River Crossings

Tunneling under the Thames

The Tower Subway opened in 1869 and ran underneath the Thames connecting the north side of the river with the south. It was built in under a year making it a very quick engineering project for the Victorians.

At first a small wooden carriage took people under the river, but the company soon lost all its money. It was then converted to a pedestrian tunnel used by about 1 million people a year who each paid 1/2 d (about 0.25p). Even this proved too much money when Tower Bridge was opened in 1894 and the tunnel closed in 1898. Nowadays it’s used to carry data cables?

Watermen and Lightermen

In Roman times ships were secured in deep water in the river and the things they were carrying (cargo) was moved to stone or wooden harbours in small boats. Lightermen carried cargo between ships and dry land on small flat-bottomed barges called lighters.

Watermen used to work on rowing boats, sailing boats and steam boats on the River Thames. Their job was to row passengers across or up and down the River Thames. The government passed a law in 1514 that said how much money London Watermen could ask for to do their job. But once they were safely away from dry ground some naughty watermen threatened to tip their passengers into the river unless they paid more…

The Doggett’s Coat and Badge

This is the rather strange name given to the oldest rowing race in the world.

It got its name from Thomas Doggett who was born in Dublin in 1640 but moved to London as he wanted to be an actor.

As well as loving acting, Doggett liked King George I. Doggett was so happy when George I became King of England he decided to arrange a boat race. He organised the boat race every year from then until he died in 1721…and it still takes place today! And what do you think the winner got? That’s right – his prize was a coat and badge.

A hidden river and dead pirates

The River Neckinger is one of the lost rivers of London. It now runs underground, from the Imperial War Museum to the Thames; and divides Shad Thames in the West and the area that was known as Jacobs Island in the East.

People think that the river got its name from the words “Devil’s Neckcloth” – another way of talking about the hangman’s noose – the rope used to hang people until they died.

Until the 18th century Thames pirates had their heads chopped off at Neckinger Wharf. The bodies were displayed to warn other pirates what would happen to them if they got caught. Do you think it put them off?