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Laying at Lambeth

Picturing the Past: NarrowBoat, Summer 2020

Christopher M. Jones

Chris M. Jones studies a rare magic lantern image of narrowboats on the River Thames in central London

Working narrowboats on the tidal River Thames in London could be seen throughout the 19th century. But images of such activity are rare and only a few impressions by artists have survived (see NB Autumn and Winter 2015), together with several photographs. This magic lantern slide, probably taken in the 1880s, is one of the few known photographs depicting narrowboats and it reveals details of the heavy haulage traffic and the canal-carriers of the Victorian era. This famous view of the Houses of Parliament is one of the most well known in Britain and has been repeated countless times, from the invention of photography to the mass production of picture postcards for tourists. It shows the Palace of Westminster, which was finally completed around 1870, from the Albert Embankment at Lambeth. The two moored narrowboats in the foreground were owned by William Clayton of Saltley, near Birmingham, the very same family whose name was later connected with Fellows, Morton & Clayton Ltd. Thi…

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