Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The River Thames - London

View up the River Thames in London taken from Tower Bridge

This photo up the River Thames in London is part of one of the panoramic images found on the PanoramicEarth.com Tour of London. There are over 100 images taken from around London linked to an interactive map.

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A large number of important London attractions line the Thames, mostly on the South side, starting with the London Eye, London Aquarium and Salvador Dali Exhibition by Westminster Bridge. Nearby here is also the South Bank and Royal Festival Hall. Further down the Thames you will find Oxo Tower, Hayes Galleria, HMS Belfast, Britain at War Museum, Southwark Cathedral, Tate Modern, Design Museum and Tower Bridge. Along the north bank you will find The Monument, St. Paul's and the Tower of London. Entrance to many of these London attractions is free to holders of the London Pass.

owes a large proportion of it’s significance to the River Thames. Flowing from Oxford to the North Sea this river was, for hundreds of year, the lifeline and trade artery of the city. From the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs merchant shipping would disperse for the far East. The names still survive even if the port has died. Canary Warf now houses massive office blocks instead of boats, the Royal Victoria Dock lies near to the City Airport while St. Catherine’s Quay next to Tower Bridge is home to pleasure yachts instead of barges.

In the 16C and 17C traffic up the Thames was utterly controlled by the guild of watermen who tolerated no competition whatsoever and saw many a rival off down river with or without their boat. The Thames is still a busy waterway though the number of tourist cruise ships and ferries linking the various parts of the city far outnumber the barges and other working boats.

In 18C London got so cold that the Thames froze over regularly, allowing Londoners to establish the Frost Fairs, with tents, amusements and shops on the river itself. Who knows, if ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream, are adversely affected by global warming, we may see the return of such freezes in the UK.

The Thames also had the dubious honour of being the sewer of London, with raw effluent being discharged directly into the river. Things came to a head during the Big Stink when the aroma of the river was so foul as to disrupt entirely the activities of Parliament. The sittings at the House of Commons were abandoned for a time and massive sewers installed to take the refuse away from the city.

Today the river is popular with tourists, with cruises snaking past one another to and from Westminster Pier, past Tower Bridge and onto Greenwich. This image here shows the view up the Thames from Tower Bridge (often confused with London Bridge, the next bridge up river as seen in this image). On the right is the new GLA Headquarters of the Major of London and moored in the river is the HMS Belfast, a floating museum of a battle ship. Hidden behind trees to the left are the walls and battlements of the Tower of London, home to the Crown Jewels, while nearby the skyline is punctured by the towers of the City of London. One of the most notable of these is the Swiss Rhe ‘Gherkin’ building.

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The full panoramic image showing more of Tower Bridge can be found on the London tour by PanoramicEarth.com. An enlargement of this photo can be found on Flickr.

For more articles on London see the London Index or select one of the labels at the bottom.

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