I’M always delighted when readers get in touch to share their memories of the River Thames – and I owe a major debt of gratitude to Brian Griffiths of Burgoyne Road, Sunbury who was clearing out his loft and found a number of books about the river which he very kindly brought into the Herald office thinking they might be of interest.
They certainly are, Brian, and I’m pleased to be able to share some of the fascinating facts contained therein with Riverwatch readers.
The first book – The Thames at Hampton – was written in 1967 by Peter Chaplin and was one of a series called the Waterway Pocketbooks.
It looks at the history of the Thames between Platts Eyot (also known as Port Hampton) and Molesey Lock and covers a wide range of subjects including commercial traffic on the river, recreational events and the boat building that went on at the Thorneycroft yard, at Hucks boatyard, the yard of Thomas Tagg and the premises owned by Watercraft Ltd in Molesey which specialised in building glass fibre boats.
A couple of plates at the front of the book depict Thames barges moored up by the parish drawdock on the Middlesex side of the river by St Mary’s Church – a nostalgic look back to a time when many goods were still transported up the river.
A second tome – and my personal favourite – is the Royal Thames Guide. Priced at one shilling (5p in new money) it appears to have been published in 1899 and is a comprehensive travellers’ aid covering the river all the way from Putney up to Oxford.
I just have to quote the following lines from the foreword, which, it seems to me, are as relevant now in 2011 as they were when they were written at the very end of the 19th century:
“In these days of brain fag and nerve strain, who does not turn lovingly to the broad bosom of good Old Father Thames, there to rest and recreate at will. There is no restorative in the pharmacopoeia like unto an upriver holiday.” Hear, hear!
I also love the entry that sits below a picture of Shepperton Church, which reads: “The picturesque old square in Shepperton village used to be a great resort for ‘the fancy’ in the old days – many great prize fights were fought here.”
That’s news to me – has anyone else heard stories of Shepperton as a prize-fighting hotspot!?
Thanks again, Brian, for sharing these books – I may well come back to them again in a future Riverwatch.
MANY thanks too, to all those who entered the competition for a chance to win a copy of the Encyclopedia of Weather and Climate Change. The answer to the question what’s the technical term for a tidal wave caused by an earthquake was tsunami and, impressively, everyone who entered got that right. The first name out of the hat to win the book was Jennie Higgins of Queen Mary’s Drive, New Haw. Well done, Jennie – we’ll get your book over to you in the next few days.