DSC01121 800x425 - London's world of waterways

London’s world of waterways

Just a short post! I’m not able to type well at the moment due to possibly strain injury – instead of the usual lengthy tomes (yes there’s more waiting to be finished and published…) it was decided a thumb-through of the very first decade of the magazine Waterways World would be in order and find some nice front page covers featuring canals or rivers relevant to London. Here are some examples I found…

The first image however (at the top of the page) is the usual feature pic and its one I took of the barge Colne (the other being Frays.) Its one of the Land and Water vessels on the gravel run to West Drayton, taken at Cowley Lock in April 2004. This gravel run was featured in a number of Waterways Worlds at the time and the traffic ran for several years using the largest barges (with retractable wheelhouses) that could possibly fit the Grand Union Canal.

Now let’s have a look at a few of those waterway magazines…..

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October 1972

On the cover of the second ever Waterways World to be published is Jason from London’s Little Venice. This is not the Jason we see now, which is the second such boat built. This one shown is the original vessel run by John James. Naturally the idea of a trip boat along the canals of London was novel and Jason was introduced to London specially for the Festival of Britain 1951. Instead of staying just for one season ‘Jason’ is now an established part of the London waterways scene.

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July 1979

I thought the cover picture on this 1979 issue to be absolutely ideal considering tomorrow is the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle! The impressive sight of Windsor Castle can be seen from many points along the Thames (and of course there are good views of the river from the castle as it meanders below.)

One does not have to be on the river to see the castle – or even be in Windsor for that matter. The castle’s high up enough to be seen from several vantage points in Central London on a clear day. Anyway the town itself will be absolutely thronged with visitors this weekend eager to see something of the Royal Wedding and celebrate the day’s festivities. No doubt people will notice the strong presence the Thames has in Windsor, including the numerous swans which officially belong to the Queen, and I’m sure the town’s trip boats will have one of their busiest weeks ever.

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August 1980

Another issue showing waterways outside of – as well as in London. These waterways, like the Thames, start a long way out of the city but their waters inevitably flow through the capital. These are the Stort and the Lee. The top image is of a cruiser at Hunsdon near Harlow on the Stort. The bottom image is of the tug Vassal working timber laden barges from Bow to Edmonton and its negotiating the sharp bends near Lea Bridge in East London. This traffic was the last commercial working on this once very busy London river and sadly ended a year or so later.

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April 1981

Another river scene, again the Thames at Tilbury. The port of Tilbury has always been important to London, more so when London’s own docks closed down. This barge, Anny, regularly worked through the centre of London on the Thames and here at Tilbury she is being loaded with grain destined for Coxes’ Mill on the Wey Navigation. This was the last commercial traffic on that river and it ended just one year later.

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April 1982

The busiest man made waterway in London happens to be the Regent’s Canal. Its even more busy these days with many other trip boats operating besides Jason and the waterbuses – plus the new Go Boats which began last year. This is a nice picture of Water Ouzel (identified by the different front styling) heading down the Blomfield Road stretch of the canal to Little Venice. The London Waterbus service at the time was operated by British Waterways with proper captains and proper uniforms!

Here’s a nice video of Little Venice in 1959 featuring the other boat – Water Nymph – with her smart captain!

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