PortCities London
You are here:  PortCities London home > People and places > Thames art, literature and architecture
Text Only About this Site Feedback
Explore this site
About maritime London
Early port
Tudor and Stuart port
18th-century port
19th-century port
20th-century port
People and places
Port communities
Crime and punishment
Leisure, health and housing
Thames art, literature and architecture
The working Thames
London's docks and shipping
Trades, industries and institutions
Port of science and discovery
Historical events
Ceremony and catastrophe
London in war and conflict
Fun and games
Things to do
Timeline games
Matching games
Send an e-card

The port in literature

Sherlock Holmes
Charles Dickens
Daniel Defoe
'Chinatown' literature
Frost fair 'poetry'
Send this story to a friendSend this story to a friend
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
View this story in picturesView this story in pictures

Sherlock Holmes

Pursuit on the Thames

In Arthur Conan Doyle's novel The Sign of Four (1890), the great detective Sherlock Holmes and his faithful assistant Dr Watson investigate the murder of Bartholomew Sholto. As the assassins attempt to flee London on the small steamer Aurora, Holmes and Watson follow in hot pursuit...

Quotation marks left
At that moment, however, as our evil fate would have it, a tug with three barges in tow blundered in between us. It was only by putting out helm hard down that we avoided a collision, and before we could round them and recover our way, the Aurora
Quotation marks right
had gained a good two hundred yards...
Steam tug towing large sailing ship off the Surrey Docks.
View full size imageA steam tug towing a large sailing ship off the Surrey Docks. © NMM

Quotation marks left
We had shot through the pool, past the West India Docks, down the long Deptford Reach, and up again after rounding the Isle of Dogs. The dull blur in front of us resolved itself now into
Quotation marks right
the dainty Aurora...
Shipping off Cubitt Town, c. 1884.
View full size imageShipping off Cubitt Town, c. 1884. © NMM

Quotation marks left
At Greenwich we were about three hundred paces behind them. At Blackwall we could not have been more than two hundred and fifty.... never did sport give me such a wild thrill as this mad, flying manhunt down the Thames. Steadily
Quotation marks right
we drew in upon them, yard by yard.
Blackwall Reach.
View full size imageBlackwall Reach, by W.L. Wyllie. © NMM

Quotation marks left
It was a clear reach of the river, with Barking Level upon one side and the melancholy Plumstead Marshes on the other... It was a wild and desolate place, where the moon glimmered upon a wide expanse of
Quotation marks right
marshland, with pools of stagnant water and beds of decaying vegetation.

Shortly afterwards, the chase ends...



Find out more
StoriesJoseph Conrad
The Polish émigré who became a British merchant seaman and a master of English prose.
Fact fileCharles Dickens
The greatest English novelist of the Victorian era
StoriesThe Thames frost fairs
Things to doAn animated Frost Fair
Find out more with our Frost Fair animation
StoriesChinese in the Port of London
Find out about London's original Chinatown
Related Resources
Related Images9 Images
National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
Legal & CopyrightPartner sites:BristolHartlepoolLiverpoolSouthamptonAbout this SiteFeedbackText Only