The Thames


Introduction - The Thames - a Secret Waterway!

William Shakespeare: (lines attributed to) in 'The Life of the Lord Cromwell' -

The River Thames, that by our door doth pass,
His first beginning is but small and shallow:
Yet keeping on his course, grows to a sea.

Sir Walter Raleigh at the court of Queen Elizabeth I -

There are two things scarce matched in the Universe -
the sun in heaven and the Thames on earth!

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To navigate around this site click a link in the title section above
or click one of these icons: hover over the icon to see what it does.
OR: you can just step through all 250 odd pages in sequence - Scrolling to the bottom of a page automatically finds the next upstream.

[SPACE] may scroll down one SCREEN; F11 toggles that FULL SCREEN experience - on and off

Click Map for an interractive map of the whole river with links to pages

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The Thames is a secret waterway through the heart of England, accessible only to those with a boat, or willing to hire a boat, or to some extent those willing to walk the Thames paths.

It is very slow, generally understated, a gentle, plain, beauty with few dramatic points. There are no rapids or waterfalls, and the beauty which takes your breath away is generally of trees on the hills at which the river nudges in an undemanding sort of way.

Above Cricklade the Thames flows through flat water meadows from the source at Thames Head, though the Churn is rather more exciting with lovely scenery up to Seven Springs.

From Cricklade to Oxford the countryside is essentially flat and gentle and there are so few people to be seen that any human contact becomes quite welcome.

From there on down the scenery slowly becomes more dramatic reaching its height below the Goring Gap. Other beauties include Hennerton backwater and the Cliveden Reach.

Slipways or other launching sites have been identified enabling the whole navigable river to be used for day trips by trailered or car topped boats.

All but the Lechlade - Cricklade section, the River Cherwell, the Bullstake Stream and Hennerton Backwater, would be suited to small powered boats, but the site was written from a punter's point of view.

1923: "Father Thames", by Walter Higgins, has these delightful Thames sketch maps. But Walter Higgins couldn't make them interactive - and I have! Click for a description of any place for which a tooltip appears -

Thames Map, Walter Higgins, 1923 title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title
Thames Map, Higgins, 1923 title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title
Thames Map, Higgins, 1923 title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title
Thames Map, Higgins, 1923 title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title title
1923: Maps from "Father Thames" by Walter Higgins

This Site is full of Poetry

1844: The title is quoted from the poem by Joseph Tubbs, on the Poem Tree, Wittenham Clumps.
Many of the more significant poems can be heard.


And yonder there where Thames smooth waters glide
In later days appeared monastic pride

This site is full of quotations

1912: Hilaire Belloc said -

I cannot get away from it that the Thames may be alive!

1932: ENGLAND by Ronald Carton -

We English cannot boast about the greatness of our rivers that is, about their greatness measured coldly in miles either of length or width. Nor do we. We do not seek to match our Thames with Amazon, our Mersey with Mississippi, our Severn with Zambesi. These could swallow our rivers, hardly accounting them rivers, almost our country even and scarcely know the difference.

We have no imposing deltas, no thunderous cataracts, no perilous rapids. But if they are no giants, our rivers have personality and character. They are very much a part of our lives, almost of ourselves.

The Thames Valley means green and rolling country, low hills closely wooded, broad pastures where the cropping sheep tinkle an idle bell, cool lawns that slope greenly to the unhurrying stream.

And the river itself means the confluence of many brooks near Coates, on the edge of Gloucestershire, below Cirencester.

It means Isis above Dorchester where the Thame flows into it and Thame and Isis are one name and one river thereafter.

It means the dividing line between Berkshire and Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, Middlesex and Surrey, and then at last Essex and Kent.

It means Oxford and Reading and Windsor, Pangbourne and Henley, Putney and Mortlake, London.

How much of England is in those names? What would be left if all that is and has been on those two hundred miles of river-banks were swept away out of our lives, out of the past?

This site is full of historic pictures

I acknowledge gratefully permission to print many copyright pictures and poems and other items. I have no commercial interest in any of them.
This site is for personal study and education, to enhance the enjoyment and knowledge of the River Thames, and may not be used for any other purpose.

Doug Myers has painted all the bridges of the Thames. His pictures are copyrighted by him. Doug has been very co-operative in helping me use his pictures.

The Frith photographs are historically important and copyright - my grateful thanks for permission to show them.

The MOTCO Pictures from various 18th and 19th century works are reproduced by permission.

The aerial photos by LAST REFUGE are great. Wouldn't you like to fly round the country taking photos like that?

The captive balloon photos by Skyscan are fantastic! They can sell you a copy of "The Secret Thames".

Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive have kindly allowed me to reproduce their photographs.
Other permissions gratefully acknowledged from:
Panteek Antique Prints
My own pictures are copyright 2012 John Eade (send me a message to use one)

Other quotations and pictures are from books no longer covered by copyright but if I have inadvertently been mistaken in any particular please forgive me and let me know!

1949: Paul Gedge in Thames Journey wrote -

The first time you go by boat from London to Lechlade it is an Odyssey.
The second time it is an adventure.
The third time, and thereafter it is Green Content.

I am now well into Green Content!

A Time Machine!

I have invented a time machine. It looks like a punt, it floats like a punt, but on the River Thames it carries me back, sometimes a thousand years. For the Thames is liquid history. Mysterious river, always changing.

Down the entire length of the Thames, almost without exception, every weir and bridge and church has origins traceable to the middle ages and before.

In finding out about them I have collected dozens of books about the river and immersed myself in them. And this now is my summary of what I have found related to the river as I have punted it, three times down the entire puntable length.

I have covered the freshwater Thames from Teddington to Thames Head and Seven Springs, and also the Oxford section of the river Cherwell and the Bullstake Stream.

For completeness I have also added a Tideway section though I have no personal experience of it.

It is, in places, also a personal view of the river with some of my own photos taken with one hand, with a punt pole in the other hand. In many of them the front of the punt appears in the frame.

But it is largely quotations and pictures and prints from the many authors and painters who have appreciated this great river.

I am an enthusiast for poetry and though there is a persistent refrain that the great river poem has yet to be written nevertheless I do love much of what has been written and have included almost every river poem I can find at the most appropriate place.


I have avoided going on about wash and engine noise and litter and notice boards - I simply leave that to George Leslie and Jerome K Jerome - they make the point far better than I!

A licence is needed in order to navigate even a manually propelled boat on the Thames. Click here

This site starts from the Estuary and goes towards Cricklade, going UPSTREAM.
However, throughout, "left bank" and "right bank" have been used from the conventional point of view, FACING DOWNSTREAM. This is the usual convention and causes immense confusion if it is not adhered to.
1859: All the Year Round by Charles Dickens -

The right and the left banks of rivers are distinguished by turning your back on their source and facing the point where they discharge themselves into the sea.

Supposing the Thames to be the river in question ; you stand on Westminster-bridge and look towards Margate : Lambeth will be on the right bank, the city of Westminster on the left.



For information on strong stream warnings, etc:

0845 988 1188

then 101113 1

For information on river works in progress

0845 988 1188

then 101113 2

For information on river events

0845 988 1188

then 101113 3

Tamas Reaches, by Jenyth Worsley, May 2003,
by kind permission,

Near the railway bridge on the road to Cirencester
you pass a sign which says, Source of the River Thames.
Its underground spring comes up for breath
through banks that are hardly higher than the water.
Trout are here, otters and water voles.
Take the meandering rivers path through Lechlade,
whose stone-built houses keep their hidden views,
until, near Oxford, wider waters offer
residence to house-boats, fishermen and geese.

From Putney to Mortlake
leaning and pulling
oars on the rowlocks
dipping and twisting
past Barn Elms and Hammersmith
sweatshirts sodden
with splashes and straining
megaphones shouting
to dark blue and light blue
victors triumphant
stride through the water
but slumping defeated the losers stay listless
Where fretful salt meets yellow-brownish sludge

The old Thames sang of rotting wood and skulls,
barbyl, flounders, spearheads, bits of rope.
Its pre-Celt name was Tamas, dark river.
At this forum of city stone and water
the old trades are gone. Docks and wharves,
where two thousand masts once glittered on the water
with cargoes of tea and sugar, silk and oranges,
and steamers to the Empire bruised the oceans
with holds of steel and missionary trunks
all are transformed by the new commerce,
the new river gods, Finance and the Media.
Below their elegant glass powerhouses
sailboards catch the wind
and wine and coffee bars displace
oyster and apple stalls

Daniel Defoe:

I shall speak of the river as occasion presents, as it really is made glorious by the splendour of its shores, gilded with noble palaces, strong fortifications, large hospitals, and public buildings; with the greatest bridge, and the greatest city in the world, made famous by the opulence of its merchants, the increase and extensiveness of its commerce; by its invincible navies, and by the innumerable fleets of ships sailing upon it to and from all parts of the world.

As I meet with the river upwards in my travels through the inland country I shall speak of it, as it is the channel for conveying an infinite quantity of provisions from remote counties to London, and enriching all the counties again that lie near it by the return of wealth and trade from the city; and in describing these things I expect both to inform and divert my readers, and speak in a more masculine manner, more to the dignity of the subject, and also more to their satisfaction, than I could do any other way.


This list does go on a bit - you might prefer to start looking at the river pages themselves!

(Cassell) Thames and its Story, From the Cotswolds to the Nore 1906 ASIN: B0015IQ8IO With about 100 illustrations and 14 maps. No author named
(Letts) Thames Valley 1969 Motorguide
(Nicholson 1) Guide to the Waterways 1 2003 Grand Union, Oxford & S.E.
(Nicholson 7) Guide to the Waterways 7 1997 Thames, Wey, Kennet & Avon
(Nicholson) Ordnance Survey Guide to the Thames 1984
(Nicholson) Inland Waterways Map 2000
(NRA) River Thames Handbook 1985?
(Stanford) River Thames map 1976
(TYC etc) Thames Book 1981
Adams, Anna Thames: An Anthology of River Poems 1999 ISBN 1 900564 46 7
Ashby-Sterry, J The Lazy Minstrel 1886 Poems
Ashby-Sterry, J Thames items from The Lazy Minstrel 1886 On this site
Atkinson, Mary The Thames-side Book 1973 112p b&w illustrations
Ball, E & PW Holiday Cruising On The Thames 1970 145 pages, Published by David & Charles 1970
Belloc, Hilaire Historic Thames 1914
Belloc, Hilaire River of London 1912 145 pages, 1 illustration
Birch G H London on Thames in Bygone Days 1903 90 pages many illustrations
Bolland, R.R. Victorians on the Thames 1974 100 Victorian prints & photos
Boney, Revd Prof Royal River: Henley to Maidenhead
Richmond to Battersea
Burstall, Patricia Golden Age of the Thames 1981
Cleaver, Hylton History of Rowing 1959
Cornish, C J Naturalist on the Thames 1902 With photos (Gutenberg eBooks)
Cove-Smith River Thames Book 1998 ISBN 0 85288 620 9 :218 pages, Published by Imray Laurie Norie & Wilson November 1998 Covers Cricklade to the Thames barrier plus the River Wey, Basingstoke Canal and part of the Kennet & Avon.
Curtis, Roy Thames Passport 1970 188 pages. Delightful guide to the non-tidal part of the River Thames, from Lechlade to Teddington
De Mar, Eric Time on the Thames 1952 238 pages, Published by The Architectural Press 1952 A guide to the river by this well known waterways writer and photographer. 127 photographs plus other illustrations
Dodd, Christopher Henley Royal Regatta 1989 150th anniversary
Doerflinger, Frederic Slow Boat through England. Exploring the Inland Waterways 1970 Includes Thames
Eade, Brian (no relation!) Along the Thames 1997 ISBN 0 7509 1543 9 :126 pages, Published by Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd 1997 The non-tidal river with over 200 historic views and text
Eddy, Clyde Voyaging Down the Thames 1938 Frederick Stokes Co 1938 317pp an intimate account of a voyage 200 miles across England, Down the River of Liquid history the Thames.
Eyre, Frank & Hadfield, Charles English Rivers and Canals 1945
Fidler, Kathleen The Thames in Story 1971
Forester, C S Hornblower and the Atropos 1953 Hornblower steers a horse drawn narrow boat (at 11mph!) down the Thames & Severn Canal and then Flash weirs on the Thames.
Fox Smith, C Thames 1931
Fraser, Maxwell The Thames Valley in Pictures 1950s? Undated. Black & White photos and map
Gedge, Paul Thames Journey 1949 A book for boat-campers and lovers of the river. 67 photos and 2 maps
Gibbings, Robert Sweet Thames Run Softly 1940 with B&W drawings
Gibbings, Robert Till I End My Song 1957 234 pages, Published by J M Dent 1957 The story of a move to a Berkshire village that allows the author to enrich his knowledge of part of the Thames
Goldsack, Paul River Thames in the footsteps of the famous 2002 B&W cartoons & maps
Gordon, Colin Beyond the Looking Glass 1944 Behind the Alice stories
Hadfield, Charles British Canals 1952 Drawings & reproductions
Hall, S.C, Mr & Mrs The Book of the Thames 1859
516 pages, Published by Arthur James Ltd 1976 Written 1859 Reprint of an 1859 book with many engravings of wild life and scenery.
Harrison, Ian The Thames from Source to Sea 2004 Overhead photos of the whole river
Harris, Mollie Stripling Thames (Source to Oxford) 1994
Higgins, Walter Father Thames (Book III the Upper River) 1923
Holinshed The Chronicles of England 1586 The Description of the Thames
Hughes, T Tom Brown at Oxford 1861 published 1879 Part II of Tom Brown's Schooldays
Irwin, John & Herbert, Jocelyn Sweete Themmes 1951 An Anthology with prints
Jerome K Jerome Three Men in a Boat 1886?
Jones, Sydney R Thames Triumphant 1943 B&W drawings
Lang, Andrew Oxford 1906 B&W drawings. My copy Ex Libris Hardy Amies. I met him once. He was a guest at a wedding service I took. Afterwards he told me Your service was an example of controlled chic. Having had a champagne or two I challenged him What do you mean controlled?
Leslie, George Our River 1881 B&W prints
Leslie was an artist, naturalist and punter
Lewis, C S Diaries 1920s He was a young post-graduate aged 23, just beginning to enjoy life in Oxford after the first war. He later became one of the most popular Christian writers of the twentieth century. Forty years on I met him in Oxford when I was a sixth former.
MacColl, D Royal River: Oxford to Abingdon 1885
Mee, Arthur Oxfordshire 1942
Menpes, Mortimer Thames (& G.E.Mitton) 1906 Watercolours
Mitton, G.E. Thames painted by E W Haslehurst 1910 56 pages, Published by Blackie & Son Ltd 1910 Beautiful England series with 12 full colour plates
Nicholson Ordnance Survey Guide to the Thames 1984
Nicholson 1 Guide to the Waterways 1 2003 Grand Union, Oxford & S.E.
Nicholson 7 Guide to the Waterways 7 1997 Thames, Wey, Kennet & Avon
Ollier, Edmund Royal River Battersea to London Bridge 1885
Peel, J.H.B. Portrait Of The Thames - From Teddington To The Source 1976
Penderell-Brodhurst J Royal River: Abingdon to Streatley
& Hampton to Richmond
Phillips (Bonhams) Traditional River Craft And Ephemera. 1997, 1998, 2002 Illustrated Auction Catalogues
Pilkington, Roger Small Boat on the Thames 1966 238 pages, Published by Macmillan Publishers (UK) Ltd 1966 Illustrated.
Pilkington, Roger Thames Waters 1956
Pitt, John William River Thames A Descriptive Poem (from Source to Mouth) 1939 77pp Poem with BW photos
Prichard, Mari & Carpenter, Humphrey A Thames Companion 1975 194pp B&W illustrations
Ravenstein E.G. Oarsman's & Angler's Map Of The River Thames From Its Source To London Bridge. One Inch To A Mile. 1893. 1893. 1991
Reade, Charles Hard Cash 1868 Rowing excerpts on this site
Rivington, R T Punts And Punting (Booklet) 1982 B&W photos & drawings Booklet
Rivington, R T Punting (Book) 1983 B&W photos & drawings
Roberts, Chris Cross River Traffic 2005 A History of London's Bridges
Runciman, J Royal River Gravesend to the Nore 1885
Ryan, E K W Thames from the Towpath 1938
Sampson, Aylwin Winning Waters, The Homes of Rowing 1986
Senior, W Royal River: Above Oxford
& Streatley to Henley
Sharp, David Thames Path 1981
Schutz Wilson, H Royal River Maidenhead to Windsor 1885
Skyscan and Duncan Mackay The Secret Thames 1992 Captive Balloon Aerial Photography, and text by Duncan Mackay, Commodore of Henley Sailing Club
Taylor, Julia Isham Down the Thames in Victorian Days 1939 A trip on the Thames in 1886
Thacker, Fred S Thames Highway. Volume I 1914, 1968 1914 original 2 volumes 832 pages, Published by David & Charles 1968 Illustrated.
In general if you want to know where any piece of information comes from on this site the usual answer is Fred Thacker.
Thacker, Fred S Thames Highway: Volume II - A History of the Locks and Weirs 1920, 1968 525 pages, Published by Published by the author 1920 The second volume of this History of the Thames.
Tomalin, Harry Henley-on-Thames, the book of 1975
Vincent, J E Story of the Thames 1909
Wack, Henry Wellington In Thamesland 1906 Cruises and Rambles through England from the Surces of the Thames to the Sea. An American on the Thames. 375pp. Photos by Frith and Taunt.
Wallington, Mark Boogie up the River 1990 One Man and his Dog to the Source of the Thames
Waters, Brian Thirteen Rivers to the Thames 1964 Thirteen Tributaries
Waters, Tony Bridge by bridge through London 1989
Watson, Aaron Royal River: London Bridge to Gravesend 1885
Williams, Nigel Two and a half Men in a Boat 1993
Wilson, David Gordon Making of the Middle Thames 1977 159pp B&W illustrations
Wordsworth Turner, Godfrey Royal River: Windsor to Hampton 1885
Wykeham-Martin How to Build a Thames Punt 1919 Plans (in Punts Rivington)
Wykes, Alan An Eye on the Thames 1966 217pp B&W photos

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