By the late 19th century, the Thames was increasingly busy. Hundreds of vessels, from large liners to tugs, barges and lighters, used the river each day. Despite ever larger and faster ships, there were no precise 'rules of the road'.
|A model of the Princess Alice disaster. © NMM|
Such confusion inevitably led to tragedy. In 1878, the paddle steamer Princess Alice sank after a needless collision in Galleons Reach.
More than 600 people lost their lives in what is still the worst ever disaster on a British waterway.
|A ship's wheel spoke from the Princess Alice. © NMM|
Official enquiries followed the tragedy, and the rules on using the river were finally tightened up.