Thames: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


(Redirected to River Thames article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Thames in London
Country England
Counties Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Essex, Kent
Metropolitan County Greater London
Towns/Cities Lechlade, Oxford, Abingdon, Reading, Henley on Thames, Marlow, Maidenhead, Windsor, Staines, Walton on Thames, London, Dartford, Southend
 - location Thames Head, Gloucestershire, UK
 - elevation 110 m (361 ft)
Mouth Thames Estuary, North Sea
 - location Southend-on-Sea, Essex, UK
 - elevation m (0 ft)
Length 346 km (215 mi)
Basin 12,935 km2 (4,994 sq mi)
Discharge for London
 - average 65.8 m3/s (2,324 cu ft/s)
Discharge elsewhere (average)
 - entering Oxford 17.6 m3/s (622 cu ft/s)
 - leaving Oxford 24.8 m3/s (876 cu ft/s)
 - Reading 39.7 m3/s (1,402 cu ft/s)
 - Windsor 59.3 m3/s (2,094 cu ft/s)

The River Thames (pronounced /ˈtɛmz/ ( listen)) is a major river flowing through southern England. While best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows through several other towns and cities, including Oxford, Reading and Windsor.

The river gives its name to several administrative / political names: The Thames Valley, a region of England centred around the river between Oxford and West London, the Thames Gateway, the area centred around the tidal Thames, and the Thames Estuary to the east of London.



The River Thames is the second longest river in the United Kingdom and the longest river entirely in England, rising at Thames Head in Gloucestershire, and flowing into the North Sea at the Thames Estuary. It has a special significance in flowing through London, the capital of the United Kingdom, although London only includes a short part of its course. The river is tidal in London with a rise and fall of 7 metres (23 ft) and becomes non-tidal at Teddington Lock. The catchment area covers a large part of South Eastern and Western England and the river is fed by over 20 tributaries. The river contains over 80 islands, and having both seawater and freshwater stretches supports a variety of wildlife.

The river has supported human activity from its source to its mouth for thousands of years providing habitation, water power, food and drink. It has also acted as a major highway both for international trade through the Port of London, and internally along its length and connecting to the British canal system. The river’s strategic position has seen it at the centre of many events and fashions in British history, earning it a description by John Burns as “Liquid History”. It has been a physical and political boundary over the centuries and generated a range of river crossings. In more recent time the river has become a major leisure area supporting tourism and pleasure outings as well as the sports of rowing, sailing, skiffing, kayaking, and punting. The river has had a special appeal to writers, artists, musicians and film-makers and is well represented in the arts. It is still the subject of various debates about its course, nomenclature and history.

Physical and natural aspects


Course of the river

The monument at the traditional source of the Thames.
River Thames Flood Barrier.
The Thames passes by some of the sights of London, including the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye.

The Thames has a length of 215 miles (346 km). Its usually quoted source is at Thames Head (at grid reference ST980994), about a mile north of the village of Kemble and near the town of Cirencester, in the Cotswolds. This makes it the longest river entirely in England, although the River Severn, which is partly in Wales, is a longer river in the United Kingdom. Seven Springs near Cheltenham, where the river Churn rises, is also sometimes quoted as the Thames' source,[1] as this location is furthest from the mouth adding some 14 miles (22 km) to the length. The springs at Seven Springs also flow throughout the year, while those at Thames Head are only seasonal.

The Thames flows through or alongside Ashton Keynes, Cricklade, Lechlade, Oxford, Abingdon, Wallingford, Goring-on-Thames, Reading, Henley-on-Thames, Marlow, Maidenhead, Windsor, Eton, Staines,Sunbury, Weybridge and Thames Ditton before entering the Greater London area. The present course is the result of several minor redirections of the main channel around Oxford, Abingdon and Maidenhead and more recently the creation of specific cuts to ease navigation.

From the outskirts of Greater London, the river passes Hampton Court, Kingston, Teddington, Twickenham, Richmond (with a famous view of the Thames from Richmond Hill), Syon House and Kew before flowing through central London. In central London, the river forms one of the principal axes of the city, from the Palace of Westminster to the Tower of London and was the southern boundary of the medieval city, with Southwark on the opposite bank.

Once past central London, the river passes between Greenwich and the Isle of Dogs, before flowing through the Thames Barrier, which protects central London from flooding in the event of storm surges. Below the barrier, the river passes Dartford, Tilbury and Gravesend before entering the Thames Estuary near Southend-on-Sea.

Catchment area and discharge

The river drains a catchment area of 4,994 square miles (12,934 km2) or 5,924 square miles (15,343 km2) if the River Medway is included as a tributary.[2]

The non-tidal section

The Jubilee River at Slough Weir.

Brooks, canals and rivers, within an area of 3,841 square miles (9,948 km2), combine to form 38 main tributaries feeding the Thames between its source and Teddington Lock, the tidal limit. Before Teddington Lock was built in 1810-12, the river was tidal as far as Staines. The tributaries of the River Thames include the rivers Churn, Leach, Cole, Ray, Coln, Windrush, Evenlode, Cherwell, Ock, Thame, Pang, Kennet, Loddon, Colne, Wey and Mole. In addition there are many backwaters and distributaries and some man-made channels such as the Longford River.

More recently, an artificial secondary channel to the Thames, known as the Jubilee River, was built between Maidenhead and Windsor for flood relief, being completed in 2002.

More than half the rain that falls on this catchment is lost to evaporation and plant transpiration. The remainder provides a water resource that has to be shared between river flows, to support the natural environment and navigation, and the population's needs for water supplies to homes, industry and agriculture.

The non-tidal section of the river is managed by the Environment Agency which has the twin responsibilities of managing the flow of water to control flooding, and providing for navigation. The volume and speed of water down the river is managed by adjusting the gates at each of the weirs and at high water levels are usually dissipated over flood plains adjacent to the river. Occasionally flooding is unavoidable, and the Agency issues Flood Warnings. During heavy rainfall the Thames occasionally receives raw sewage discharge due to sanitary sewer overflow.

The tidal section

London Stone at Staines, built in 1285 marked the tidal limit of the Thames and the City of London's jurisdiction.
The lower course of the Thames in 1840.

Below Teddington Lock (about 55 miles / 89 kilometres upstream of the Thames Estuary) the river is subject to tidal activity from the North Sea. Before the lock was installed the river was tidal as far as Staines. London, capital of Roman Britain, was established on two hills, now known as Cornhill and Ludgate Hill. These provided a firm base for a trading centre at the lowest possible point on the Thames.[3] A river crossing was built at the site of London Bridge. London Bridge is now used as the basis for published tide tables giving the times of high tide. High tide reaches Putney about 30 minutes later than London Bridge, and Teddington about an hour later. The tidal stretch of the river is known as "the Tideway". Tide tables are published by the Port of London Authority and are available online. Times of high and low tides are also broadcast on Twitter.

The principal tributaries of the River Thames on the Tideway include the rivers Brent, Wandle, Effra, Westbourne, Fleet, Ravensbourne (the final part of which is called Deptford Creek), Lea, Roding, Darent and Ingrebourne. At London, the water is slightly brackish with sea salt, being a mix of sea and fresh water.

This part of the river is managed by the Port of London Authority. The flood threat here comes from high tides and strong winds from the North Sea, and the Thames Barrier was built in the 1980s to protect London from this risk.


Temple Island — the start of the Henley Royal Regatta course.

The River Thames contains over 80 islands ranging from the large estuarial marshlands of the Isle of Sheppey, Isle of Grain and Canvey Island to small tree-covered islets like Rose Isle in Oxfordshire and Headpile Eyot in Berkshire. Some of the largest inland islands — Formosa Island near Cookham and Andersey Island at Abingdon — were created naturally when the course of the river divided into separate streams, while Desborough Island, Ham Island at Old Windsor and Penton Hook Island were artificially created by lock cuts and navigation channels. Chiswick Eyot is a familiar landmark on the Boat Race course, while Glover's Island forms the centrepiece of the spectacular view from Richmond Hill. Islands with a historical interest are Magna Carta Island at Runnymede, Fry's Island at Reading and Pharaoh's Island near Shepperton. In more recent times Platts Eyot at Hampton was the place where MTBs were built, Tagg's Island near Molesey was associated with the impresario Fred Karno, and Eel Pie Island at Twickenham was the birthplace of the South East’s R&B music scene.

Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster (commonly known today as the Houses of Parliament) were built on Thorney Island which used to be an eyot.

Geological history

Goring Gap, where the Thames broke through the Chilterns, seen from Lardon Chase.

The River Thames can first be identified as a discrete drainage line as early as 58 million years ago, in the late Palaeocene Period Thanetian Stage.[4] Until around half a million years ago, the Thames flowed on its existing course through what is now Oxfordshire, before turning to the north east through Hertfordshire and East Anglia and reaching the North Sea near Ipswich. At this time the river system headwaters lay in the English West Midlands and may, at times, have received drainage from the North Wales Berwyn Mountains. Arrival of an ice sheet in the Quaternary Ice Age, about 450,000 years ago, dammed the river in Hertfordshire and caused it to be diverted onto its present course through London. This created a new river route aligned through Berkshire and on into London after which the river rejoined its original course in southern Essex, near the present River Blackwater estuary. Here it entered a substantial freshwater lake in the southern North Sea basin. The overspill of this lake caused the formation of the Dover Straits or Pas-de-Calais gap between Britain and France. Subsequent development led to the continuation of the course which the river follows at the present day.[5]

At the height of the last ice age around 12000 years ago, Britain was connected to mainland Europe via a large expanse of land known as Doggerland in the southern North Sea basin. At this time, the Thames' course did not continue to Doggerland, but was aligned southwards from the eastern Essex coast where it met the Rhine, the Meuse and the Scheldt[5] flowing from what are now the Netherlands and Belgium. These rivers formed a single river—the Channel River (Fleuve Manche)—that passed through the Dover Strait and drained into the Atlantic Ocean in the western English Channel.


Swan Upping - skiffs surround the swans.
Fishing at Penton Hook Island.

Various species of bird feed off the river or nest on it, some being found both at sea and inland. These include Cormorant, Black-headed Gull, and Herring Gull. The Swan is a familiar sight on the river but the escaped Black Swan is more rare. The annual ceremony of Swan upping is an old tradition of counting stocks. Non-native geese that can be seen include Canada Geese, Egyptian Geese, and Bar-headed Geese, and ducks include the familiar native Mallard, plus introduced Mandarin Duck and Wood Duck. Other water birds to be found on the Thames include the Great Crested Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, Heron, and Kingfisher. In addition there are many types of British birds that live alongside the river, although they are not specific to the river habitat.

The Thames contains both seawater and freshwater, thus providing support for seawater and freshwater fish. The salmon, which inhabits both environments, has been reintroduced and a succession of fish ladders has been built into weirs to allow it to travel upstream. On 5 August 1993 the largest non-tidal salmon in recorded history was caught close to Boulters Lock in Maidenhead. The specimen weighed 14.5 pounds and measured 88 cm in length. The eel is particularly associated with the Thames and there were formerly many eel traps designed to catch them. Some of the freshwater fish to be found in the Thames and its tributaries include brown trout, chub, dace, roach, barbel, perch, pike, bleak, and flounder. Colonies of short-snouted seahorses have also recently been discovered in the river.[6]

In addition the Thames is host to some invasive crustaceans, including the signal crayfish and the Chinese Mitten Crab.

On 20 January 2006 a northern 16–18 ft (5 m) bottle-nosed whale was spotted in the Thames and was seen as far upstream as Chelsea. This is extremely unusual because this type of whale is generally found in deep sea waters. Crowds gathered along the riverbanks to witness the extraordinary spectacle. But it soon became clear there was cause for concern, as the animal came within yards of the banks, almost beaching, and crashed into an empty boat causing slight bleeding. Approximately 12 hours later, the whale was believed to be seen again near Greenwich, possibly heading back to sea. There was a rescue attempt lasting several hours, but it eventually died on a barge. See River Thames whale.[7]

Human aspects

The River Thames has served several roles in human history, being an economic resource, a water highway, a boundary, a fresh water source, also a source of food and more recently a leisure facility. In 1929 John Burns, one time MP for Battersea, responded to an American's unfavourable comparison of the Thames with the Mississippi by coining the expression "The Thames is liquid history".

Human history

The Tower, with Tower Bridge built 800 years later
An engraving by Claes Van Visscher showing Old London Bridge in 1616, with Southwark Cathedral in the foreground
The Frozen Thames, 1677.
19th century painting "Haymaking on the Thames" by John Clayton Adams
Wallingford Bridge and St Peter's Church
The Thames at Hampton
The Thames as it flows through east London, with the Isle of Dogs in the centre.

There is evidence of human habitation living off the river along its length dating back to Neolithic times.[8] The British Museum has a decorated bowl (3300–2700 BC), found in the River at Hedsor, Buckinghamshire and a considerable amount of material was discovered during the excavations of Dorney Lake.[9] A number of Bronze Age sites and artifacts have been discovered along the banks of the River including settlements at Lechlade, Cookham and Sunbury-on-Thames. Some of the earliest written accounts of the Thames occur in Julius Caesar’s account of his second expedition to Britain in 54BC[10] when the Thames presented a major obstacle and he encountered the Iron Age Belgic tribes the Catuvellauni and the Atrebates along the river.

Under the Emperor Claudius in AD 43 the Romans occupied England and, recognising the River's strategic and economic importance, built fortifications along the Thames valley including a major camp at Dorchester. Two hills, now known as Cornhill and Ludgate Hill, provided a firm base for a trading centre at the lowest possible point on the Thames called Londinium where a bridge was built. The next Roman bridge upstream was at Staines (Pontes) to which point boats could be swept up on the rising tide with no need for wind or muscle power. Many of the Thames’ riverside settlements trace their origins back to very early roots and the suffix—“ing” in towns such as Goring and Reading owe their origins to the Saxons. Recent research suggests that these peoples preceded the Romans rather than replaced them.[11] The river’s long tradition of farming, fishing, milling and trade with other nations started with these peoples and has continued to the present day. Competition for the use of the river created the centuries-old conflict between those who wanted to dam the river to build millraces and fish traps and those who wanted to travel and carry goods on it. Economic prosperity and the foundation of wealthy monasteries by the Anglo-Saxons attracted unwelcome visitors and by around AD 870 the Vikings were sweeping up the Thames on the tide and creating havoc as in their destruction of Chertsey Abbey.

Once King William had won total control of the strategic Thames Valley he went on to invade the rest of England. He had many castles built, including those at Wallingford, Rochester, Windsor and most importantly the Tower of London. Many details of Thames activity are recorded in the Domesday book. The following centuries saw the conflict between King and Barons coming to a head in AD 1215 when King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta on an island in the Thames at Runnymede. This granted them among a host of other things under Clause 23 the right of Navigation. Another major consequence of John’s reign was the completion of the multi-piered London Bridge which acted as a barricade and barrage on the river, affecting the tidal flow upstream and increasing the likelihood of freezing over. In Tudor and Stuart times the Kings and Queens loved the river and built magnificent riverside palaces at Hampton Court, Kew, Richmond on Thames, Whitehall and Greenwich.

The 16th and 17th centuries saw the City of London grow with the expansion of world trade. The wharves of the Pool of London were thick with seagoing vessels while naval dockyards were built at Deptford. The Dutch navy even entered the Thames in 1667 in the raid on the Medway.

A cold series of winters led to the Thames freezing over above London Bridge, and this led to the first Frost Fair in 1607, complete with a tent city set up on the river itself and offering a number of amusements, including ice bowling. In good conditions barges travelled daily from Oxford to London carrying timber and wool, foodstuffs and livestock, battling with the millers on the way. The stone from the Cotswolds used to rebuild St Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire in 1666 was brought all the way down from Radcot. The Thames provided the major highway between London and Westminster in the 16th and 17th centuries and the clannish guild of watermen ferried Londoners from landing to landing and tolerated no outside interference. In AD 1715 Thomas Doggett was so grateful to a local waterman for his efforts to ferry him home pulling against the tide, that he set up a rowing race for professional watermen known as “Doggett's Coat and Badge”.

By the 18th century, the Thames was one of the world's busiest waterways, as London became the centre of the vast, mercantile British Empire and progressively over the next century the docks expanded in the Isle of Dogs and beyond. Efforts were made to resolve the navigation conflicts up stream by building locks along the Thames. After temperatures began to rise again, starting in 1814, the river stopped freezing over completely.[12] The building of a new London Bridge in 1825, with fewer pillars than the old, allowed the river to flow more freely and reduced the likelihood of freezing over in cold winters.[13]

The Victorian era was an era of imaginative engineering. In the 'Great Stink' of 1858, pollution in the river reached such proportions that sittings at the House of Commons at Westminster had to be abandoned. A concerted effort to contain the city's sewage by constructing massive sewers on the north and south river embankments followed, under the supervision of engineer Joseph Bazalgette. Meanwhile, similar huge undertakings took place to ensure water supply, with the building of reservoirs and pumping stations on the river to the west of London. The embankments in London house the water supply to homes, plus the sewers, and protect London from flood. The coming of rail added both spectacular and ugly railway bridges to fine range of earlier road bridges but reduced commercial activity on the river. However sporting and leisure use increased with the establishment of regattas such as Henley and The Boat Race. On 3 September 1878, one of the worst river disasters in England took place, when the crowded pleasure boat Princess Alice collided with the Bywell Castle, killing over 640 people.

The growth of road transport and the decline of the Empire, in the years following 1914, reduced the economic prominence of the river. During World War II the protection of the Thames was crucial to the defence of the country. Defences included the Maunsell forts in the estuary and barrage balloons to cope with the threat of German bombers using the distinctive shape of the river to navigate during The Blitz. Although the Port of London remains one of the UK's three main ports, most trade has moved downstream from central London. The decline of manufacturing industry and improved sewage treatment have led to a massive clean-up since the filthy days of the late 19th and early- to mid-20th centuries, and aquatic life has returned to its formerly 'dead' waters. Alongside the river runs the Thames Path, providing a route for walkers and cyclists.

In the early 1980s a massive flood-control device, the Thames Barrier, was opened. It is closed several times a year to prevent water damage to London's low-lying areas upstream (as in the 1928 Thames flood for example). In the late 1990s, the 7-mile (11 km) long Jubilee River was built, which acts as a flood channel for the Thames around Maidenhead and Windsor.[14]

Origin of the name

Statue of Old Father Thames by Raffaelle Monti at St John's Lock

The Thames, from Middle English Temese, is derived from the Celtic name for the river, Tamesas (from *tamēssa),[15] recorded in Latin as Tamesis and underlying modern Welsh Tafwys "Thames". The name probably meant "dark" and can be compared to other cognates such as Irish teimheal and Welsh tywyll "darkness" (Proto-Celtic *temeslos) and Middle Irish teimen "dark grey",[15] though Richard Coates[16] mentions other theories: Kenneth Jackson's[17] that it is non Indo-European (and of unknown meaning), and Peter Kitson's[18] that it is IE but pre-Celtic, and has a name indicating muddiness from a root *tã-, 'melt'.

The river's name has always been pronounced with a simple t /t/; the Middle English spelling was typically Temese and Celtic Tamesis. The th spelling lends an air of Greek to the name and was added during the Renaissance, possibly to reflect or support a belief that the name was derived from River Thyamis in the Epirus region of Greece, whence early Celtic tribes were erroneously thought to have migrated.

Indirect evidence for the antiquity of the name 'Thames' is provided by a Roman potsherd found at Oxford, bearing the inscription Tamesubugus fecit (Tamesubugus made this). It is believed that Tamesubugus's name was derived from that of the river.[19]

The Thames through Oxford is often given the name the River Isis, although historically, and especially in Victorian times, gazetteers and cartographers insisted that the entire river was correctly named the River Isis from its source until Dorchester-on-Thames. Only at this point, where the river meets the River Thame and becomes the "Thame-isis" (subsequently abbreviated to Thames) should it be so-called; Ordnance Survey maps still label the Thames as "River Thames or Isis" until Dorchester. However since the early 20th century, this distinction has been lost in common usage outside Oxford, and some historians suggest the name Isis—although possibly named after the Egyptian goddess of that name—is nothing more than a contraction of Tamesis, the Latin (or pre-Roman Celtic) name for the Thames.

Richard Coates suggests that while the river was as a whole called the Thames, part of it, where it was too wide to ford, was called *(p)lowonida. This gave the name to a settlement on its banks, which became known as Londinium, from the Indo-European roots *pleu- "flow" and *-nedi "river" meaning something like the flowing river or the wide flowing unfordable river.[16]

For merchant seamen, the Thames has long been just 'The London River'. Londoners often refer to it simply as 'the river', in expressions such as 'south of the river'.[20]

The active river

One of the many piers for joining sightseeing boat trips.

One of the major resources provided by the Thames is drinking water provided by Thames Water whose area of responsibility covers the length of the River Thames. The Thames Water Ring Main is the main distribution mechanism for water in London with one major loop linking the Hampton, Walton, Ashford and Kempton Water Treatment Works to central London.

In the past, commercial activities on the Thames included fishing (particularly eel trapping), coppicing willows which provided wood for many purposes including osiers, and running watermills for flour and paper production and metal beating. These activities have disappeared, although there was a proposal to build a hydro plant at Romney Lock to power Windsor Castle. As of January 2008, this scheme appears to have been abandoned.

The Thames is popular for riverside housing whether in high rise flats in central London or chalets on the banks and islands up stream. The river has its own residents dwelling on houseboats, typically around Brentford and Tagg's Island

Transport and tourism

The tidal river

In London there are many sightseeing tours in tourist boats, past the more famous riverside attractions such as the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London as well as regular riverboat services co-ordinated by London River Services.

The upper river

Passenger services are operated in summer along the entire non-tidal river from Oxford to Teddington. The two largest operators are Salters Steamers and French Brothers. Salters operate services between Folly Bridge, Oxford and Staines. The entire journey takes 4 days and requires several changes of boat.[21] French Brothers operate passenger services between Maidenhead and Hampton Court.[22] Along the course of the river a number of smaller private companies also offer river trips at Wallingford, Reading and Hampton Court.[23] Many companies also provide boat hire on the river.

The leisure navigation and sporting activities on the river have given rise to a number of businesses including boatbuilding, marinas, ships chandlers and salvage services.

Police and lifeboats

The river is policed by five police forces. The Thames Division is the River Police arm of London’s Metropolitan Police, while Surrey Police, Thames Valley Police, Essex Police and Kent Police have responsibilities on their parts of the river outside the metropolitan area. There is also a London Fire Brigade fire boat on the river. The river claims a number of lives each year. As a result of the Marchioness disaster in 1989 when 51 people died, the Government asked the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Port of London Authority and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) to work together to set up a dedicated Search and Rescue service for the tidal River Thames. As a result, there are four lifeboat stations on the river Thames based at Teddington, Chiswick Pier, Tower Lifeboat Station and Gravesend.[24]


Bray Lock, Buckinghamshire
Pool of London looking west, from the high-level walkway on Tower Bridge. Click on the picture for a longer description

The Thames is navigable from the estuary as far as Lechlade in Gloucestershire. Between the sea and Teddington Lock, the river forms part of the Port of London and navigation is administered by the Port of London Authority. From Teddington Lock to the head of navigation, the navigation authority is the Environment Agency. Both the tidal river through London and the non-tidal river upstream are intensively used for leisure navigation. All craft using the river Thames must be licensed.

The river is navigable to large ocean-going ships as far upstream as the Pool of London and London Bridge. Although London's upstream enclosed docks have closed and central London sees only the occasional visiting cruise ship or warship, the tidal river remains one of Britain's main ports. Around 60 active terminals cater for shipping of all types including ro-ro ferries, cruise liners and vessels carrying containers, vehicles, timber, grain, paper, crude oil, petroleum products, liquified petroleum gas, etc.[25] There is a regular traffic of aggregate or refuse vessels, operating from wharves in the west of London. The tidal Thames links to the canal network at the River Lea Navigation, the Regent's Canal at Limehouse Basin, and the Grand Union Canal at Brentford.

The non-tidal River Thames is divided into reaches by the 45 locks. The locks are manned for a greater part of the day, but can be operated by experienced users out of hours. This part of the Thames links to existing navigations at the River Wey Navigation, the River Kennet and the Oxford Canal.

There is no speed limit on the Tideway downstream of Wandsworth Bridge,[26] although boats are not allowed to create undue wash. Upstream of Wandsworth Bridge a speed limit is in force for powered craft to protect the riverbank environment and to provide safe conditions for rowers and other river users. The speed limit of 8 knots (15 km/h) applies to powered craft on this tidal part and 4.3 knots (8 km/h) on the non-tidal Thames. The Environment Agency has patrol boats (named after tributaries of the Thames) and can enforce the limit strictly since river traffic usually has to pass through a lock at some stage. There are pairs of transit markers at various points along the non-tidal river that can be used to check speed - a boat travelling legally taking a minute or more to pass between the two markers.

History of the management of the river

Rubbish traps are used on the Thames to filter debris as it flows through Central London

In the Middle Ages the Crown exercised general jurisdiction over the Thames, one of the four royal rivers, and appointed water bailiffs to oversee the river upstream of Staines. The City of London exercised jurisdiction over the tidal Thames. However, navigation was increasingly impeded by weirs and mills, and in the 14th century the river probably ceased to be navigable for heavy traffic between Henley and Oxford. In the late 16th century the river seems to have been reopened for navigation from Henley to Burcot.[27]

The first commission concerned with the management of the river was the Oxford-Burcot Commission, formed in 1605 to make the river navigable between Burcot and Oxford.

In 1751 the Thames Navigation Commission was formed to manage the whole non-tidal river down to Staines. The City of London long claimed responsibility for the tidal river. A long running dispute between the City and the Crown over ownership of the river was not settled until 1857, when the Thames Conservancy was formed to manage the river from Staines downstream. In 1866 the functions of the Thames Navigation Commission were transferred to the Thames Conservancy, which thus had responsibility for the whole river.

In 1909 the powers of the Thames Conservancy over the tidal river, below Teddington, were transferred to the Port of London Authority.

In 1974 the Thames Conservancy became part of the new Thames Water Authority. When Thames Water was privatised in 1990, its river management functions were transferred to the National Rivers Authority, in 1996 subsumed into the Environment Agency.

The river as a boundary

Until sufficient crossings were established, the river provided a formidable barrier, with Belgic tribes and Anglo-Saxon kingdoms being defined by which side of the river they were on. When English counties were established their boundaries were partly determined by the Thames. On the northern bank were the ancient counties of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Middlesex and Essex. On the southern bank were the counties of Wiltshire, Berkshire, Surrey, and Kent. However the 214 bridges and 17 tunnels that have been built to date have changed the dynamics and made cross-river development and shared responsibilities more practicable. In 1965, upon the creation of Greater London, the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames incorporated areas that had been part of both Middlesex and Surrey; and changes in 1974 moved some of the boundaries away from the river. For example, some area that had been part of Berkshire became part of Oxfordshire, what had been Buckinghamshire became part of Berkshire, and what had been Middlesex became part of Surrey. On occasion – for example in rowing – the banks are still referred to by their traditional county names.


Newbridge, in rural Oxfordshire
Railway bridge at Maidenhead
The Millennium Footbridge with St Paul's Cathedral in the background
Hammerton's Ferry near Richmond.

Many of the present road bridges on the river are on the site of earlier fords, ferries and wooden structures. The earliest known major crossings of the Thames by the Romans were at London Bridge and Staines Bridge. At Folly Bridge in Oxford the remains of an original Saxon structure can be seen, and mediaeval stone structures such as Newbridge and Abingdon Bridge are still in use. Kingston’s growth is believed to stem from its having the only crossing between London Bridge and Staines until the beginning of the 18th century. During the 18th century, many stone and brick road bridges were built from new or to replace existing structures both in London and along the length of the river. These included Putney Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Datchet Bridge, Windsor Bridge and Sonning Bridge. Several central London road bridges were built in the 19th century, most conspicuously Tower Bridge, the only Bascule bridge on the river, designed to allow ocean going ships to pass beneath it. The most recent road bridges are the bypasses at Isis Bridge and Marlow By-pass Bridge and the Motorway bridges, most notably the two on the M25 route Queen Elizabeth II Bridge and M25 Runnymede Bridge.

The development of the railway resulted in a spate of bridge building in the 19th century including Blackfriars Railway Bridge and Charing Cross (Hungerford) Railway Bridge in central London, and the spectacular railway bridges by Isambard Kingdom Brunel at Maidenhead Bridge, Gatehampton Railway Bridge and Moulsford Railway Bridge.

The world’s first underwater tunnel was the Thames Tunnel by Marc Brunel built in 1843 and used to carry the East London Line. The Tower Subway was the first railway under the Thames, which was followed by all the deep-level tube lines. Road tunnels were built in East London at the end of the 19th century, being the Blackwall Tunnel and the Rotherhithe Tunnel, and the latest tunnel was the Dartford Crossing.

Many foot crossings were established across the weirs that were built on the non-tidal river, and some of these remained when the locks were built – for example at Benson Lock. Others were replaced by a footbridge when the weir was removed as at Hart's Weir Footbridge. Around the year 2000 AD, several footbridges were added along the Thames, either as part of the Thames Path or in commemoration of the Millennium. These include Temple Footbridge, Bloomers Hole Footbridge, the Hungerford Footbridges and the Millennium Bridge, all of which have distinctive design characteristics.

Before bridges were built, the main means of crossing the river was by ferry. A significant number of ferries were provided specifically for navigation purposes. When the towpath changed sides, it was necessary to take the towing horse and its driver across the river. This was no longer necessary when barges were powered by steam. Some ferries still operate on the river. The Woolwich Ferry carries cars and passengers across the river in the Thames Gateway and links the North Circular and South Circular roads. Upstream are smaller pedestrian ferries, for example Hampton Ferry and Shepperton to Weybridge Ferry the last being the only non-permanent crossing that remains on the Thames Path.


There are several watersports prevalent on the Thames, with many clubs encouraging participation and organising racing and inter-club competitions.


Cambridge cross the finish line ahead of Oxford in the 2007 Boat Race, viewed from Chiswick Bridge

The Thames is the historic heartland of rowing in the United Kingdom. There are over 200 clubs on the river, and over 8,000 members of the Amateur Rowing Association (over 40% of its membership). Most towns and districts of any size on the river have at least one club, but key centres are Oxford, Henley-on-Thames and the stretch of river from Chiswick to Putney.

Two rowing events on the River Thames are traditionally part of the wider English sporting calendar:

The University Boat Race is rowed between Oxford University Boat Club and the Cambridge University Boat Club in late March or early April, on the Championship Course from Putney to Mortlake in the west of London.

Henley Royal Regatta takes place over five days at the start of July in the upstream town of Henley-on-Thames. Besides its sporting significance the regatta is an important date on the English social calendar alongside events like Royal Ascot and Wimbledon.

Other significant or historic rowing events on the Thames include:

Other regattas, head races and bumping races are held along the Thames which are described under Rowing on the River Thames.


Thames Raters at Raven's Ait, Surbiton

Sailing is practiced on both the tidal and non-tidal reaches of the river. The highest club upstream is at Oxford. The most popular sailing craft used on the Thames are lasers, GP14s, and Wayfarers. One sailing boat unique to the Thames is the Thames Rater, which is sailed around Raven's Ait.


Skiffing remains popular, particularly in the summer months. Several clubs and regattas may be found in the outer suburbs of west London.


Unlike the "pleasure punting" common on the Cherwell in Oxford and the Cam in Cambridge, punting on the Thames is competitive and uses narrower craft.

Kayaking and canoeing

Kayaking and canoeing are popular, with sea kayakers using the tidal stretch for touring. Sheltered water kayakers and canoeists use the non-tidal section for training, racing and trips. Whitewater playboaters and slalom paddlers are catered for at weirs like those at Hurley Lock, Sunbury Lock and Boulter's Lock. At Teddington just before the tidal section of the river starts is Royal Canoe Club, said to be the oldest in the world and founded in 1866.


A Thames meander is a long-distance journey over all or part of the Thames by running, swimming or using any of the above means. It is often carried out as an athletic challenge in a competition or for a record attempt.


The first Westminster Bridge as painted by Canaletto in 1746.
Maidenhead Railway Bridge as Turner saw it in 1844
Monet's Trouée de soleil dans le brouillard, Houses of Parliament, London, Sun Breaking Through the Fog, 1904
Whistler's Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Old Battersea Bridge (c. 1872-1875)
St John's lock, near Lechlade.
The River Thames in Oxford

Visual arts

The River Thames has been a subject for artists, great and minor, over the centuries. Four major artists with works based on the Thames are Canaletto, J. M. W. Turner, Claude Monet, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler. The 20th century British artist Stanley Spencer produced many works at Cookham.

The river is lined with various pieces on sculpture, but John Kaufman's sculpture The Diver:Regeneration is actally sited in the Thames near Rainham.


The Thames is mentioned in many works of literature including novels, diaries and poetry. It is the central theme in three in particular:

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, first published in 1889, is a humorous account of a boating holiday on the Thames between Kingston and Oxford. The book was intended initially to be a serious travel guide, with accounts of local history of places along the route, but the humorous elements eventually took over. The landscape and features of the Thames as described by Jerome are virtually unchanged, and enduring humour has meant that it has never been out of print since it was first published.

Charles Dickens Our Mutual Friend (written in the years 1864–65) describes the river in a grimmer light. It begins with a scavenger and his daughter pulling a dead man from the river near London Bridge, to salvage what the body might have in its pockets, and heads to its conclusion with the deaths of the villains drowned in Plashwater Lock upstream. The workings of the river and the influence of the tides are described with great accuracy. Dickens opens the novel with this sketch of the river, and the people who work on it:

In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark Bridge which is of iron, and London Bridge which is of stone, as an autumn evening was closing in. The figures in this boat were those of a strong man with ragged grizzled hair and a sun-browned face, and a girl of nineteen or twenty. The girl rowed, pulling a pair of sculls very easily; the man with the rudder-lines slack in his hands, and his hands loose in his waisteband, kept an eager look-out.

Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, written in 1908, is set in the middle to upper reaches of the river. It starts as a tale of anthropomorphic characters "simply messing about in boats" but develops into a more complex story combining elements of mysticism with adventure and reflection on Edwardian Society. It is generally considered one of the most beloved works of children's literature[28] and the illustrations by E.H.Shepard and Arthur Rackham feature the Thames and its surroundings.

The river almost inevitably features in many books set in London. Most of Dickens' other novels include some aspect of the Thames. Oliver Twist finishes in the slums and rookeries along its south bank. The Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle often visit riverside parts as in The Sign of Four. In Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the serenity of the contemporary Thames is contrasted with the savagery of the Congo River, and with the wilderness of the Thames as it would have appeared to a Roman soldier posted to Britannia two thousand years before. Conrad also gives a description of the approach to London from the Thames Estuary in his essays The Mirror of the Sea (1906). Upriver, Henry James' Portrait of a Lady uses a large riverside mansion on the Thames as one of its key settings.

Literary non-fiction works include Samuel Pepys' diary, in which he recorded many events relating to the Thames including the Fire of London. He was disturbed while writing it in June 1667 by the sound of gunfire as Dutch warships broke through the Royal Navy on the Thames.

In poetry, William Wordsworth's sonnet On Westminster Bridge closes with the lines:

Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

T. S. Eliot references makes several references to the Thames in The Fire Sermon, Section III of The Waste Land.

Sweet Thames run softly, till I end my song.
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes cigarette ends
Or other testimony of summer nights.


The river sweats
Oil and tar
The barges drift
With the turning tide
Red sails
To leeward, swing on the heavy spar,
The barges wash
Drifting logs
Down Greenwich reach
Past the Isle of Dogs

The Sweet Thames line is taken from Edmund Spenser’s Prothalamion which presents a more idyllic image:

Along the shoare of silver streaming Themmes;
Whose rutty banke, the which his river hemmes,
Was paynted all with variable flowers.
And all the meads adornd with daintie gemmes
Fit to deck maydens bowres

Also writing of the upper reaches is Matthew Arnold in The Scholar Gypsy:

Crossing the stripling Thames at Bab-lock-hythe
Trailing in the cool stream thy fingers wet
As the slow punt swings round
Oh born in days when wits were fresh and clear
And life ran gaily as the sparkling Thames;
Before this strange disease of modern life.

Dylan Thomas mentions the Thames River in his poem "A Refusal To Mourn The Death, By Fire, Of A Child In London". "Londons' Daughter", the subject of the poem, lays "Deep with the first dead...secret by the unmourning water of the riding Thames".

Science-fiction novels make liberal use of a futuristic Thames. The utopian News from Nowhere by William Morris is mainly the account of a journey through the Thames valley in a socialist future. The Thames also features prominently in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, as a communications artery for the waterborne Gyptian people of Oxford and the Fens.

In The Deptford Mice trilogy by Robin Jarvis, the Thames appears several times. In one book, rat characters swim through it to Deptford. Winner the Nestlé Children's Book Prize Gold Award I, Coriander, by Sally Gardner is a fantasy novel in which the heroine lives on the banks of the Thames


The Water Music composed by George Frideric Handel premiered in the summer of 1717 (July 17, 1717) when King George I requested a concert on the River Thames. The concert was performed for King George I on his barge and he is said to have enjoyed it so much that he ordered the 50 exhausted musicians to play the suites three times on the trip.

The Sex Pistols played a concert on the Queen Elizabeth Riverboat on June 7, 1977, the Queen's Silver Jubilee year, while sailing down the river.

"Waterloo Sunset" is a song released as a single by The Kinks in 1967, and featured on their album Something Else by the Kinks. It was composed and produced by The Kinks lead singer and songwriter Ray Davies and is one of the band's best known and most acclaimed songs. The lyrics are from the point of view of a solitary man on the south bank of the Thames watching (or imagining) the romantic encounters of a couple at Waterloo Underground, then crossing Waterloo Bridge.

"The Lovers Are Losing" is the second song on the Keane album "Perfect Symmetry", and it mentions the river in the first few lines of lyrics:
"I dreamed I was drowning in the River Thames
I dreamed I had nothing at all
Nothing but my own skin".

Cinema and television

A boat chase on the Thames forms the long opening scene of the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough. The offices of MI6, Britain's external spy agency, are right on the river in a building known as Vauxhall Cross.

The theme of the Thames being completely drained was used in the Doctor Who episode "The Runaway Bride". This theme was also used in the Hollywood Blockbuster Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), where a huge hole in the riverbed beside Westminster Bridge and the London Eye stranded the items formerly floating on the river. It is also the main backdrop in the final marathon for the movie "Run Fat Boy Run". A birds eye view of the Thames in London can be seen in the main titles of EastEnders.

See also


  1. ^ Seven Springs and the Churn
  2. ^ Dot & Ian Hart (2001–5). The River Thames — Its geology, geography and vital statistics from source to sea. Retrieved November 1, 2005.
  3. ^ Peter Ackroyd London:The Biography Vintage 2001
  4. ^ "History of the major rivers of southern Britain during the Tertiary". Quaternary Palaeoenvironments Group. 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  5. ^ a b "History of the northwest European rivers during the past three million years". Quaternary Palaeoenvironments Group. 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  6. ^ Rare seahorses breeding in Thames BBC News, 7 April 2008
  7. ^ "Lost whale dies after rescue bid". BBC. 2006-01-21. Retrieved 22 October 2007. 
  8. ^ Needham, P. (1985), "Neolithic And Bronze Age Settlement On The Buried Floodplains Of Runnymede", Oxford Journal of Archaeology 4 
  9. ^ Lamdin-Whymark, H. (2001), "Neolithic activity on the floodplain of the river Thames at Dorney", Lithics 22 
  10. ^ Gaius Julius Caesar De Bello Gallico
  11. ^ Stephen Oppenheimer The Origins of the British
  12. ^ "Frost Fairs, London, UK". BBC. Retrieved March 21, 2007. 
  13. ^ "London, River Thames and Tower Bridge". VR London. Retrieved March 21, 2007. 
  14. ^ Environment Agency (2005). Jubilee River.
  15. ^ a b Mallory, J.P. and D.Q. Adams. The Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. London: Fitzroy and Dearborn, 1997: 147.
  16. ^ a b Coates, Richard (1998). "A new explanation of the name of London". Transactions of the Philological Society 96 (2): 203–229. doi:10.1111/1467-968X.00027+. 
  17. ^ Jackson, Kenneth H (1955). The Pictish Language.  in F. T. Wainright (ed.), ed. The Problem of the Picts. Nelson. pp. 129–166. 
  18. ^ Kitson, Peter R (1996). "British and European River Names'". Transactions of the Philological Society 94: 73–118. doi:10.1111/j.1467-968X.1996.tb01178.x. 
  19. ^ Henig M. & Booth P. 2000, Roman Oxfordshire, pgs.118-9
  20. ^ Culteral Heritage Resources (2005). Legendary Origins and the Origin of London's place name. Retrieved November 1, 2005.
  21. ^ Salters Steamers website
  22. ^ French Brothers website
  23. ^ Floating Down the River website
  24. ^ "Thames lifeboat service launched", BBC News, 2 January 2002,, retrieved 2010-01-04 
  25. ^ Port of London Authority. "Terminal locations". Retrieved 2008-05-12. 
  26. ^ Port of London Notice to Mariners No. 14 of 2006, River Thames Speed Limits
  27. ^ Victoria County History of Oxfordshire: Rivers and river navigation
  28. ^

Further reading

  • Sinclair, Mick (2007). The Thames: A Cultural History. Oxford: Signal Books. 
  • Dix, Frank L. (1985). Royal River Highway. David & Charles plc. ISBN 0715380052. 
  • Thacker, F.S. (1968). Thames Highway: Locks and Weirs. David & Charles plc. ISBN 0715342339. 
  • Ackroyd, Peter (2007). Thames: Sacred River. Chatto and Windus. ISBN 0701172843. OCLC 137313198. 
  • Cove-Smith, Chris (2006). The River Thames Book. Imray, Laurie, Norie & Wilson Ltd.. ISBN 0852888929. 
  • Multiple authors (1985). The Royal River: The Thames from Source to Sea. Bloomsbury Books, London. ISBN 0906223776 (Originally published 1885)

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Thames [1] is an old gold mining town on the west coast of the Coromandel Peninsula on the North Island of New Zealand. Thames has a rich history and is the great place to start any visit to the Coromandel Pensinsula.


Thames is a coastal settlement, close to the mouths of the Kauaeranga and Waihou Rivers. Behind the town, the ancient volcanic Coromandel Ranges rise steeply to provide a picturesque green backdrop.

The northern end of Thames, known still as Grahamstown, offers cafés and boutique shops in a charming, colonial setting. Be sure to visit the museum, which covers early Maori times, the arrival of the first pioneers and the development of mining, logging, railways and shipping. You can also visit the School of Mines, which is open from Wednesday to Saturday.

Often called the gateway to the Coromandel Peninsula, Thames makes a great base for travellers. The magnificent Kauaeranga Valley hiking and camping area is just to the south, and the road to the north follows the coast past scores of sandy beaches.

Most of the town occupies a narrow coastal strip of flat land at the western base of the Coromandel Range. On the south the country opens to the wide expanse of the Hauraki Plain. The main farming activities of the district are sheep and cattle raising, dairying, market gardening and fruitgrowing.

The Thames district was settled by the Ngāti Maru tribe [2]. On 16 November 1769 Captain James Cook in his ship Endeavour cast anchor off Tararu Point, about 3km north-west of the present town, and made a short excursion on the Waihou River by ship's boat. In 1870 the Caledonian mine in just over a year produced 140,000 ounces (3,969 kilograms) of bullion (silver and gold). At the peak of the rush in 1868, 18,000 people were living in Thames.

  • Thames Information Centre, 206 Pollen Street, 07 8687284, fax: 07 8687584, [3]. They offer free, friendly, unbiased information to visitors and locals alike. They can assist with general enquiries, accommodation, transport, attractions and activities. The staff are experts in the local area but also very knowledgeable about the whole Coromandel Peninsula and other NZ regions.

Get in

There are two main ways to get to Thames from Auckland, the fastest way is via State Highways 1, 2 and 25. A more scenic route is via the Seabird Coast (Kawakawa Bay, Kaiaua and Miranda). If you take the scenic route, the Miranda Hot Pools are worth a visit.

  • InterCity Coachlines [4] operate daily bus services to Thames from around the North Island.
  • Thames Airfield, the Hauraki Aero Club operates an airfield for small private aircraft.

Get around

There are a variety of ways to get around including bus, taxi and hiring your own car or bike.


Built on the pioneering industries of gold mining and kauri logging, Thames is the largest town in the region. Its fascinating history can be uncovered by visiting two excellent museums and taking a tour through an old gold mine. Experience outdoor activities such as horse riding, mountain biking, abseiling, hunting, fishing, kayaking, swimming, camping, walking and tramping.

  • Gold Mine Tours, Cnr of Moanataiari Road and State Highway 25. You can go deep underground into the 100 year old Golden Crown Mine and also see the old stamper battery actually working. Check out the photo history room and try your hand at panning for gold.
  • Thames School of Mines, Cnr of Brown and Cochrane Streets. The school opened in 1886 offering practical instruction to goldminers working the quartz fields and closed 1954. Today as one of the most significant museums of its type in Australasia, it is administered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. If antique buildings is your thing don’t miss the old laroratory classroom, untouched since the last student went off home.
  • Thames Historical Museum, Cnr Cochrane & Pollen Streets. Displays of early European settlement, the days of the famous gold rush and more recent 20th century development. The remarkable history and production of the Thames foundries is also covered; timber jacks, logging locos and even cast iron houses! The museum is in a garden setting.
  • Thames Small Gauge Railway, Brown St. The facilities include a heritage style station, steaming bays, sidings and turntable hydraulically operated to rise and fall, tunnel and three bridges. Trains run every Sunday 11AM - 3PM circumstances permitting and visitors are welcome.
  • Tropical Butterfly and Orchid Garden[5], Victoria St, Tararu (3km north of Thames). Many different species from all over the world and up to 400 butterflies at any one time. More than 100 different plant species and 250 to 300 exotic orchids.
  • Shortland Wharf, Queen Street. Once a port for small cargo vessels and the kauri timber industry, the historic wharf is a good place to see the intertidal mudflats and mangrove ecosystem. It is also an important base for commercial fishing in the Firth of Thames and elsewhere in the Hauraki Gulf. The fish wholesaler sells fresh seafood, bait and frozen fish products.
  • War Memorial Monument and Lookout, Waiotahi Creek Road. Overlooking the township from a great viewpoint, take Waiotahi Creek Rd to the top at the north end of Thames.
  • Historic Grahamstown, take a self guided tour of historic buildings and sites in the old-time suburb of Grahamstown.
  • Thames Society of Arts Gallery, Thames Cultural Centre, Old North School, Tararu Road (3km north of Thames). Housed in the historic building that once was the North School, the Thames Society of Arts Gallery is definitely worth a visit. Just three minutes from town along the Thames Coast Road, the gallery displays a unique selection of high quality original works by local artists.
  • Karaka Bird Hide, Brown Street, north of PAK'nSAVE and the Goldfields Shopping Mall. Sit and watch seabirds in the Firth of Thames.
  • William Hall Reserve, Brunton Crescent, Parawai. The oldest arboretum in New Zealand with a large range of native and introduced plant and tree species.
  • The Kauaeranga Valley [6], 13km to the east in behind the town. This Forest Park has many campgrounds nestled beside the Kauaeranga River, which flows down from the Coromandel Ranges through the valley. The valley has a choice of walks, swimming spots and historic relics from kauri logging days.
  • Thames Golf Club, Cnr of State Highway 26 (Kopu Paeroa Rd) and Kopu Hikuai Rd, Kirikiri (6km south of Thames). The course is an 18 hole undulating course situated a short drive south of Thames.
  • Thames Gold Rush Market Day, Pollen St.
  • Thames Race Day, Thames Racecourse, Parawai Rd.
  • Thames Heritage Day, various historic venues.
  • Thames Main Street, the shopping is excellent in the mile long Pollen Street.
  • Goldfields Shopping Mall, 100 Mary Street. Over 30 specialist stores and a foodcourt.
  • PAK’nSAVE, 100 Mary St. A great supermarket with some of New Zealand’s lowest food prices.
  • Thames Markets, northern end of Pollen St. There's something for everyone at the Thames Market, 9AM - 12 noon each Saturday morning.


The Firth of Thames provides an important fishery of local significance with flounder and snapper the main species caught as well as incidental catches of other species such as sandshark.

  • Flounder or flatfish are in demand on account of their excellent flavour and delicate texture. They frequent the shallow tidal waters in the Thames area.
  • Snapper from the sea bream family is one of the most popular food fishes in the Firth of Thames. Try out some of the best smoked fish in the world!
  • Green-lipped mussels from this area are some of the best in New Zealand and are farmed commercially in the Firth of Thames. Extracts from mussels are also marketed as health products.
  • Totara Vineyards, 219 Ngati Maru Highway (4km south of Thames). Established more than half a century ago the vineyard is primarily devoted to the production of fortified wines and liqueurs (Totara Café and Totara Kiwifruit Liqueur), but also produce a range of table wines that includes Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and a fruity, off-dry blend of Müller-Thurgau and Muscat.

Historic Pubs

At its height, Thames was credited with having had 112 hotels, one more than Auckland. By the 1970s this number had been reduced to seven. The hotels of the goldfields served a variety of purposes in addition to the provision of accommodation, a liquor outlet and entertainment. They provided the venues for formal public meetings held to discuss roading, bridging and wharf facilities and were the places where certain mining companies held their meetings. Accident victims were often taken to a nearby hotel for treatment.

  • Brian Boru Hotel, Corner Pollen & Richmond Streets. Established during the Thames gold rush of 1867.
  • Junction Hotel, 700 Pollen St. Historic building with central location.
  • Imperial Hotel, Cnr Pollen and Sealey Sts.
  • Salutation Hotel, 400 Mary Street.

Get out

Continue north along State Highway 25. This tree-lined road hugs the coastline offering memorable views across the Firth of Thames and the Hauraki Gulf. Take a short detour inland at Tapu to visit the beautiful Rapaura Watergardens and the Square Kauri [8] and again just before Coromandel Town for a delightful stop at Waiau Waterworks.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

="">See Thames (disambiguation) for articles sharing the title Thames.

THAMES, the chief river of England, rising in several small streams among the Cotteswold Hills in Gloucestershire. Its source is generally held to be at a place known as Thames Head, in the parish of Coates, 3 m. W. by S. of Cirencester; but claims have also been advanced on behalf of the Seven Springs, the head waters of the river Churn, 5 m. S. of Cheltenham. The length of the river from Thames Head Bridge to London Bridge is 1614 m. and from London Bridge to the Nore, 474 m., a total of 209 m. The width at Oxford is about 150 ft., at Teddington 250 ft., at London Bridge 750 ft., at Gravesend 2100 ft., and between Sheerness and Shoeburyness, immediately above the Nore, 52 m. The height of Thames Head above sea-level is 35 6 ft., but that of Seven Springs, the adoption of which as the source would extend the length of the river by several miles, is 700 ft. The height of the river at Lechlade is 237 ft., the average fall between Lechlade and London, 1434 m., being rather less than 20 in. per mile. The drainage area of the Thames is 5924 sq. m., including that of the Medway, which, as it joins the estuary immediately above Sheerness, may be considered a tributary of the Thames. The Thames forms part of the Gloucestershire-Wiltshire boundary to a point below Lechlade; thence for a short distance it separates Gloucestershire from Berkshire; after which it separates successively Oxfordshire and Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire, Middlesex and Surrey, and finally, at its estuary, Essex and Kent. In the succeeding paragraph the bracketed figures indicate the distance in miles above London Bridge.

The upper course lies through a broad valley, between the foot-hills of the Cotteswolds on the north, and the slight elevations dividing it from the Vale of White Horse on the south. The scenery is rural and pleasant; the course of the river winding. Before reaching Oxford the stream swings north, east and south to encircle the wooded hills of Wytham and Cumnor, which overlook the city from the west. The Windrush I joins from the north (left). at New Bridge (1264), the Evenlode near Eynsham (119), and the Cherwell at Oxford (112). Between Lechlade and Oxford the main channel sends off many narrow branches; the waters of the Windrush are similarly distributed, and the branches in the neighbourhood of Oxford form the picturesque "backwaters" which only light pleasure boats can penetrate. The river then follows a valley confined between the hills on either side of Oxford, passes the pleasant woods of Nuneham, and at Abingdon (1032) receives the Ock from the Vale of White Horse. At Dorchester (951) the Thame enters on the left, and the river then passes Wallingford (904) and Goring (85). Hitherto from Oxford its course, though greatly winding, has lain generally in a southerly direction, but it now bends eastward, and breaches the chalk hills in a narrow gap, dividing the Chilterns from the downs of Berkshire or White Horse Hills. From this point as far as Taplow the southern slopes of the Chilterns descend more or less closely upon the river; they are finely wooded, and the scenery is peculiarly beautiful, especially in early summer. The charm of the Thames is indeed maintained throughout its course; the view of the rich valley from Richmond Hill, of the outskirts of London, is celebrated; the river is practically the only physical attribute to the beauty of the metropolis itself, and the estuary, with its burden of shipping and its industrial activity, is no less admirable. At Pangbourne (804) the Thames receives the Pang on the right, and at Reading (742) the Kennet on the same side. After passing Reading it bends northward to Henley (65), eastward past Great Marlow (57) to Bourne End (54), and southward to Taplow and Maidenhead (494), receiving the Loddon on the right near Shiplake above Henley. Winding in a south-easterly direction, it passes Eton and Windsor (434),(434), Datchet (412), Staines (36), Chertsey (32), Shepperton (30) and Sunbury (262), receiving the Coln from the left at Staines, and the Wey from the right near Shepperton. Flowing past Hampton Court, opposite to which it receives the Mole on the right, and past Kingston (202),(202), it reaches Teddington (184). Passing Richmond (16) and Kew the river flows through London and its suburbs for a distance of about 25 m., till it has passed Woolwich. Gravesend, the principal town below Woolwich, is 262 m. from London Bridge. The estuary may be taken to extend to the North Foreland of Kent. In the tideway the principal affluents of the Thames are the Brent at Brentford, the Wandle at Wandsworth, the Ravensbourne at Deptford, the Lea at Blackwall, the Darent just below Erith, and the Ingrebourne at Rainham, besides the Medway.

The basin of the Thames is of curiously composite character. Thus, the upper portion of the system, above the gap at Goring, is a basin in itself, defined on the west and south by the Cotteswold and White Horse Hills and on the east and north by the Chilterns and the uplands of Northamptonshire. But there are several points at which its division from other river basins is only marked by a very low parting. Thus a well-marked depression in the Cotteswolds brings the head of the (Gloucestershire) Coln, one of the head-streams of the Thames, very close to that of the Isborne, a tributary of the upper Avon; the parting between the headstreams of the Thames and the Bristol Avon sinks at one point, near Malmesbury, below 300 ft.; and head-streams of the Great Ouse rise little more than two miles from, and only some 300 ft. above, the middle valley of the Cherwell. The White Horse Hills and the Chilterns strike right across the Thames basin, but almost their entire drainage from either flank lies within it, and similarly a great part of the low-lying Weald, though marked off from the rest of the basin by the North Downs, drains into it through these hills. It may be noted further that the Kennet continues upward the line of the main valley below the Goring gap, and the Cherwell that of the main valley above it. The basin thus presents interesting problems. The existence of wide valleys where the small upper waters of the Cherwell, Evenlode and Coln now flow, the occurrence of waterborne deposits in their beds from the northwest of England and from Wales, and the fact that the Thames, like its lower southern tributaries which pierce the North Downs, has been able to maintain a deep valley through the chalk elevation at Goring, are considered to point to the former existence of a much larger river, in the system of which were included the upper waters of the present Severn, Dee and other rivers of the west. The question, in fact, involves that of the development of a large part of the hydrography of England.

The Thames about Oxford is often called the Isis. Camden gave currency to the derivation of the word from the combination of the names Thame and Isis. But it can be shown conclusively that the river has borne its present designation from the earliest times. Caesar (De Bell. Gall. v. It) says that at the time of his invasion of Britain it was called Tamesis. Dion Cassius (xl. 3) and Tacitus (Ann. xiv. 3 2) both call it Tamesa, and in no early authority is the name Isis used. In early Saxon times the river was called Thamis, as may be seen in a grant before A.D. 675 to Chertsey Abbey by the sub-king Frithwald. In the first statute passed for improving the navigation of the river near Oxford (21 Jac. I.) it is called the river of Thames, and it was only in a statute of George II. (1751) that the word Isis appears. The name Isis has indeed the authority of Spenser as applied to the Thames in its course above Dorchester (Faerie Queen, Bk. iv. canto xi. stanza 24), but there is ample evidence to show that long before his time the name of the river throughout its course was not Isis but Thames. The word Isis is probably an academic rendering of Ouse or Isca, a common British river name, but there is no reason to suppose that it ever had much vogue except in poetry or in the immediate neighbourhood of Oxford.

The flow of the Thames varies greatly, according to the season of the year. The average gaugings at Teddington for the summer months of the years 1883 to 1900 were in July 413,000,000 gallons a day, in August 395,000,000 gallons, and in September 375,000,000 gallons. The normal natural flow in ordinary summer weather is about 350,000,000 gallons a day, and of this, after the companies have taken 130,000,000, only 220,000,000 gallons are left to pass over Teddington Weir. After a long period of dry weather the natural flow has been known to fall considerably below 200,000,000 gallons, whilst, on the other hand, in the rainy winter season, the flow in 1894 rose for a short time to as high a figure as 20,000,000,000 gallons, and the ordinary flow in winter months may be put down as 3,000,000,000 gallons. The importance of storage reservoirs is manifest under such conditions of flow, especially bearing in mind the growth of population in the London district and of its increasing needs. The water-supply of London is considered under that heading; it may be noted here that the Thames forms the chief source of supply for the metropolis, but apart from this the corporation of Oxford and two companies in the Staines district have powers to draw water from the river, though not in any large quantities.

Throughout the whole of the Thames watershed, and especially in the 3800 sq. m. above the intakes of the water companies (at Hampton or in the vicinity), the Thames Conservancy has enforced the requirements of parliament that no sewage or other pollution shall be allowed to pass into the Thames, into its tributary streams, or even into any water communicating with them. There is a large staff of inspectors constantly visiting the various parts of the watershed, and in spite of many difficulties arising from vested interests, the work of purification is attaining completion, with a correspondingly great improvement in the quality of the river water. So recently as 1890 the state of the river below London was such as to be dangerous to the public health. The metropolitan sewage was discharged untreated into the river, and the heavier solids deposited over the river-bed, while the lighter parts flowed backwards and forwards on the tide. The London County Council, directly after its establishment, took means to remedy this evil (see London).

The Thames is navigable for rowing-boats as far upwards as Cricklade, except in dry seasons, and for barges at all times as far as Lechlade, 18 m. below Thames Head. At Inglesham, threequarters of a mile above Lechlade, the Thames and Severn canal has its junction with the Thames. This canal is the link between the two great rivers from which it takes its name, or, in other words, between the east and west of England. It surmounts the watershed by means of Sapperton tunnel, 2 m. long, opened in 1789, and joins the Stroudwater canal, which completes the connexion, at Wallbridge near Stroud. It was long abandoned, but owing to the exertions of a joint committee of the counties and other interests concerned in 1895, powers were obtained from parliament for its restoration, and the works needful for its reopening were carried out. Concurrently with the repair of the canal, the navigation works on the Thames were remodelled at a large cost, and barges drawing 3 ft. 6 in. can now, even in the summer season, navigate from London to Inglesham. Although the Thames, as one of the "great rivers of England," was always a navigable river, that is to say, one over which the public had the right of navigation, it was not until the last quarter of the 18th century that any systematic regulation of its flow in the upper reaches was attempted. Complaints of the obstructions in it are not uncommon, and John Taylor, the Water Poet (1580-1653), in a poem commemorating a voyage from Oxford to London, bewails the difficulties he found on the passage. No substantial measures to remedy this state of things were adopted till 1771, when an act of parliament was passed authorizing the construction of pound locks on the Thames above Maindenhead Bridge. In pursuance of the powers thus granted, the Thames Commissioners of that day caused locks to be built at various points above Maidenhead, and between 1810 and 1815 the Corporation of London carried out river works on the same lines as far down the river as Teddington. The works as subsequently maintained by the Thames Conservancy ensure an efficient head of water during the drier seasons of the year, and facilitate the escape of winter floods. The number of locks is 47, including four navigation weirs above Oxford. The uppermost lock is St John's, below Lechlade; the lowest is Richmond, but this is a half-tide lock, keeping the water above at a level corresponding to half that of flood tide. Under ordinary conditions the sluices are raised to admit boats to pass from the half flood to half ebb, so that the river remains tidal up to Teddington, the next lock.

The canals in use communicating with the Thames, in addition to the Thames and Severn canal, are the Oxford canal, giving communication from that city with the north, the Kennet and Avon canal from Reading to the Bristol Avon, the Grand Junction at Brentford, the Regent's canal at Limehouse, and the Grand Surrey canal at Rotherhithe. A short canal connects Gravesend with Higham. Navigation is also carried on by the Medway to Tonbridge, on the lower parts of the Darent and Cray, from Dartford and Crayford, and on the Wey up to Guildford and Godalming. The Woking, Aldershot and Basingstoke canal joins the Wey, but is little used. The Wilts and Berks canal, joining the Thames at Abingdon, is disused. By means of the Grand Junction and Oxford canals especially, constant communication is maintained between the Thames and the great industrial centres of England. The trade on the upper Thames is steady, though not extensive. The vast trade on the estuary, which lies within the bounds of the port of London, is considered under London.

The utility of the river is great in the opportunities for exercise and recreation which it affords to the public, especially to Londoners. The scene on any part of the river from Oxford down on public holidays, and on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer, would be sufficient to show how it contributes to the public enjoyment. It is only since about 1870 that this popularity has grown up. Ten years earlier even rowing-boats were few excepting at Oxford, at Henley in regatta time, and at Putney on the tideway. Steam launches did not exist on the river before 1866 or 1867, and houseboats only in the form of college barges at Oxford. But by 1900 there were 541 launches, 162 house-boats, and 11,284 rowing-boats. Each boat is registered, a small tax being charged; while there are fixed prices for the passage of locks. During the season regattas take place at many of the towns and larger villages. Of these Henley Royal Regatta is pre-eminent by the number and importance of the entries, and by its comparative antiquity. The regattas at Molesey, Kingston, Reading, Marlow and Oxford, as well as many others, attract numerous competitors and spectators. The Oxford and Cambridge boat-race from Putney to Mortlake on the tideway, the summer eights and the "torpids" at Oxford University, and the school races at Eton and Radley should also be mentioned.

A statute of 1393 was granted to the citizens of London to remove weirs on the Thames, and empowered the Lord Mayor to enforce its provisions. For the next four centuries he acted through water-bailiffs, till in 1771 a committee of the Corporation of London took over the work. In 1857 the Thames Conservancy Board was established. Its powers were increased and its constitution varied in 1864, 1866 (till which year the jurisdiction of the river above Staines was under a large body of commissioners), and 1894, but the creation of the Port of London Authority (see London) limited its jurisdiction.

Fish are abundant, especially coarse fish such as pike, perch, roach, dace and barbel. Of trout there are many fine specimens, especially at the weirs. Salmon are known to have existed at Maidenhead so recently as 1812, but they disappeared soon after that date. An association was formed under the presidency of Mr W. H. Grenfell, M.P., with the object of reintroducing this fish into the river, and in April 1901 and on subsequent occasions a number of young salmon were placed at Teddington by way of experiment. The right of the public to take fish has been frequently in dispute, but a committee of the House of Commons, which took much evidence on the question in the year 1884, came to the conclusion that "it is impossible to recognize anything like a general public right to take fish as now existing." They added "that the public at large have only to know that their rights are imaginary to induce them also to be content with the extant system under which permission is very freely granted by owners of fisheries to the public for angling on the more frequented parts of the Thames." These conclusions are interesting in face of the fact that the question has arisen from time to time since 1884.

The fisheries are under the regulation of by-laws made by the Thames Conservancy, which apply to the riparian owners as well as to the public generally. These by-laws are carried into effect by officers of the conservators, assisted by the river-keepers of the various fishing associations. The principal associations are those at Oxford, Reading, Henley, Maidenhead and Windsor, and the Thames Angling Preservation Society, whose district is from Staines to Brentford.

<< Thalweg

Thames, New Zealand >>


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Proper noun




  1. River in South England flowing 336 km (209 mi.) through London to the North Sea.
  2. River in Ontario province, Canada, flowing 258 km (160 mi.) to Lake St. Clair.
  3. Estuary in the U.S. State of Connecticut flowing 24 km (15 mi.) past New London to Long Island Sound.




Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address