river development and shared responsibilities more practicable. In 1965, upon the creation of Greater London
Greater London
Greater London is the top-level administrative division of England covering London. It was created in 1965 and spans the City of London, including Middle Temple and Inner Temple, and the 32 London boroughs. This territory is coterminate with the London Government Office Region and the London...

, the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames is a London borough in South West London, UK, which forms part of Outer London. It is unique because it is the only London borough situated both north and south of the River Thames.-Settlement:...

 incorporated areas that had been parts of both Middlesex and Surrey; and further changes in 1974 moved some of the boundaries away from the river. For example, some areas were transferred from Berkshire to Oxfordshire, and from Buckinghamshire to Berkshire. On occasion – for example in rowing – the banks are still referred to by their traditional county names.

Crossings







Many of the present road bridges are on the site of earlier fords, ferries and wooden bridges. At Swinford Bridge, a toll bridge, there was first a ford and then a ferry prior to the bridge being built. The earliest known major crossings of the Thames by the Romans were at London Bridge
London Bridge
London Bridge is a bridge over the River Thames, connecting the City of London and Southwark, in central London. Situated between Cannon Street Railway Bridge and Tower Bridge, it forms the western end of the Pool of London...

 and Staines Bridge
Staines Bridge
Staines Bridge is a road bridge running in a south-west to north-east direction across the River Thames in Surrey. It is on the modern A308 road and links the boroughs of Spelthorne and Runnymede at Staines and Egham Hythe....

. At Folly Bridge
Folly Bridge
Folly Bridge is a stone bridge over the River Thames carrying the Abingdon Road, south from the centre of Oxford, England. It was erected 1825–27, to designs of a little-known architect, Ebenezer Perry , who practiced in London....

 in Oxford the remains of an original Saxon structure can be seen, and medieval stone bridges such as Newbridge
Newbridge, Oxfordshire
Newbridge is a 13th century bridge carrying the A415 road over the River Thames in Oxfordshire, between Abingdon and Witney, close to the Thames' confluence with the River Windrush...

 and Abingdon Bridge
Abingdon Bridge
Abingdon Bridge consists of a pair of bridges across the River Thames at the town of Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England. It carries the A415 road from Abingdon to Dorchester, Oxfordshire – and crosses the Thames on the reach above Culham Lock, just below Abingdon Lock.The bridge is actually two...

 are still in use. Kingston’s growth is believed to stem from its having the only crossing between London Bridge and Staines until the beginning of the 18th century. During the 18th century, many stone and brick road bridges were built from new or to replace existing bridges both in London and along the length of the river. These included Putney Bridge
Putney Bridge
Putney Bridge is a bridge crossing of the River Thames in west London, linking Putney on the south side with Fulham to the north. Putney Bridge tube station is located near the north side of the bridge.-History:...

, Westminster Bridge
Westminster Bridge
Westminster Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge over the River Thames between Westminster on the north side and Lambeth on the south side, in London, England....

, Datchet Bridge
Datchet Bridge
Datchet Bridge, also known as The Divided Bridge, was a road bridge which crossed the River Thames at Datchet from 1706 until it was demolished in 1848. It was situated on the reach between Old Windsor Lock and Romney Lock and linked Windsor on the Berkshire bank to Datchet on the Buckinghamshire...

, Windsor Bridge
Windsor Bridge
Windsor Bridge or Windsor Town Bridge, is a road bridge over the River Thames between the towns of Windsor and Eton in the English county of Berkshire. It now only carries pedestrian and cycle traffic, and crosses the Thames just above Romney Lock....

 and Sonning Bridge
Sonning Bridge
Sonning Bridge is a road bridge across the River Thames at Sonning, Berkshire. It links Sonning with Sonning Eye and crosses the Thames on the reach above Shiplake Lock, just short of Sonning Lock. It is a brick arch bridge completed in 1775, to replace an earlier wooden bridge...

. Several central London road bridges were built in the 19th century, most conspicuously Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge in London, England, over the River Thames. It is close to the Tower of London, from which it takes its name...

, the only Bascule bridge
Bascule bridge
A bascule bridge is a moveable bridge with a counterweight that continuously balances the span, or "leaf," throughout the entire upward swing in providing clearance for boat traffic....

 on the river, designed to allow ocean going ships to pass beneath it. The most recent road bridges are the bypasses at Isis Bridge
Isis Bridge
Isis Bridge is a modern road bridge across the River Thames just south of Oxford, England. It carries the Oxford Ring Road, part of the A423 road, across the Thames on the reach between Sandford Lock and Iffley Lock....

 and Marlow By-pass Bridge
Marlow By-pass Bridge
Marlow By-pass Bridge is a road bridge across the River Thames in England. It carries the A404 road between Maidenhead, Berkshire and High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. and crosses the Thames on the reach between Cookham Lock and Marlow Lock....

 and the Motorway bridges, most notably the two on the M25 route Queen Elizabeth II Bridge
Queen Elizabeth II Bridge
The Queen Elizabeth II Bridge is a high and long cable-stayed road bridge across the River Thames in south east England. It was opened in 1991 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II....

 and M25 Runnymede Bridge
M25 Runnymede Bridge
The M25 Runnymede Bridge is a motorway bridge built in the 1980s, carrying the M25 motorway across the River Thames. It carries the M25 North/South just south of Heathrow Airport and crosses the Thames on the reach above Penton Hook Lock and shortly before Bell Weir Lock.The bridge was built to...

.

Railway development in the 19th century resulted in a spate of bridge building including Blackfriars Railway Bridge
Blackfriars Railway Bridge
Blackfriars Railway Bridge is a railway bridge crossing the River Thames in London, between Blackfriars Bridge and the Millennium Bridge.There have been two structures with the name. The first bridge was opened in 1864 and was designed by Joseph Cubitt for the London, Chatham and Dover Railway...

 and Charing Cross (Hungerford) Railway Bridge
Hungerford Bridge
The Hungerford Bridge crosses the River Thames in London, and lies between Waterloo Bridge and Westminster Bridge. It is a steel truss railway bridge—sometimes known as the Charing Cross Bridge—flanked by two more recent, cable-stayed, pedestrian bridges that share the railway bridge's...

 in central London, and the spectacular railway bridges by Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, FRS , was a British civil engineer who built bridges and dockyards including the construction of the first major British railway, the Great Western Railway; a series of steamships, including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship; and numerous important bridges...

 at Maidenhead Railway Bridge
Maidenhead Railway Bridge
Maidenhead Railway Bridge is a railway bridge carrying the main line of the Great Western Railway over the River Thames between Maidenhead, Berkshire and Taplow, Buckinghamshire, England...

, Gatehampton Railway Bridge
Gatehampton Railway Bridge
Gatehampton Railway Bridge is a railway bridge carrying the Great Western Main Line over the River Thames in Lower Basildon, Berkshire, England...

 and Moulsford Railway Bridge
Moulsford Railway Bridge
Moulsford Railway Bridge, known locally as "Four Arches" bridge is actually a pair of parallel bridges located a little to the north of Moulsford and South Stoke in Oxfordshire, UK. It carries the Great Western Main Line from Paddington, London to Wales and the West across the River Thames...

.

The world’s first underwater tunnel was Marc Brunel's Thames Tunnel
Thames Tunnel
The Thames Tunnel is an underwater tunnel, built beneath the River Thames in London, United Kingdom, connecting Rotherhithe and Wapping. It measures 35 feet wide by 20 feet high and is 1,300 feet long, running at a depth of 75 feet below the river's surface...

 built in 1843 and now used to carry the East London Line
East London Line
The East London Line is a London Overground line which runs north to south through the East End, Docklands and South areas of London.Built in 1869 by the East London Railway Company, which reused the Thames Tunnel, originally intended for horse-drawn carriages, the line became part of the London...

. The Tower Subway
Tower Subway
The Tower Subway is a tunnel, dug in 1869, beneath the River Thames in central London, close to the Tower of London. Its alignment runs between Tower Hill on the north side of the river and Vine Lane to the south...

 was the first railway under the Thames, which was followed by all the deep-level tube lines. Road tunnels were built in East London at the end of the 19th century, being the Blackwall Tunnel
Blackwall Tunnel
The Blackwall Tunnel is a pair of road tunnels underneath the River Thames in east London, linking the London Borough of Tower Hamlets with the London Borough of Greenwich, and part of the A102 road. The northern portal lies just south of the East India Dock Road in Blackwall; the southern...

 and the Rotherhithe Tunnel
Rotherhithe Tunnel
The Rotherhithe Tunnel is a road tunnel crossing beneath the River Thames in East London. It connects the Ratcliff district of Limehouse in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets north of the river to Rotherhithe in the London Borough of Southwark south of the river. It is designated as the A101...

. The latest tunnels are the Dartford Crossing
Dartford Crossing
The Dartford - Thurrock River Crossing, Dartford River Crossing is a major road crossing of the River Thames in England, connecting Dartford in the south to Thurrock in the north, via two road tunnels and the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. It opened in stages, the west tunnel in 1963, the east tunnel...

s.

Many foot crossings were established across the weirs that were built on the non-tidal river, and some of these remained when the locks were built – for example at Benson Lock
Benson Lock
Benson Lock is a lock on the River Thames in England, close to Benson, Oxfordshire but on the opposite bank of the river. The first pound lock here was built by the Thames Navigation Commission in 1788 and it was replaced by the present masonry lock in 1870...

. Others were replaced by a footbridge when the weir was removed as at Hart's Weir Footbridge
Hart's Weir Footbridge
Hart's Weir Footbridge is a single-span concrete footbridge across the River Thames in Oxfordshire, England. Locally, it is also known as Rainbow Bridge, due to its rainbow-arc appearance as seen from the horizon...

. Around the year 2000 AD, several footbridges were added along the Thames, either as part of the Thames Path or in commemoration of the Millennium. These include Temple Footbridge
Temple Footbridge
Temple Footbridge is a pedestrian bridge near Hurley, Berkshire across the River Thames in England. It connects the Buckinghamshire and Berkshire banks. It crosses the Thames just above Temple Lock....

, Bloomers Hole Footbridge
Bloomers Hole Footbridge
Bloomers Hole Footbridge is a footbridge across the River Thames in Oxfordshire, England. It is situated on the reach above Buscot Lock and was installed in 2000 to carry the Thames Path across the Thames...

, the Hungerford Footbridges and the Millennium Bridge, all of which have distinctive design characteristics.

Before bridges were built, the main means of crossing the river was by ferry. A significant number of ferries were provided specifically for navigation purposes. When the towpath
Towpath
A towpath is a road or trail on the bank of a river, canal, or other inland waterway. The purpose of a towpath is to allow a land vehicle, beasts of burden, or a team of human pullers to tow a boat, often a barge...

 changed sides, it was necessary to take the towing horse and its driver across the river. This was no longer necessary when barges were powered by steam. Some ferries still operate on the river. The Woolwich Ferry
Woolwich Ferry
The Woolwich Free Ferry is a boat service across the River Thames, London, UK, which is licensed and financed by London River Services, the maritime arm of Transport for London...

 carries cars and passengers across the river in the Thames Gateway and links the North Circular and South Circular roads. Upstream are smaller pedestrian ferries, for example Hampton Ferry
Hampton Ferry (River Thames)
Hampton Ferry is a pedestrian and cycle ferry service across the River Thames in England. The ferry links Hampton, on the north bank and in the London Borough of Richmond, with Moulsey Hurst, on the south bank and in the county of Surrey....

 and Shepperton to Weybridge Ferry
Shepperton to Weybridge Ferry
The Shepperton to Weybridge Ferry is a pedestrian and cycle ferry service across the River Thames in the English county of Surrey. The ferry runs from Ferry Lane, in Shepperton, to a point a short walk from Thames Street, in Weybridge. It is situated just below Shepperton Lock on the reach above...

 the last being the only non-permanent crossing that remains on the Thames Path.

Sport


There are several watersports prevalent on the Thames, with many clubs encouraging participation and organising racing and inter-club competitions.

Rowing




The Thames is the historic heartland of rowing
Sport rowing
Rowing is a sport in which athletes race against each other on rivers, on lakes or on the ocean, depending upon the type of race and the discipline. The boats are propelled by the reaction forces on the oar blades as they are pushed against the water...

 in the United Kingdom. There are over 200 clubs on the river, and over 8,000 members of the Amateur Rowing Association
Amateur Rowing Association
British Rowing, formerly the Amateur Rowing Association , is the governing body in England for the sport of rowing. It is also responsible for the development and organisation of international rowing teams representing Great Britain...

 (over 40% of its membership). Most towns and districts of any size on the river have at least one club, but key centres are Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

, Henley-on-Thames
Henley-on-Thames
Henley-on-Thames is a town and civil parish on the River Thames in South Oxfordshire, England, about 10 miles downstream and north-east from Reading, 10 miles upstream and west from Maidenhead...

 and the stretch of river from Chiswick
Chiswick
Chiswick is a large suburb of west London, England and part of the London Borough of Hounslow. It is located on a meander of the River Thames, west of Charing Cross and is one of 35 major centres identified in the London Plan. It was historically an ancient parish in the county of Middlesex, with...

 to Putney
Putney
Putney is a district in south-west London, England, located in the London Borough of Wandsworth. It is situated south-west of Charing Cross. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London....

.

Two rowing events on the River Thames are traditionally part of the wider English sporting calendar:

The University Boat Race is rowed between Oxford University Boat Club
Oxford University Boat Club
The Oxford University Boat Club is the rowing club of the University of Oxford, England, located on the River Thames at Oxford. The club was founded in the early 19th century....

 and the Cambridge University Boat Club
Cambridge University Boat Club
The Cambridge University Boat Club is the rowing club of the University of Cambridge, England, located on the River Cam at Cambridge, although training primarily takes place on the River Great Ouse at Ely. The club was founded in 1828...

 in late March or early April, on the Championship Course
The Championship Course
The stretch of the River Thames between Mortlake and Putney in London, England is a well-established course for rowing races, most famously the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. It is often referred to as The Championship Course...

 from Putney
Putney
Putney is a district in south-west London, England, located in the London Borough of Wandsworth. It is situated south-west of Charing Cross. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London....

 to Mortlake
Mortlake
Mortlake is a district of London, England and part of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. It is on the south bank of the River Thames between Kew and Barnes with East Sheen inland to the south. Mortlake was part of Surrey until 1965.-History:...

 in the west of London.

Henley Royal Regatta
Henley Royal Regatta
Henley Royal Regatta is a rowing event held every year on the River Thames by the town of Henley-on-Thames, England. The Royal Regatta is sometimes referred to as Henley Regatta, its original name pre-dating Royal patronage...

 takes place over five days at the start of July in the upstream town of Henley-on-Thames
Henley-on-Thames
Henley-on-Thames is a town and civil parish on the River Thames in South Oxfordshire, England, about 10 miles downstream and north-east from Reading, 10 miles upstream and west from Maidenhead...

. Besides its sporting significance the regatta is an important date on the English social calendar
Season (society)
The social season or Season has historically referred to the annual period when it is customary for members of the a social elite of society to hold debutante balls, dinner parties and large charity events...

 alongside events like Royal Ascot
Ascot Racecourse
Ascot Racecourse is a famous English racecourse, located in the small town of Ascot, Berkshire, used for thoroughbred horse racing. It is one of the leading racecourses in the United Kingdom, hosting 9 of the UK's 32 annual Group 1 races...

 and Wimbledon.

Other significant or historic rowing events on the Thames include:
  • The Head of the River Race
    Head of the River Race
    The Head of the River Race is a processional rowing race held annually on the River Thames in London, England, on the 4.25 mile Championship Course from Mortlake to Putney.-History:...

     and other head races over the Championship Course
    The Championship Course
    The stretch of the River Thames between Mortlake and Putney in London, England is a well-established course for rowing races, most famously the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. It is often referred to as The Championship Course...

  • The Wingfield Sculls
    The Wingfield Sculls
    The Wingfield Sculls is a rowing race held annually on the River Thames in London, England, on the 4¼ mile Championship Course from Putney to Mortlake....

     for the amateur sculling championship of the Thames and Great Britain
  • Doggett's Coat and Badge
    Doggett's Coat and Badge
    Doggett's Coat and Badge is the prize and name for the oldest rowing race in the world. Up to six apprentice Watermen of the River Thames in England compete for this prestigious honour, which has been held every year since 1715. The 4 miles 5 furlongs race is held on the Thames between London...

     for apprentice watermen, one of the oldest sporting events in the world
  • Henley Women's Regatta
    Henley Women's Regatta
    Henley Women's Regatta is a rowing regatta held at Henley-on-Thames, England. It was formed as a result of the lack of women's events at Henley Royal Regatta and first held in 1988...

  • The Henley Boat Races
    Henley Boat Races
    The Henley Boat Races are a number of rowing races between the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. Taking place on the River Thames at Henley, they are for crews that do not compete in the main University Boat Race on the 6,779m Championship Course in London:* Women's Boat Race *...

     for the Women's and Lightweight crews of Oxford and Cambridge Universities
  • The Oxford University bumping races
    Bumps race
    A bumps race is a form of rowing race in which a number of boats chase each other in single file, each boat attempting to catch and "bump" the boat in front without being caught by the boat behind....

     known as Eights Week
    Eights Week
    Eights Week, also known as Summer Eights, is a four-day regatta of bumps races which constitutes the University of Oxford's main intercollegiate rowing event of the year. The regatta takes place in May of each year, from the Wednesday to the Saturday of the fifth week of Trinity term...

     and Torpids
    Torpids
    Torpids is one of two series of bumping races held yearly at Oxford University, the other being Eights. Over 130 men's and women's crews race for their colleges in six men's divisions and five women's; almost 1200 participants in total...



Other regatta
Regatta
A regatta is a series of boat races. The term typically describes racing events of rowed or sailed water craft, although some powerboat race series are also called regattas...

s, head race
Head race
A head race is a time-trial competition in the sport of rowing, also known as crew to a few USA organizations. Head races are typically held in the fall and spring seasons. These events draw many athletes as well as observers...

s and bumping races are held along the Thames which are described under Rowing on the River Thames
Rowing on the River Thames
The River Thames is one of the main rowing areas in England, with activity taking place on the Tideway and on the 45 separate lock reaches on the non tidal section. The river hosts two major rowing events The Boat Race and Henley Royal Regatta, and a large number of other regattas and long distance...

.

Sailing




Sailing is practised on both the tidal and non-tidal reaches of the river. The highest club upstream is at Oxford. The most popular sailing craft used on the Thames are lasers
Laser (dinghy)
The International Laser Class sailboat, also called Laser Standard and the Laser One is a popular one-design class of small sailing dinghy. According the Laser Class Rules the boat may be sailed by either one or two people, though it is rarely sailed by two. The design, by Bruce Kirby, emphasizes...

, GP14s
GP14 (dinghy)
The GP14 is a popular sailing dinghy, with over 14,000 built.The class is active in the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and parts of north-eastern USA, and the GP 14 can be used for both racing and cruising. The boat is relatively heavy, but stable, and the weight and the...

, and Wayfarers
Wayfarer (dinghy)
The Wayfarer is a wooden or fibreglass hulled Bermuda rigged sailing dinghy, often used for short sailing trips as a 'day boat'. The boat is 15 feet 10 inches long, and broad and deep enough for three adults to comfortably sail for several hours. Longer trips are undertaken by enthusiasts, notably...

. One sailing boat unique to the Thames is the Thames Rater
Thames A Class Rater (scow)
The Thames A Class Rater is both a historic and modern specialist sailing craft designed for the particular conditions at Thames Sailing Club, on the River Thames at Surbiton in England...

, which is sailed around Raven's Ait
Raven's Ait
Raven's Ait is an ait in the Thames at Surbiton, in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, London, England, in the reach above Teddington Lock. It is situated upstream of Queen's Promenade where it departs from the river, and opposite Thames Sailing Club, home of the Thames A Class Raters...

.

Skiffing


Skiffing
Skiffing
Skiffing refers to the sporting and leisure activity of rowing a Thames skiff. A Thames skiff is a traditional hand built clinker-built wooden craft of a design which has been seen on the River Thames and other waterways in England and other countries for nearly 200 years...

 remains popular, particularly in the summer months. Several clubs and regattas may be found in the outer suburbs of west London.

Punting


Unlike the "pleasure punting" common on the Cherwell
River Cherwell
The River Cherwell is a river which flows through the Midlands of England. It is a major tributary of the River Thames.The general course of the River Cherwell is north to south and the 'straight-line' distance from its source to the Thames is about...

 in Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

 and the Cam
River Cam
The River Cam is a tributary of the River Great Ouse in the east of England. The two rivers join to the south of Ely at Pope's Corner. The Great Ouse connects the Cam to England's canal system and to the North Sea at King's Lynn...

 in Cambridge
Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

, punting on the Thames is competitive as well as recreational and uses narrower craft.

Kayaking and canoeing



Kayaking
Kayaking
Kayaking is the use of a kayak for moving across water. Kayaking and canoeing are also known as paddling. Kayaking is distinguished from canoeing by the sitting position of the paddler and the number of blades on the paddle...

 and canoeing
Canoeing
Canoeing is an outdoor activity that involves a special kind of canoe.Open canoes may be 'poled' , sailed, 'lined and tracked' or even 'gunnel-bobbed'....

 are popular, with sea kayak
Sea kayak
A sea kayak or touring kayak is a kayak developed for the sport of paddling on open waters of lakes, bays, and the ocean. Sea kayaks are seaworthy small boats with a covered deck and the ability to incorporate a spraydeck...

ers using the tidal stretch for touring. Sheltered water kayakers and canoeists use the non-tidal section for training, racing and trips. Whitewater
Whitewater
Whitewater is formed in a rapid, when a river's gradient increases enough to disturb its laminar flow and create turbulence, i.e. form a bubbly, or aerated and unstable current; the frothy water appears white...

 playboaters
Playboating
Playboating is a discipline of whitewater kayaking or canoeing where the paddler performs various technical moves in one place , as opposed to downriver whitewater canoeing or kayaking where the objective is to travel the length of a section of river...

 and slalom
Slalom canoeing
Whitewater Slalom is a competitive sport where the aim is to navigate a decked canoe or kayak through a course of hanging gates on river rapids in the fastest time possible. It is one of the two kayak and canoeing disciplines at the Summer Olympics, and is referred to by the International Olympic...

 paddlers are catered for at weir
Weir
A weir is a small overflow dam used to alter the flow characteristics of a river or stream. In most cases weirs take the form of a barrier across the river that causes water to pool behind the structure , but allows water to flow over the top...

s like those at Hurley Lock
Hurley Lock
Hurley Lock is a lock and weir on the River Thames in England, situated in a clump of wooded islands close to the village of Hurley, Berkshire. The lock was first built by the Thames Navigation Commissioners in 1773....

, Sunbury Lock
Sunbury Lock
Sunbury Lock is a lock on the River Thames in England near Walton-on-Thames in north-west Surrey. The lock adjoins the southern bank about half a mile downstream of the Weir Hotel....

 and Boulter's Lock
Boulter's Lock
Boulter's Lock is a lock and weir on the River Thames in England on the eastern side of Maidenhead, Berkshire. A lock was first built here by the Thames Navigation Commission in 1772. The lock is on the western side of the river between the main Maidenhead to Cookham road and Ray Mill Island...

. At Teddington just before the tidal section of the river starts is Royal Canoe Club
Royal Canoe Club
The Royal Canoe Club , founded in 1866, is the oldest canoe club in the world and received royal patronage in the 19th century. The clubhouse is based at Trowlock Island on the River Thames in Teddington near central London. The club promotes canoeing and kayaking, focusing on flatwater, sprint and...

, said to be the oldest in the world and founded in 1866. Since 1950, almost every year at Easter, long distance canoeists have been competing in what is now known as the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race, which follows the course of the Kennet & Avon Canal, joins the River Thames at Reading and runs right up to a grand finish at Westminster Bridge.

Meanders


A Thames meander
Thames meander
Thames meander refers to a long-distance journey over all or part of the River Thames in England. Walking the Thames Path is itself a meander, but the term usually applies to journeys using other methods such as rowing, running, or swimming....

 is a long-distance journey over all or part of the Thames by running, swimming or using any of the above means. It is often carried out as an athletic challenge in a competition or for a record attempt.
The geographical term is a sharp twist or turn in a river.

Culture








Visual arts


The River Thames has been a subject for artists, great and minor, over the centuries. Four major artists with works based on the Thames are Canaletto
Canaletto
Giovanni Antonio Canal better known as Canaletto , was a Venetian painter famous for his landscapes, or vedute, of Venice. He was also an important printmaker in etching.- Early career :...

, J. M. W. Turner
J. M. W. Turner
Joseph Mallord William Turner RA was an English Romantic landscape painter, watercolourist and printmaker. Turner was considered a controversial figure in his day, but is now regarded as the artist who elevated landscape painting to an eminence rivalling history painting...

, Claude Monet
Claude Monet
Claude Monet was a founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting. . Retrieved 6 January 2007...

, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler. The 20th century British artist Stanley Spencer
Stanley Spencer
Sir Stanley Spencer was an English painter. Much of his work depicts Biblical scenes, from miracles to Crucifixion, happening not in the Holy Land but in the small Thames-side village where he was born and spent most of his life...

 produced many works at Cookham
Cookham
Cookham is a village and civil parish in the north-easternmost corner of Berkshire in England, on the River Thames, notable as the home of the artist Stanley Spencer. It lies north of Maidenhead close to the border with Buckinghamshire...

.

The river is lined with various pieces of sculpture, but John Kaufman's sculpture The Diver
The Diver
The Diver is a sculpture by John Kaufman located in the River Thames at Rainham, east London and is the only sculpture standing in the River Thames...

: Regeneration is sited in the Thames near Rainham
Rainham, London
Rainham is a suburban town in northeast London, England, and part of the London Borough of Havering. Located east of Charing Cross, it is one of the locally important district centres identified in the London Plan and is surrounded by a residential area, which has grown from the historic village,...

.

Literature


The Thames is mentioned in many works of literature including novels, diaries and poetry. It is the central theme in three in particular:

Three Men in a Boat
Three Men in a Boat
Three Men in a Boat ,The Penguin edition punctuates the title differently: Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog! published in 1889, is a humorous account by Jerome K...

by Jerome K. Jerome
Jerome K. Jerome
Jerome Klapka Jerome was an English writer and humorist, best known for the humorous travelogue Three Men in a Boat.Jerome was born in Caldmore, Walsall, England, and was brought up in poverty in London...

, first published in 1889, is a humorous account of a boating holiday on the Thames between Kingston and Oxford. The book was intended initially to be a serious travel guide, with accounts of local history of places along the route, but the humorous elements eventually took over. The landscape and features of the Thames as described by Jerome are virtually unchanged, and the author's enduring humour has meant that the book has never been out of print since it was first published.

Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

 Our Mutual Friend
Our Mutual Friend
Our Mutual Friend is the last novel completed by Charles Dickens and is one of his most sophisticated works, combining psychological insight with social analysis. It centres on, in the words of critic J. Hillis Miller, "money, money, money, and what money can make of life" but is also about human...

(written in the years 1864–65) describes the river in a grimmer light. It begins with a scavenger and his daughter pulling a dead man from the river near London Bridge, to salvage what the body might have in its pockets, and heads to its conclusion with the deaths of the villains drowned in Plashwater Lock
Shepperton Lock
Shepperton Lock is a lock on the River Thames, in England adjoining the northern bank near Shepperton, Surrey . It is across the river from Weybridge, but not directly accessible from there....

 upstream. The workings of the river and the influence of the tides are described with great accuracy. Dickens opens the novel with this sketch of the river, and the people who work on it:

In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark Bridge
Southwark Bridge
Southwark Bridge is an arch bridge for traffic linking Southwark and the City across the River Thames, in London, England. It was designed by Ernest George and Basil Mott. It was built by Sir William Arrol & Co. and opened in 1921...

 which is of iron, and London Bridge
London Bridge
London Bridge is a bridge over the River Thames, connecting the City of London and Southwark, in central London. Situated between Cannon Street Railway Bridge and Tower Bridge, it forms the western end of the Pool of London...

 which is of stone, as an autumn evening was closing in.

The figures in this boat were those of a strong man with ragged grizzled hair and a sun-browned face, and a girl of nineteen or twenty. The girl rowed, pulling a pair of sculls very easily; the man with the rudder-lines slack in his hands, and his hands loose in his waisteband, kept an eager look-out.


Kenneth Grahame
Kenneth Grahame
Kenneth Grahame was a Scottish writer, most famous for The Wind in the Willows , one of the classics of children's literature. He also wrote The Reluctant Dragon; both books were later adapted into Disney films....

's The Wind in the Willows
The Wind in the Willows
The Wind in the Willows is a classic of children's literature by Kenneth Grahame, first published in 1908. Alternately slow moving and fast paced, it focuses on four anthropomorphised animal characters in a pastoral version of England...

, written in 1908, is set in the middle to upper reaches of the river. It starts as a tale of anthropomorphic characters "simply messing about in boats" but develops into a more complex story combining elements of mysticism with adventure and reflection on Edwardian Society. It is generally considered one of the most beloved works of children's literature and the illustrations by E.H.Shepard and Arthur Rackham feature the Thames and its surroundings.

The river almost inevitably features in many books set in London. Most of Dickens' other novels include some aspect of the Thames. Oliver Twist
Oliver Twist
Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress is the second novel by English author Charles Dickens, published by Richard Bentley in 1838. The story is about an orphan Oliver Twist, who endures a miserable existence in a workhouse and then is placed with an undertaker. He escapes and travels to...

finishes in the slums and rookeries
Rookery (slum)
A rookery was the colloquial British English term given in the 18th and 19th centuries to a city slum occupied by poor people...

 along its south bank. The Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes is a fictional detective created by Scottish author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The fantastic London-based "consulting detective", Holmes is famous for his astute logical reasoning, his ability to take almost any disguise, and his use of forensic science skills to solve...

 stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle DL was a Scottish physician and writer, most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, generally considered a milestone in the field of crime fiction, and for the adventures of Professor Challenger...

 often visit riverside parts as in The Sign of Four. In Heart of Darkness
Heart of Darkness
Heart of Darkness is a novella written by Joseph Conrad. Before its 1903 publication, it appeared as a three-part series in Blackwood's Magazine. It was classified by the Modern Library website editors as one of the "100 best novels" and part of the Western canon.The story centres on Charles...

by Joseph Conrad
Joseph Conrad
Joseph Conrad was a Polish-born English novelist.Conrad is regarded as one of the great novelists in English, although he did not speak the language fluently until he was in his twenties...

, the serenity of the contemporary Thames is contrasted with the savagery of the Congo River
Congo River
The Congo River is a river in Africa, and is the deepest river in the world, with measured depths in excess of . It is the second largest river in the world by volume of water discharged, though it has only one-fifth the volume of the world's largest river, the Amazon...

, and with the wilderness of the Thames as it would have appeared to a Roman soldier posted to Britannia two thousand years before. Conrad also gives a description of the approach to London from the Thames Estuary
Thames Estuary
The Thames Mouth is the estuary in which the River Thames meets the waters of the North Sea.It is not easy to define the limits of the estuary, although physically the head of Sea Reach, near Canvey Island on the Essex shore is probably the western boundary...

 in his essays The Mirror of the Sea (1906). Upriver, Henry James
Henry James
Henry James, OM was an American-born writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr., a clergyman, and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James....

' Portrait of a Lady uses a large riverside mansion on the Thames as one of its key settings.

Literary non-fiction works include Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys FRS, MP, JP, was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament who is now most famous for the diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man...

' diary, in which he recorded many events relating to the Thames including the Fire of London. He was disturbed while writing it in June 1667 by the sound of gunfire as Dutch warships broke through the Royal Navy on the Thames.

In poetry, William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth was a major English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with the 1798 joint publication Lyrical Ballads....

's sonnet On Westminster Bridge
Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802
"Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802" is a sonnet by William Wordsworth describing London and the River Thames, viewed from Westminster Bridge in the early morning. It was first published in the collection Poems in Two Volumes in 1807....

 closes with the lines:
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!


T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

 references makes several references to the Thames in The Fire Sermon, Section III of The Waste Land
The Waste Land
The Waste Land[A] is a 434-line[B] modernist poem by T. S. Eliot published in 1922. It has been called "one of the most important poems of the 20th century." Despite the poem's obscurity—its shifts between satire and prophecy, its abrupt and unannounced changes of speaker, location and time, its...

.
Sweet Thames run softly, till I end my song.
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes cigarette ends
Or other testimony of summer nights.


and
The river sweats
Oil and tar
The barges drift
With the turning tide
Red sails
Wide
To leeward, swing on the heavy spar,
The barges wash
Drifting logs
Down Greenwich reach
Past the Isle of Dogs


The Sweet Thames line is taken from Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English...

’s Prothalamion
Prothalamion
Prothalamion, the commonly used name of , is a poem by Edmund Spenser , one of the important poets of the Tudor Period in England. Published in 1596 , it is a nuptial song that he composed that year on the occasion of the twin marriage of the daughters of the Earl of Worcester; Elizabeth Somerset...

 which presents a more idyllic image:
Along the shoare of silver streaming Themmes;
Whose rutty banke, the which his river hemmes,
Was paynted all with variable flowers.
And all the meads adornd with daintie gemmes
Fit to deck maydens bowres


Also writing of the upper reaches is Matthew Arnold
Matthew Arnold
Matthew Arnold was a British poet and cultural critic who worked as an inspector of schools. He was the son of Thomas Arnold, the famed headmaster of Rugby School, and brother to both Tom Arnold, literary professor, and William Delafield Arnold, novelist and colonial administrator...

 in The Scholar Gypsy:
Crossing the stripling Thames at Bab-lock-hythe
Trailing in the cool stream thy fingers wet
As the slow punt swings round

Oh born in days when wits were fresh and clear
And life ran gaily as the sparkling Thames;
Before this strange disease of modern life.


Dylan Thomas mentions the Thames River in his poem "A Refusal To Mourn The Death, By Fire, Of A Child In London". "Londons' Daughter", the subject of the poem, lays "Deep with the first dead...secret by the unmourning water of the riding Thames".

Science-fiction novels make liberal use of a futuristic Thames. The utopian News from Nowhere
News from Nowhere
News from Nowhere is a classic work combining utopian socialism and soft science fiction written by the artist, designer and socialist pioneer William Morris...

by William Morris
William Morris
William Morris 24 March 18343 October 1896 was an English textile designer, artist, writer, and socialist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the English Arts and Crafts Movement...

 is mainly the account of a journey through the Thames valley
Thames Valley
The Thames Valley Region is a loose term for the English counties and towns roughly following the course of the River Thames as it flows from Oxfordshire in the west to London in the east. It includes parts of Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, North Hampshire, Surrey and west London...

 in a socialist future. The Thames also features prominently in Philip Pullman
Philip Pullman
Philip Pullman CBE, FRSL is an English writer from Norwich. He is the best-selling author of several books, most notably his trilogy of fantasy novels, His Dark Materials, and his fictionalised biography of Jesus, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ...

's His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials is a trilogy of fantasy novels by Philip Pullman comprising Northern Lights , The Subtle Knife , and The Amber Spyglass...

trilogy, as a communications artery for the waterborne Gyptian people of Oxford and the Fens.

In The Deptford Mice
The Deptford Mice
The Deptford Mice is a trilogy of novels by Robin Jarvis. They follow the story of a group of mice living in Deptford, London as they fight an evil cat god named Jupiter.-The Dark Portal:...

trilogy by Robin Jarvis
Robin Jarvis
Robin Jarvis is a British children's novelist, who writes fantasy novels, often about anthropomorphic rodents and small mammals – especially mice – and Tudor times...

, the Thames appears several times. In one book, rat characters swim through it to Deptford
Deptford
Deptford is a district of south London, England, located on the south bank of the River Thames. It is named after a ford of the River Ravensbourne, and from the mid 16th century to the late 19th was home to Deptford Dockyard, the first of the Royal Navy Dockyards.Deptford and the docks are...

. Winner of the Nestlé Children's Book Prize
Nestlé Smarties Book Prize
The Nestlé Children's Book Prize, also known as the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize, was an annual award given to children's books written in the previous year by a UK citizen or resident. The prize was administered by Booktrust, an independent charity which promotes books and reading, and sponsored by...

 Gold Award I, Coriander
I, Coriander
I, Coriander is a children's novel by Sally Gardner, published in 2005, set in London at the time of the Puritan Commonwealth. It won the Nestlé Children's Book Prize Gold Award...

, by Sally Gardner is a fantasy novel in which the heroine lives on the banks of the Thames

Music


The Water Music
Water Music (Handel)
The Water Music is a collection of orchestral movements, often considered three suites, composed by George Frideric Handel. It premiered on 17 July 1717 after King George I had requested a concert on the River Thames...

 composed by George Frideric Handel
George Frideric Handel
George Frideric Handel was a German-British Baroque composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems and organ concertos. Handel was born in 1685, in a family indifferent to music...

 premiered on 17 July 1717, when King George I
George I of Great Britain
George I was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1 August 1714 until his death, and ruler of the Duchy and Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg in the Holy Roman Empire from 1698....

 requested a concert on the River Thames. The concert was performed for King George I on his barge and he is said to have enjoyed it so much that he ordered the 50 exhausted musicians to play the suites three times on the trip.

The song 'Old Father Thames' was recorded by Gracie Fields
Gracie Fields
Dame Gracie Fields, DBE , was an English-born, later Italian-based actress, singer and comedienne and star of both cinema and music hall.-Early life:...

 in the 1930s.

The Sex Pistols
Sex Pistols
The Sex Pistols were an English punk rock band that formed in London in 1975. They were responsible for initiating the punk movement in the United Kingdom and inspiring many later punk and alternative rock musicians...

 played a concert on the Queen Elizabeth Riverboat on 7 June 1977, the Queen's Silver Jubilee year, while sailing down the river.

Two songs by The Kinks
The Kinks
The Kinks were an English rock band formed in Muswell Hill, North London, by brothers Ray and Dave Davies in 1964. Categorised in the United States as a British Invasion band, The Kinks are recognised as one of the most important and influential rock acts of the era. Their music was influenced by a...

 prominently feature the Thames, not by name, but by implication. "Waterloo Sunset
Waterloo Sunset
Waterloo Sunset is a song by British rock band The Kinks. It was released as a single in 1967, and featured on their album Something Else by The Kinks...

" begins with the lines: "Dirty old river, must you keep rolling, flowing into the night?" and continues "...but Terry and Julie cross over the river where they feel safe and sound...". "See My Friends" continually refers to the singer's friends "playing 'cross the river" as a substitute to the girl who "just left". Furthermore, Ray Davies
Ray Davies
Ray Davies, CBE is an English rock musician. He is best known as lead singer and songwriter for the Kinks, which he led with his younger brother, Dave...

 as a solo artist refers to the river Thames in his "London Song".

Ewan MacColl
Ewan MacColl
Ewan MacColl was an English folk singer, songwriter, socialist, actor, poet, playwright, and record producer. He was married to theatre director Joan Littlewood, and later to American folksinger Peggy Seeger. He collaborated with Littlewood in the theatre and with Seeger in folk music...

's "Sweet Thames, Flow Softly" , written in the early 1960s, is a tragic love ballad set on trip up the river.(see Edmund Spencer above)

Canvey Island flood of 1953


On 31 January 1953, the North Sea Flood
North Sea flood of 1953
The 1953 North Sea flood was a major flood caused by a heavy storm, that occurred on the night of Saturday 31 January 1953 and morning of 1 February 1953. The floods struck the Netherlands, Belgium, England and Scotland.A combination of a high spring tide and a severe European windstorm caused a...

 hit the island during the night and caused the deaths of 58 people. The North Sea flood of 1953
North Sea flood of 1953
The 1953 North Sea flood was a major flood caused by a heavy storm, that occurred on the night of Saturday 31 January 1953 and morning of 1 February 1953. The floods struck the Netherlands, Belgium, England and Scotland.A combination of a high spring tide and a severe European windstorm caused a...

 devastated the island costing the lives of 58 islanders, and led to the temporary evacuation of the 13,000 residents. Canvey is consequently protected by modern sea defences comprising 15 miles (24.1 km) of concrete seawall. Many of the victims were in the holiday bungalows of the eastern Newlands estate and perished as the water reached ceiling level. The small village area of the island is approximately two feet above sea level and consequently escaped the effects of the flood.

Thames Valley flood of 1947



The 1947 Thames flood
1947 Thames flood
The 1947 Thames flood was worst overall 20th century flood of the River Thames, affecting much of the Thames Valley as well as elsewhere in England during the middle of March 1947 after a severe winter....

 was worst overall 20th century flood
Flood
A flood is an overflow of an expanse of water that submerges land. The EU Floods directive defines a flood as a temporary covering by water of land not normally covered by water...

 of the River Thames, affecting much of the Thames Valley
Thames Valley
The Thames Valley Region is a loose term for the English counties and towns roughly following the course of the River Thames as it flows from Oxfordshire in the west to London in the east. It includes parts of Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, North Hampshire, Surrey and west London...

 as well as elsewhere in England during the middle of March 1947 after a severe winter.

The floods were caused by 117 mm (4.6 inches) of rainfall (including snow); the peak flow was 61.7 billion litres of water per day and the damage cost a total of £12 million to repair.
War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 damage to some of the locks
Lock (water transport)
A lock is a device for raising and lowering boats between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways. The distinguishing feature of a lock is a fixed chamber in which the water level can be varied; whereas in a caisson lock, a boat lift, or on a canal inclined plane, it is...

 made matters worse.

Other significant Thames floods since 1947 have occurred in 1968, 1993, 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006.

London flood of 1928


The 1928 Thames flood
1928 Thames flood
The 1928 Thames flood was a disastrous flood of the River Thames that affected much of riverside London on 7 January 1928, as well as places further downriver. Fourteen people were drowned in London and thousands were made homeless when flood waters poured over the top of the Thames Embankment and...

 was a disastrous flood
Flood
A flood is an overflow of an expanse of water that submerges land. The EU Floods directive defines a flood as a temporary covering by water of land not normally covered by water...

 of the River Thames that affected much of riverside London on 7 January 1928, as well as places further downriver. Fourteen people were drowned in London and thousands were made homeless when flood waters poured over the top of the Thames Embankment
Thames Embankment
The Thames Embankment is a major feat of 19th century civil engineering designed to reclaim marshy land next to the River Thames in central London. It consists of the Victoria and Chelsea Embankment....

 and part of the Chelsea Embankment
Chelsea Embankment
Chelsea Embankment is part of the Thames Embankment, a road and walkway along the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England.The western end of Chelsea Embankment, including a stretch of Cheyne Walk, is in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea; the eastern end, including...

 collapsed. It was the last major flood to affect central London
Central London
Central London is the innermost part of London, England. There is no official or commonly accepted definition of its area, but its characteristics are understood to include a high density built environment, high land values, an elevated daytime population and a concentration of regionally,...

, and, particularly following the disastrous North Sea flood of 1953
North Sea flood of 1953
The 1953 North Sea flood was a major flood caused by a heavy storm, that occurred on the night of Saturday 31 January 1953 and morning of 1 February 1953. The floods struck the Netherlands, Belgium, England and Scotland.A combination of a high spring tide and a severe European windstorm caused a...

, helped lead to the implementation of new flood-control measures that culminated in the construction of the Thames Barrier
Thames Barrier
The Thames Barrier is the world's second-largest movable flood barrier and is located downstream of central London. Its purpose is to prevent London from being flooded by exceptionally high tides and storm surges moving up from the sea...

 in the 1970s.

See also


  • 1947 Thames flood
    1947 Thames flood
    The 1947 Thames flood was worst overall 20th century flood of the River Thames, affecting much of the Thames Valley as well as elsewhere in England during the middle of March 1947 after a severe winter....

  • List of locations in the Port of London
  • Locks and weirs on the River Thames
  • London Stones
    London Stone (riparian)
    London Stone is the name given to a number of boundary stones which stand beside rivers in south east England.-History:Until 1350, the English Crown held the right to fish the rivers of England and charged duties on those people it licenced to fish...

     beside the river
  • Nore
    Nore
    The Nore is a sandbank at the mouth of the Thames Estuary, England. It marks the point where the River Thames meets the North Sea, roughly halfway between Havengore Creek in Essex and Warden Point in Kent....

  • River and Rowing Museum
    River and Rowing Museum
    The River and Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England, is located on a site at Mill Meadows by the River Thames. It has three main themes represented by major permanent galleries, the non-tidal River Thames, the international sport of rowing and the local town of...

  • Rivers of the United Kingdom
  • Steamboat
    Steamboat
    A steamboat or steamship, sometimes called a steamer, is a ship in which the primary method of propulsion is steam power, typically driving propellers or paddlewheels...

     – reference Thames Steamboats
  • Subterranean rivers of London
    Subterranean rivers of London
    The subterranean or underground rivers of London are the tributaries of the River Thames and River Lea that were built over during the growth of the metropolis of London...

  • Thames Discovery Programme
    Thames Discovery Programme
    The Thames Discovery Programme is a community archaeology project, focusing on the archaeology of the River Thames on the Tideway. The Thames Discovery Programme was launched in October 2008 and the project is supported by the National Lottery and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund...

  • Thames sailing barge
    Thames sailing barge
    A Thames sailing barge was a type of commercial sailing boat common on the River Thames in London in the 19th century. The flat-bottomed barges were perfectly adapted to the Thames Estuary, with its shallow waters and narrow rivers....

  • Thames, the name of one of the sea areas of the British Shipping Forecast
    Shipping Forecast
    The Shipping Forecast is a four-times-daily BBC Radio broadcast of weather reports and forecasts for the seas around the coasts of the British Isles. It is produced by the Met Office and broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The forecasts sent over the Navtex...

    .
  • Dartford Cable Tunnel
    Dartford Cable Tunnel
    The Dartford Cable Tunnel is a £11,000,000 tunnel upstream of the Dartford Crossing built in 2003-4. Its diameter is ~3m. It is designed to carry and allow for maintenance of 380kV National Grid electrical cable beneath the Thames; it is accessible by foot as a crossing of the Thames, but by...

  • Tyburn (stream)
    Tyburn (stream)
    The Tyburn is a stream in London, which runs underground from South Hampstead through St. James's Park to meet the River Thames at Pimlico near Vauxhall Bridge. It is not to be confused with the Tyburn Brook which is a tributary of the River Westbourne....

  • Tyburn Brook
    Tyburn Brook
    Tyburn Brook is a tributary stream to the River Westbourne. Both watercourses are subterranean.Although similarly named, the Tyburn Brook does not connect with the River Tyburn.-See also:*Subterranean rivers of London...

  • Thorney Island
    Thorney Island (London)
    Thorney Island was the eyot on the Thames, upstream of mediæval London, where Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster were built...


External links