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The Thames though a Lens

This gallery aims to show a number of photographic images focusing on the Thames, and its environs.

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

South West India Dock

South West India Dock

This image really sums up just how busy the Thames used to be. The tangle of masts and rigging and the jumble of barges provide a real sense of the activity that encompassed the docks. This reflects how the waterways of Britain were the motorways of the last three hundred years.

Unknown, c.1880
© National Maritime Museum, London


Royal Naval College and HMS Fisgard

Royal Naval College and HMS Fisgard

This is an unusual photograph showing the relationship between the college and the Thames. The presence of the training ship HMS Fisgard serves as a reminder that there was an important link between Greenwich and the Royal Navy.

Unknown, c. 1875
© National Maritime Museum


The Princess Mary (1878)

The Princess Mary (1878)

I always think that paddle steamers look fantastic as they work their way up and down the river. The crowd of people standing on the deck and the movement of the water make this a great image.

Thacker, c.1886
© National Maritime Museum, London. Thacker collection.


Side view of the Atlas Hospital Ship during the big freeze of February 1895

Side view of the Atlas Hospital Ship during the big freeze of February 1895

Every time I see images from ‘the big freeze’, I am astounded at the change in the landscape. The river is unrecognisable as a waterway, excepting the moored hospital ship and the pier, which seem completely out of context.

Unknown, February 1895
© National Maritime Museum, London


The Edwards family, dock keepers at Falcon Dock, 1923

The Edwards family, dock keepers at Falcon Dock, 1923

The river became a way of life for families of all types, not just sailors and fishermen. Dock keepers were essential to the smooth running of the wharves and piers, and the flow of vessels within the waterway.

Waldo McGillyCuddy Eagar CBE, 1923
© Waldo McGillyCuddy Eagar CBE


Dockers of Union Castle Line with electric trolleys in King George V Dock

Dockers of Union Castle Line with electric trolleys in King George V Dock

The lavender hulled liners of the Union-Castle Line were famous for running the mail service and many emigrants from Britain to South Africa. The Kenya Castle was one of the later vessels built for the Africa run, and has only recently been broken up. This image shows just a few of the people employed in the huge infrastructure needed to run such a large company.

Unknown, c. 1950
© National Maritime Museum, London


Woolwich Ferry

Woolwich Ferry

The Woolwich Free Ferry has been operating since 1889, although there is evidence that a service may have been operating in Woolwich since the fourteenth century. The Woolwich ferry remains the only free ferry service to cross the Thames today.

Unknown, 20th Century
© National Maritime Museum, London



National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund