London: Sunset Over the Thames in 1895


The scene is looking west just below Tower Bridge, its bascules raised to allow passage of the new arrival into the Pool of London. Beyond London Bridge marks the head of navigation for deep water ships commerce being extended further westward by lighters being towed in groups of four or six by steam tugs. To the right, inside the Pool and out of view, is the Tower of London, and nearer to London Bridge will be Billingsgate Fish Market and the Long Room on the second floor of the Customs House where all ships masters were obliged to report their arrival and departure.

To the left in the painting were the bonded warehouses of the wine and spirits importers, and inside Tower Bridge on the south side mere the wharves of a series of privately owned merchants almost totally bombed out during WW2, which has since become an upscale residential area. Between 1950 and 1957 I used to wander around this wharf which was then a forest of huge derricks, the bases of which straddled rail lines, dwarfing the freight cars below. It was fun to hear the clanging of metal. The smell of rope was always present. It was an exciting world, the memories of which are still as familiar to me as if it were yesterday.

I also recall during those days as a student in London, watching lone bargemen manhandle powerless empty barges downstream with a sweep on the outgoing tide, and being awed by their skills and courage in having to clear other river traffic and bridge abutments along their hazardous route.

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