Pride of the Thames

Unearthing History: NarrowBoat, Winter 2018

Christopher M Jones

Chris M. Jones reveals the story behind two well-known and often reproduced 1870s engravings of a narrowboat on the Upper Thames

Among the earliest and most attractive images of a narrowboat and its steerer are the two engravings shown here, depicting a horse-drawn boat on the upper Thames. The earliest appeared in the Art Journal in 1873 titled ‘The Pride of the Thames’, while the other, viewed from the right (starboard) side of the boat, was published as a frontispiece in the book, Life on the Upper Thames, by H.R. Robertson in 1875. Both were drawn by the author and were engraved by W.J. Palmer. The image is typical of how Victorians perceived and idealised the landscape, and the ordinary working folk that inhabited it. Nevertheless, they make up part of a small number of waterway scenes from the 19th century that seem to accurately record the lines and decorative features of canal boats without resorting to an excessive amount of artistic licence. This is not to say that Pride of the Thames has escaped alteration though. It is particularly noticeable in the way the boat’s name, painted on…

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Pride of the Thames  featured image