Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Crossing the Thames at Woolwich in the July of 1905

The ferry in 1905
I have never lost my love of the Woolwich Ferry, so much that I recently took advantage of missing the M25 on our way North from Kent, just so we could make the river crossing at Woolwich.

Now I could have owned up straight away and blamed my map reading but instead as you do I turned it into an adventure.

The journey from Well Hall up to Shooters Hill is pleasant, the fall down into Woolwich quite spectacular and the river crossing something else.

Of course those of us who have used it all our lives can be a tad dismissive of the journey.

The ferry in 2012
You often have to wait a long time to get on, the trip across is short and often accompanied by gust of cold river wind, but it can still be pretty good.

Add to that a hot sunny day and we were set up for the long drive north.

But then even for that short journey the Thames doesn’t disappoint you.

I miss the cranes and barges and the busy doings of a working river so this 1905 Tuck and Sons postcard has a lot to offer.

The first ferries were side-loading paddle steamers named Gordon, Duncan and Hutton. Each was powered by 100nhp condensing engines by John Peen & Son of Greenwich.

Looking to the south side of the river
They were replaced between 1923 and 1930 with The Squire, the Will Crooks and the John Benn.

The current three vessels were built in 1963 and were each named after prominent local politicians: John Burns, Ernest Bevin and James Newman.

And before I slip into romantic tosh about a busttling living water way it is as well to remember it was dirty, noisy and for those who made a livilihood beside the river it was hard dangerous work and the rewards were not always that good.

Locaton; Woolwich, London

Picture; of the Woolwich Ferry, 1905 courtesy of TuckDB, http://tuckdb.org/postcards and the ferry today from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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