Rivers of the South – The Thames

Rochester Castle and Cathedral from the River Medway

These pages about the Thames past and present come from are from Rivers of the South by AB Austin with photographs by J Dixon Scott, published in 1938.

It starts off rather dreamy, historical and angry about the changes the author sees in the landscape of the Thames, but changes in style as it proceeds.

There’s an outstandingly bonkers and dated passage that reads:

‘Until recently the paradox of the richest river in England, and possibly in the world, has been its shunning of those things which bring quick wealth. It has been a trading river, an argosy-bearing river, the river of the merchant-adventurer, not of mass-production, lighting-profit manufacturer. Now its lower valley shelters our light luxury plants, the monotonous assemblers of motor cars, wireless sets and every kind of glossy, brittle synthetic substance, even bakelite insulating boxes to make fool-proof the intestines of cinema organs.’

No quick wealth? What about spice traders, the slave trade and the City of London? The man was a dreamer but he could write a resounding paragraph…

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2 thoughts on “Rivers of the South – The Thames”

  1. That scene at Odney pool Cookham 2nd plate top picture is very familiar – i remember going on a holiday in a rowing skiff just like that with a hooped tent – guess I was about 4 or 5 so very early 1960’s we paddled from Gouldings Hire boats in Windsor and made it up to Marlow but the stretch of river above Boulter’s lock, Cliveden and up to Cookham and Formosa were my absolute favourite

    1. Lucky you – we never went for more than a day out, though that was always a great day out. Took my kids last year, and I have to say they didn’t see it in quite the same light, but in fairness they were ten years older than I was when I first discovered the river. And to be honest, some of the boats you can hire these days seem to be tubs compared with the boats I remember…

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