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The old Thames Waterfront

Historical Profiles: NarrowBoat, Summer 2019

Christopher M. Jones

Chris M. Jones investigates images of the old Thames riverside when the Pool of London was a thriving port

Today the Thames waterfront in the City of London conjures up images of towering former warehouses converted to luxury flats, the glittering Canary Wharf development and the Thames Embankment. In the early to mid-19th century it looked very different, with miles of shabby, low-rise buildings teetering on the river’s edge, gradually giving way to new warehouses of ever-increasing size, due to the vast amount of imports funded by Britain’s expanding trade with its empire and the rest of the world. This old riverside environment proved attractive to people like Charles Dickens who visited many pubs and dwellings along the waterfront, which provided great source material for his books. Before the Thames Embankment was built in the middle of the 19th century, the river was much wider than today. Long floating piers made up of gangplanks stretched out a considerable distance over the shallow, muddy foreshore into the main river channel for passengers to access the growing number…

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