For the sake of variety, we shall proceed to describe the journey by water, which, on a fine day, is not only the most agreeable, but, as furnishing air excellent opportunity of seeing the scenery of the Thames, is perhaps most desirable to strangers.
London Bridge.–The present bridge was erected from the designs of Rennie, nearly on the site of the old bridge demolished in 1825, and opened by William IV. on the 1st of August, 1831. The length is 950 ft. and the width between the parapets 84 ft., there are five arches, the centre of which has a span of 150 ft., rising 23 ft. above high water.
Leaving London Bridge, a perfect forest of masts, belonging to ships of all sizes and all nations, looms out in the Pool.
Billingsgate.–Situated chiefly at the back of that cluster of buildings by the Custom House, has been since the days of William III. the most famous fish-market in Europe.
The Custom House.–Begun in 1813 from designs by Smirke, and finished four years afterwards, at a cost of nearly half-a-million, by Mr. Peto (uncle of the present Sir S. M. Peto, Bart.), contains about 200 distinct apartments, each having a range of communication with the long room, which is 197 ft. long and 50 feet high. From ten till three a visitor will obtain free ingress, and the principal business of “clearing” being here conducted, 100 clerks are constantly engaged in this apartment alone. The river frontage of the Custom House maybe reckoned second to that of Somerset House.
The Tower.–Supposed to have been built by Julius Caesar, and afterwards re-constructed by William the Conqueror. The last state prisoners confined here were Thistlewood and his associates, imprisoned for the Cato-street conspiracy in 1820. There is free access to the public from ten till four, one shilling being charged to view the Regalia, &c. The entrance is through four successive gates at the southern extremity of an open space of ground called Tower Hill. These are opened at daylight every morning, with all the forms and ceremonies of a garrisoned fortress. The appearance of the warders and yeomen in their beefeater costume, with their large sleeves and flowing skirts ornamented with gold lace, the official badge, and their flat round caps tied about with bands of party-coloured ribands, give a characteristic interest to the place immediately we enter. Within the outer wall the buildings occupy an area of 12 acres. The building on the site of the old armoury, burned down in 1841, is restored and now used as barracks
St. Katharine’s Docks.–On the same side of the river at a short distance from the Tower are seen the warehouses belonging to St. Katharine’s Docks, in the vast interior of which there is convenience for the storeage of 110,000 tons of goods. The Docks consist of the East and West, a basin and a connecting lock canal, which communicates with the river, and are so capacious that vessels of 700 tons burthen may enter at any time of the tide. The Docks, which cover a space of 25 acres, ten of which are occupied by the water, were opened in October, 1828, and cost in their construction, £1,700,000. They are accessible to an annual average of something like 1,500 vessels. In clearing the ground to obtain the requisite space, 1,250 houses were bought and pulled down, including the ancient Hospital of St. Katharine, to which it owes its appellation. The capital thus invested was £1,350,000. The principal entrance is through a gateway at the north-west angle of the warehouses. These docks are now amalgamated with the
London Docks.–The entrance is through a basin opposite Wapping Old Stairs. The docks, which are capable of containing 200 vessels, were opened in 1805, the principal enclosure comprising an area of 20 acres. Enormous warehouses and vaults surround these. Some idea of their magnitude may be formed from the fact that the tobacco warehouse alone overs a space of five acres, and that one of the vaults for retaining wine in bond has an area of seven acres. Upwards of 60,000 pipes of wine are usually kept here.
The Tunnel.–Affording a subaqueous communication from Wapping to Rotherhithe, was commenced in 1825, and opened in 1843 by the projector and engineer, Sir I. K. Brunel. It is about 1,300 ft. in length and 25 ft. in height, with a double archway. The public utility of this extraordinary work will shortly be greatly increased, the East London Railway having secured it as a passage for their trains.
Limehouse.–Here begins the Regent’s Canal, which after several windings and tunnels through the northern parts of London joins the Paddington Canal, and forms an important part of our inland navigation. The pier affords an easy communication with Poplar. What is called the Pool, where all the coal vessels lie, terminates at Limehouse reach. The Commercial Docks are on the opposite side of the river, after passing which is seen
Deptford.–Where the dockyard and its bustling animation gives a lively appearance to the shore, reminds one of Peter the,Great, who, in 1698, came to Sayes Court and studied the craft of shipbuilding at the once picturesque retreat of Evelyn, the autobiographist and author of “Sylvia.” But, alas for the glories of Sayes Court – its glittering hollies, long avenues, and trim hedges. That portion of the victualing yard where oxen are slaughtered and hogs salted for the use of the navy occupies the enchanting grounds wherein Evelyn was wont to delight, and on the site of the mansion itself is the common workhouse of the parish. Approaching Greenwich Reach, where large quantities of whitebait are caught in the season, the opening of the river discloses a pretty view of a distant country beyond, and, with a few more revolutions of the paddle-wheel, we pass the
West India Docks.–Nearly opposite. Greenwich, in the Isle of Dogs, thus named from having once been the repository for the royal hounds, will be seen the West India Docks, began in 1800, and finished in 1802. They communicate with the Thames at Limehouse, and terminate at Blackwall, covering an area of 204 acres, and capable of receiving about 600 vessels of from 200 to 300 tons burthen. The expense of their formation was £1,380,000.
Greenwich.–For particulars see Greenwich
Blackwall.–For particulars see Blackwall
Woolwich.–For particulars see Woolwich
Erith.–For particulars see Erith
Purfleet.–(On the Essex coast, 16 miles from London, nine miles south-east from Romford, and four miles west of Grays), has a romantic aspect from its high chalky cliffs and chasms. The government powder magazine is kept here, having been in 1762 removed hence from Greenwich. There are generally about 3,000,000 pounds of gunpowder preserved in the building. A pier affords convenient access, and the Gravesend steamers regularly call on their passages going and returning.
Greenhithe.–For particulars see Greenhithe
Gravesend.–For particulars see Gravesend
Rochester.–For particulars see Rochester
Sheerness.–(Two miles from Queenborough), a busy shipping town on the north-western point of the Isle of Sheppy. A steamboat on the Medway plies frequently between Sheerness and Chatham. The junction of the Thames and Medway with the Channel is called the Nore; the Nore boat carries a beacon at night to guard mariners from a treacherous shoal which exists in this vicinity.
It was planned and fortified by Charles II. to guard the Thames and Medway, but was reduced by the Dutch Admiral De Ruyter within twelve months after. The dockyard is on a very extensive scale, covering about 60 acres, and has cost, since 1815, three millions in improvements. In consequence of the nature of the ground, nearly 100,000 piles had to be driven before a sufficiently stable foundation could be obtained The dockyard contains residences for the commander-in-chief, the lieutenant-governor, and the usual staff of super-intendents, masters, master shipwrights, &c. The ordnance department has also an office here, and the batteries mount 100 guns. The vessels of the royal navy are here laid up in ordinary, and there arc sometimes as many as seventy of those “floating castles” moored at Blackstakes, a little above Sheerness. In 1793, the fleet stationed at the Nore mutinied, a circumstance happily unprecedented in the annals of our gallant navy.
Herne Bay.–(15 miles from Margate, four from Reculvers and Whitstable, and nine from Canterbury) is much frequented as a bathing place in the season, and accessible by steamers, daily, in the season, and by railway via Faversham and Whitstable, The pier, opened in 1833, is 3,640 feet long. Libraries, Hotels, an Assembly Room, and other adjuncts to the town have been erected on a large scale.
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