Maritime Monday for Aug 20th, 2012: Thames 2; Love That Dirty Water

Maritime Monday for August 20th, 2012: Thames 2; Love That Dirty Water

Monkey Fist
Total Views: 80
August 19, 2012


“Yes, Christina…  London AGAIN

— original:London, Work and Play” by Harry Batsford, 1950

VIDEO: (not quite Hawaii)


“Plan of London in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth” (about 1580)
(see full size and more maps)

see also: Hipkiss’ Scanned Old Maps of London


Canaletto: London 174; The Thames and the City of London
Interactive maps reveal London’s history in unprecedented detail

Locating London’s Past is the result of a collaborative project between the University of Sheffield, the University of Hertfordshire, and the University of London. The interface for the website was developed by Sheffield’s Humanities Research Institute (HRI), developers of the prize-winning Old Bailey Online website.

Using the new website (, anyone is now able to explore fully geo-referenced detail using Google maps technology to reveal the distribution of crimes, wealth and poverty, mortality, archaeological finds, voting records and much more… +


A skull found by a metal detectorist in 2009.
Police investigated the scene, before ruling it out as a recent crime

Liquid History: Excavating London’s great river, The Thames

see also:

Thames mudlarks uncover London’s lost history

London Gateway deep water dredging to uncover secrets of River Thames

200-year-old whale skeleton found on Thames bank



Tower of London

The name Traitors’ Gate has been used since the early seventeenth century, prisoners were brought by barge along the Thames, passing under London Bridge, where the heads of recently executed prisoners were displayed on pikes. This grisly practice continued until around 1678.

The gate was built by Edward I, to provide a water gate entrance to the Tower.

see also: vintage postcard; Tower of London, Traitors Gate & Gun Carriage

source: image above (photo by Evelyn Flint) —source; inset right


Greenwich Hospital from the north bank of the Thames, Canaletto, 1750 – 52


Royal Observatory, Greenwich


Royal Greenwich is a district of south-east London that is notable for its maritime history and for giving its name to the Greenwich Meridian (0° longitude) and Greenwich Mean Time.

The town became the site of a royal palace, the Palace of Placentia from the 15th century, and was the birthplace of many in the House of Tudor, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The palace fell into disrepair during the English Civil War and was rebuilt as the Royal Naval Hospital for Sailors by Sir Christopher Wren. These buildings went on to  become the Royal Naval College in 1873.

The maritime connections of Greenwich were celebrated in the 20th century, with the siting of the Cutty Sark and Gipsy Moth IV next to the river front, and the National Maritime Museum in 1934.

Greenwich World Heritage Site – official website


Entrance to the Royal Hospital School, Greenwich 1911


Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company works,
Enderby’s Wharf, East Greenwich, c.1866
-(1280 x 995)


1930’s world time zone map, Picadilly Underground Station


Fond Memories of the Royal Eagle!!!

General Steam Navigation

The General Steam Navigation (GSN) was founded in 1824, one of the oldest successful steamship companies in the world. It originally operated Thames, North Sea and English Channel cargo and passenger services.



1953 Coronation Fleet Review; 60 Years of Paddle Steamers


This print shows the grandest funeral London has ever seen: The body of Lord Nelson is ferried down the Thames (in the third black barge from the left) – (detail) – see full size

Ship of the Line HMS Victory

imageHMS Victory
– built at Chatham Dockyard and launched 7th May 1765. Rebuilt 1801 and preserved 1922 at Portsmouth.

HMS Victory is a first rate 100 gun ship with thirty 42 pdrs on the gun deck, twenty-eight 24 pdrs mid-deck, thirty 12 pdrs on upper deck and ten six pdrs on the quarter deck and two on Forecastle. HMS Victory was Admiral Horatio Nelson’s Flagship at the battle of Trafalgar.

inset: handwritten log for HMS Victory that was kept by William Farquhar, commencing December 13, 1854, ending March 26, 1855.

The log is owned by the Sea Research Society.


Restoring HMS Victory – signed b.r.: WL Wyllie / 1925

In 1922 she was moved to a dry dock at Portsmouth, England, and preserved as a museum ship. She continues to be flagship of the Second Sea Lord and is the oldest naval ship still in commission. –more

Panorama HMS Victory 4,775 × 2,855 pixels


Paddle Steamer Waverley; Heritage Steamers

PS Waverley is the last seagoing passenger carrying paddle steamer in the world. Built in 1946, she sailed from Craigendoran on the Firth of Clyde to Arrochar on Loch Long until 1973. Purchased by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, she has been restored to her 1947 appearance and now operates passenger excursions around the British coast.

Since 2003, Waverley has been listed in the British National Register of Historic Ships core collection as ‘a vessel of pre-eminent national importance’.


The Town Pier at Gravesend is the oldest cast iron pier in the world and dates from 1834. It was used for many years as the calling point for the Gravesend to Tilbury ferry. Many well-loved paddle ferries and steamers such as Tilbury, Edith, Catherine and Rose used it until it eventually closed in 1968.

Over the next thirty plus years it became derelict but was restored to its full glory and re-opened again in 2004. 2012 marks a another milestone in the story of the Town Pier as it will re-open to pleasure boats again. –heritagesteamers

Gravesend town pier on wikipedia


Canary Wharf is a major business district located in London. It is one of the city’s two main financial centres – alongside the traditional City of London – and contains many of the UK’s tallest buildings. Canary Wharf is located in the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs in the Borough of Tower Hamlets in East London. In the 1800s, the West India Docks once formed part of the busiest port in the world. By the 1950s, the port industry began to decline, leading to the docks closing by 1980.

Canary Wharf itself takes its name from No. 32 berth of the West Wood Quay of the Import Dock. This was built in 1936 for Fruit Lines Ltd, a subsidiary of Fred Olsen Lines for the Mediterranean and Canary Islands fruit trade. At their request, the quay and warehouse were given the name Canary Wharf.



Ships in the Thames Estuary near Sheerness
by Isaac Sailmaker  1633-172
(full size 2000×1574)


Great Fire of London
Rev. C. Arthur Lane Illustrated Notes on English Church History
(see full size)


Cigarette Card – The Great Fire of London, 1666

The Great Fire of London
September 1666

The Great Fire of London was a major conflagration that swept through the central parts of the English city of London, from Sunday, 2 September to Wednesday, 5 September 1666. The fire gutted the medieval City of London inside the old Roman City Wall.

It consumed 13,200 houses, 87 parish churches, St. Paul’s Cathedral and most of the buildings of the City authorities. It is estimated to have destroyed the homes of 70,000 of the City’s 80,000 inhabitants. Order in the streets broke down as rumours arose of suspicious foreigners setting fires. The fears of the homeless focused on the French and Dutch, England’s enemies in the ongoing Second Anglo-Dutch War; these substantial immigrant groups became victims of lynchings and street violence.

The social and economic problems created by the disaster were overwhelming. Evacuation from London and resettlement elsewhere were strongly encouraged by Charles II, who feared a London rebellion amongst the dispossessed refugees. Despite numerous radical proposals, London was reconstructed on essentially the same street plan used before the fire.


The fire at Cottons Wharf on Tooley Street, on 22 June 1861


multi-media: In Our Time – The Fire of London
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Great Fire
of London and how the city rose from the ashes.

September 2, 1666:

It was a small mistake, but with great consequences. On September 2, 1666, Thomas Farrinor, baker to King Charles II of England, failed, in effect, to turn off his oven. He thought the fire was out, but apparently the smouldering embers ignited some nearby firewood and by one o’clock in the morning, three hours after Farrinor went to bed, his house in Pudding Lane was in flames. Farrinor, along with his wife and daughter, and one servant, escaped from the burning building through an upstairs window, but the baker’s maid was not so fortunate, becoming the Great Fire’s first victim…

Samuel Pepys Diary 1666

The Hard Life of the Naval Bureaucrat

imageSamuel Pepys  (23 February 1633 – 26 May 1703) 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.

Although Pepys had no maritime experience, he rose by patronage, hard work and his talent for administration, to be the Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both King Charles II and subsequently King James II.

His influence and reforms at the Admiralty were important in the early professionalisation of the Royal Navy.

The detailed private diary Pepys kept from 1660 until 1669 was first published in the 19th century, and is one of the most important primary sources for the English Restoration period. It provides a combination of personal revelation and eyewitness accounts of great events, such as the Great Plague of London, the Second Dutch War and the Great Fire of London.


Diary entry for Saturday 3 August 1667:

Up, and to the office, where busy all the morning. Then at noon to dinner, and to the office again, there to enable myself, by finishing our great account, to give it to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury; which I did, and there was called in to them, to tell them only the total of our debt of the Navy on the 25th of May last, which is above 950,000l.. Here I find them mighty hot in their answer to the Council-board about our Treasurer’s threepences of the Victualling, and also against the present farm of the Customes, which they do most highly inveigh against. So home again by coach, and there hard to work till very late and my eyes began to fail me, which now upon very little overworking them they do, which grieves me much. Late home, to supper, and to bed.

The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys recounts a London storm on The Guardian
Samuel Pepys Diary 1666 – Great Fire


John Boydell‘s view of the riverside at Limehouse in 1751
shows respectable houses and shipyards crowding onto the riverfront


From its foundation, Limehouse, like neighbouring Wapping, has enjoyed better links with the river than the land. Limehouse became a significant port in late medieval times, with extensive docks and wharves. Although most cargoes were discharged in the Pool of London before the establishment of the docks, industries such as shipbuilding, ship chandlering and rope making were established in Limehouse.

Limehouse Basin opened in 1820 as the Regent’s Canal Dock. This was an important connection between the Thames and the canal system, where cargoes could be transferred from larger ships to the shallow-draught canal boats. Limehouse Basin was amongst the first docks to close in the late 1960s.

On 12 February 1832, the first case of cholera was reported in London at Limehouse. First described in India in 1817, it had spread via Hamburg. 800 people died during this epidemic, fewer than had died of tuberculosis in the same year. Cholera visited again in 1848 and 1858.

The use of Limehouse Basin as a major distribution hub declined with the growth of the railways, although the revival of canal traffic during World War I and World War II gave it a brief swansong.



Limehouse Pool (see full size)


Limehouse; sketch by James McNeill Whistler

imageLimehouse Basin was used by seagoing vessels and lighters to offload cargoes to canal barges, for onward transport along the Regent’s Canal.

Although initially a commercial failure following its opening in 1820, by the mid 19th century the dock (and the canal) were an enormous commercial success for the importance in the supply of coal to the numerous gasworks and latterly electricity generating stations along the canal, and for domestic and commercial use.

At one point it was the principal entrance from the Thames to the entire national canal network. –source

inset: Limehouse 1844


Limehouse in a map drawn circa 1741-45 (1247×913) from
Taylor Walker, the brewery name that just won’t die


the mast with the most on
Radio London’s transmitter ship MV Galaxy

Wonderful Radio London

Radio London, also known as Big L and Wonderful Radio London, was a top 40 (in London’s case, the “Fab 40”) offshore commercial station that operated from 16 December 1964 to 14 August 1967, from a ship anchored in the North Sea, three and a half miles off Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, England. The station, like the other offshore radio operators at the time, was dubbed a pirate radio station and its offices were located in the West End of London at 17 Curzon Street just off Park Lane.

The station broadcast from the MV Galaxy, a former Second World War United States Navy minesweeper originally named USS Density. The majority of programmes were presented live from a studio in the hold. The ship’s metal bulkheads presented problems with acoustics and soundproofing that were originally solved by lining the walls with mattresses from the crew’s bunk beds, which meant none of them could sleep during the day.



The MV Galaxy in Hamburg (more)

USS Density:

The ship became the MV Galaxy in 1964, hosting Radio London. She had a 50 kilowatt RCA transmitter installed and a 212 ft mast erected behind the funnel. She set sail from Miami on 22nd October 1964 for England via Puerto Rico and Madeira. The ship arrived in the Thames Estuary on 19th November 1964. She started broadcasting as Radio London, an offshore commercial station, on 23rd December 1964. She continued to broadcast until 14th August 1966 when the British Government enacted legislation prohibiting British nationals from working for the station or supplying it.

On 19th August she sailed to Hamburg where she remained until 1970 and she was sold for scrap. She remained in Hamburg until 1975 when she was moved to the shipyard and harbour of Howaldswerke-Deutsche Werft at Kiel. In 1979 she sank and stayed on the bottom until August 1986 when a conservation lobby persuaded the authorities to raise her due to concerns about pollution. She was raised and moved to dry land where she was scrapped.

Pictures of the USS Density taken during its building, launch and sea trials in 1944

The MV Galaxy in Hamburg

BBC BLOGS – Adam Curtis:
THE CURSE OF TINA (There Is No Alternative)

imageReg decided he was going to set up his own Pirate Radio Station. Instead of a boat he took over an old gun fort in the Thames Estuary. It was called Shivering Sands. It was all a bit haphazard – once Reg spent the whole evening reading out Lady Chatterley’s Lover to the South of England.

Major Oliver Smedley didn’t like this competition – so he did what all good free-marketeers do. He created a monopoly.

He went to Reg and persuaded him to amalgamate with Radio Caroline – and become part of the pirate network. In return Smedley promised to give Reg a brand new transmitter – which would be much more powerful.

But then things went wrong…

keep reading

ship image sourceWarning to Boat Owners inset (above)

more pirate radio porn:

Being a pirate By Jo Pattison Radio legend Dave Cash talks about life on a pirate radio ship, working with Kenny Everett and being mobbed by hundreds of screaming girls.

Gordon Sheppard’s Radio London photo albumThe Radio London website


St. Katharine Docks

St Katharine Docks took their name from the former hospital of St Katharine’s by the Tower, built in the 12th century, which stood on the site. An intensely built-up 23 acre (9.5 hectares) site was earmarked for redevelopment by an Act of Parliament in 1825, with construction commencing in May 1827. Some 1250 houses were demolished, together with the medieval hospital of St. Katharine. Around 11,300 inhabitants, mostly port workers crammed into insanitary slums, lost their homes.

The scheme was designed by engineer Thomas Telford and was his only major project in London. To create as much quayside as possible, the docks were designed in the form of two linked basins (East and West), both accessed via an entrance lock from the Thames. Steam engines designed by James Watt and Matthew Boulton kept the water level in the basins about four feet above that of the tidal river.

Telford aimed to minimise the amount of quayside activity (theft by dockhands) and specified that the docks’ warehouses be built right on the quayside so that goods could be unloaded directly into the them. The docks were officially opened on 25 October 1828.

The area now features offices, public and private housing, a large hotel, shops and restaurants, a pub (The Dickens Inn, a former brewery dating back to the 18th century), a yachting marina and other recreational facilities. It remains a popular leisure destination.



James McNeill Whistler – Wapping (1860-64)
(3000 x 2096)

Painting on site from an inn called The Angel, Whistler created the whole scene en plein air. He sketched the original composition in a letter to an associate and described the girl as “saying to her sailor: ‘That’s all very well my friend, but don’t think you’re the first.’ –gandalfsgallery


The Prospect of Whitby, Wapping Wall, E.1.,
and other river-side buildings (seen from a barge)


imageWapping is a district in East London, England, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It is situated between the north bank of the River Thames and the ancient thoroughfare simply called The Highway. Wapping’s proximity to the river has given it a strong maritime character, which it retains through its riverside public houses and steps.

Many of the original buildings were demolished during the construction of the London Docks and Wapping was further seriously damaged during the Blitz.

Wapping’s proximity to the river gave it a strong maritime character for centuries, well into the 20th century. It was inhabited by sailors, mastmakers, boat-builders, blockmakers, instrument-makers, victuallers and representatives of all the other trades that supported the seafarer.

Wapping was also the site of Execution Dock, where pirates and other water-borne criminals faced execution by hanging from a gibbet constructed close to the low water mark. Their bodies would be left dangling until they had been submerged three times by the tide.

Said to be England’s first, the Marine Police Force was formed in 1798 by magistrate Patrick Colquhoun and a Master Mariner, John Harriott, to tackle theft and looting from ships anchored in the Pool of London and the lower reaches of the river. Its base was (and remains) in Wapping High Street and it is now known as the Marine Support Unit.

The area’s strong maritime associations changed radically in the 19th century when the London Docks were built to the north and west of the High Street. Wapping’s population plummeted by nearly 60% during that century, with many houses destroyed by the construction of the docks and giant warehouses along the riverfront. Wapping was devastated by German bombing in World War II.


inset: Wapping 1889


Prospect of Whitby, Wapping as seen from the Thames
photo by John A KingLarge 1024 (1024 x 680)River Thames (Set: 355)


Prospect of Whitby by Philip Martin; print for sale

imageThe Prospect of Whitby is a historic public house on the banks of the Thames at Wapping in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

It lays claim to being the site of the oldest riverside tavern, dating from around 1520. It was formerly known as the Devil’s Tavern, on account of its dubious reputation. Before that it was officially called “The Pelican”. All that remains from the building’s earliest period is the 400 year old stone floor. In former times it was a meeting place for sailors, smugglers, cut-throats and footpads.

right: photo c. 1890; National Maritime Museum

more: Prospect Of Whitby, 56 Wapping Wall
The Prospect of Whitby Public House on Port Cities London –


A Heinkel He 111 bomber flying over London’s docks.


Fires lit up the docks along the River Thames in London on 7 September 1940


By the late 16th century the suburb of Whitechapel and the surrounding area had started becoming ‘the other half’ of London. Located east of Aldgate, outside the City Walls and beyond official controls, it attracted the less fragrant activities of the city, particularly tanneries, breweries, foundries (including the Whitechapel Bell Foundry which later cast Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and London’s Big Ben) and slaughterhouses.

In 1797 the body of the sailor Richard Parker, hanged for his leading role in the Nore mutiny, was given a Christian burial at Whitechapel after his wife exhumed it from the unconsecrated burial ground to which it was originally consigned. Crowds gathered to see the body before it was buried.

image rt: Jack the Ripper

Whitechapel: The Thames Torso Murders of 1887-89

imageWhile Jack the Ripper’s knife tore the social fabric of Victorian London to shreds another murder series played out, seemingly unnoticed, in the background.

Dubbed the “Thames Mysteries” or “Embankment Murders,” this series was overshadowed by the hysteria surrounding the Ripper’s Whitechapel crimes. Although the Thames murders covered a longer time period and were more gruesome compared to the Ripper’s work, they have inevitable become only a footnote in the chronicles of criminal history…

keep reading
inset: map of Whitechapel Registration District – A Portion of Charles Booth’s
“‘Map Shewing Degrees of Poverty in London’

see also: Whitechapel (TV series), an ITV drama series


Phil Davis, Rupert Penry-Jones and Steve Pemberton (from left)

“detectives in London’s Whitechapel district deal with murders which replicate historical crimes”

“Whitechapel is a very modern take on the detective genre which combines the Victorian intrigue of the original case with the atmospheric backdrop of a contemporary East End of London. This is not simply about bloodthirstily recreating the Ripper murders, but rather focusing on the three main characters at the heart of the story and the black humour that binds the team together.”

“slowly, the show is making Ripperologists of us all, as Jack’s ‘canonical’ murders are separated from the ones he actually committed. It is all in the worst possible taste and bloody good fun.”

*(your humble author was obsessed with this series
when it was on, and eagerly awaits the next season)

VIDEO: The Inmates – Dirty Water


“The Yacht” bar; Old Docklands c. 1950-60s.  The bar is still there.
Old Docklands flickr set (13 images) – photos posted by beechlights

Royal River: Pageantry, Power and the Thames runs at the National National Maritime Museum in Greenwich until 9 September 2012. Learn about admission times and prices here.

Monkey Fist is a smack-talking, potty mouthed, Yankee hating, Red Sox fan in Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to compiling Maritime Monday, she blogs about nautical art, history, and marine science on Adventures of the Blackgang. (twitter)

Submit story ideas, news links, photographs, or items of interest to her at [email protected]. She can also out-belch any man.


Back to Main