Thames Boat Trip
Created | Updated Jun 21, 2003
Climb aboard for a hitchhiker's virtual boat trip along the Thames from Greenwich to the Tower of London.
If you are going to join this trip 300 - 400 or so years ago, please add you own rats, rotten corpses and associated smells. Choose your own virtual boat or ship. It could be Roman, or you might join a merchant trading vessel for the quays. Passenger 'wherries' were popular in Pepys' time, but don't go on a Sunday, and be nice to the Waterman! Have you chosen to row yourself? Be careful under the bridges as the tide can be strong. It might be better to get off and walk round. Are you on a royal state barge with music playing you along the way to fireworks? Perhaps you are on the Mayflower itself. The captain and crew came from here. Don't forget to give Tower Bridge 24 hours notice if you need it lifted for you. If you are going IRL you can take one of the many cruisers.
Board at Greenwich: the home of time itself. The Naval College and Seamen's Hospital have a new role as a campus of Greenwich University... there's no time to visit the maritime museum if you're going to catch the tide! Have a quick look at the Cutty Sark. It's the last surviving tea-clipper and it looks older than it is. If you are sailing on it in the 1860's I'd better let you know that soon steam, and the opening of the Suez Canal, will make sail redundant. Sorry!
If you are here after the 1970's you'll see Gypsy Moth IV. Sir Francis Chichester was the first to sail single-handed around the world. Then he arrived in Greenwich and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II using the same sword that Queen Elizabeth I had used to knight Sir Francis Drake. Are you visiting for either of these ceremonies?
Steer your craft through Docklands. In Medieval times, the area was marshland. The Isle of Dogs had the royal kennels. Surrey Quays shopping centre has supermarkets, chain stores, cinema and restaurants. If you are visiting in the time of the plague, you might know it better as the burial ground Dead Man's Dock. Be sure to have a posy handy.
Look! There's Wapping and Limehouse to the North, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe to the South.
In Wapping, can you see and hear the busy docks? Or is it quieter? That's Britains tallest building Canary Wharf. Until the mid 1960's, Canary Wharf was a cargo warehouse at the centre of West India Docks at the heart of Docklands. It's a commercial area now.
The river bends for the Limehouse Basin. St Anne's Church was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor. Near the church you can see The Grapes. Have a good look, although it's only little. Is Charles Dickens's there for a drink? He often pops in, even puts the place in his books sometimes. In Oliver TwistFagin meets his end at Rotherhithe. In Our Mutual Friend, Lightwood and Wrayburn go:
'by Rotherhithe; down by where accumulated scum of humanity seemed to be washed from higher grounds, like so much moral sewage, and to be pausing until its own weight forced it over the bank and sunk it in the river'
to find a body taken from the Thames.
Perhaps Dickens is in the Prospect of Whitby instead. Is that Whistler, or is it Turner painting up there on the veranda? Look over to the other side and you might spot Samuel Pepys in the Angel. The ale is much safer to drink than the water. Why not moor up and join him for a song.
In 1620 the Mayflower set sail. Captain Jones and most of his crew were local. They moored at the Mayflower Pub before setting off for the New World. Give them a wave. Who knows what they will find?
Look ahead! It's Tower Bridge. It only takes 90 seconds to raise it for you. Wave to the people who knew what time you would be here and came to take pictures.
The Tower of London might be the last sight you see on Earth if you have not been careful with your words and deeds. Or perhaps you are going to see lions, bears or flightless ravens.
Time to get off. Tell us about your trip.