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(A stroll along) the Thames

Thames crawl map - for more detail click on map or press 1 to be taken to









Old King Lud




Black Friar




Founders Arms 








Old Thameside Inn




Barrow Boy & Banker









This is a broad slippery fellow;
rest he affects not,
for he is always in motion:
he seems something like a carrier,
for he is still either coming or going,
and once in six or eight hours salutes the sea his mother,
and then brings tidings from her..."
Donald Lupton, 1632

Let us imagine for a second: A cold, crisp night; a river sparking in the moonlight. As we stroll we espy in the distance the sign of a tavern welcoming weary travellers. Within moments we are sitting and imbibing foaming flagons of ale, presented to us "on the house" by a beaming innkeeper (his exact words are: "Here you are me old muckers"). Imagine no longer, Jim has fixed it for you (for readers under the age of 30...'Jim' was an ageing ex-DJ who...oh, forget it), fantasy has become's the Christmas pub crawl.

There is evidence for life by the Thames since the Palaeolithic period. The Thames was known by the Romans as Tamesis, from the amalgamation of Thame and Isis, (from their Celtic forms, meaning 'the pouring out of the waters').
215 miles long, it crosses much of the centre of England. The Romans built several fords across it and many of their earliest settlements were alongside the river which enabled London to become a great trading centre and port (by the 19th-century the largest port in the world and linked by the central canal network to other parts of Britain).

After this time, the advent of the railways diminished the Thames' importance for transport . The economical and geographical importance of the river led to the fortification of it's banks throughout history although the Dutch fleet still managed to sail up in 1667.
During the Middle Ages, the Thames was a source of livelihood to many: Great monasteries were established and mills built to utilise the river power. Fish were abundant and trout and salmon could be caught readily
("that most excellent river the Thames, which abounds with fish",Fitzstephen 1118-1170).
Since the 19th-century, pollution put paid to most of this (a survey in 1957 showed that, from Richmond to Tilbury there were no fish whatsoever in the Thames). Since then a clean-up has begun and in 1974 a salmon was caught - the first since 1833 - and 82 other species were also recorded). The Environmental Agency , reported, in June, that brown trout have been found near Deptford Creek and the Thames is now generally considered to be one of the cleanest metropolitan rivers in the world.

In the 17th- and 18th-centuries, Frost Fairs were held whenever the Thames froze. There were stalls, performing bears, the Arsenal back four and ox roasting on the ice. The last was held in 1814. Since then the removal of the old London Bridge (which had the effect of a dam) and the building of the embankments deepened and speeded the flow of the water so that it can no longer freeze over.

After the 1953 floods, serious thought was given to building a flood barrier and this was realised with the completion of the Thames barrier, at Woolwich, in 1982.

All this talk of water has made me thirsty, the pubs will be busy so we'd better get moving. Let's start at :

1. The Old King Lud Ludgate Hill (Whitbread Hogshead)
Wood, wood , glorious wood Nothing quite like it for stirring the blood.
A big pub with loads of different real ales (including 6X, Flowers and Old Speckled Hen) and not a few suits. Not that close to the Thames but a good place to start for the long trek southward.

2. The Black Friar New Bridge Street (Nicholsons free house)
Named after the large Dominican priory that once stood just to the North (Dominican friars wear black habits), the pub was built in 1875 but was redecorated, with it's current 'Merrie England' theme by the architect H. Fuller Clark, in 1904-6. The main bar is more sober in tone than the grotto, at the rear, which was excavated from a railway vault in 1913 and designed by the sculptor Henry Poole, RA.
"Here the drinker is bombarded with visual wit and entertainment" comments pub historian Robert Thorne and with phrases such as 'A Good thing is Soon Snatched Up' and 'Industry is All' adorning the walls you can see why the laughter must have been raucous indeed.
It is the only Art Nouveau pub in London. Adnams and Brakspear are usually 'on'.

Through a lovely foot tunnel, now, but the view is worth it before we ascend to Blackfriars bridge.

The original bridge (1760-9) was designed by Robert Mylne, during 1760 to 1769. Officially it was to have been named in honour of prime minister William Pitt (the Elder) but Londoners would have none of it and the name of the location stuck instead. The present bridge, by Joseph Cubitt and H. Carr, was opened by Queen Victoria in 1869.
The Fleet river flows into the Thames from a culvert under the bridge.
Through the foot tunnel, where you can check out images of the building of Blackfriars bridge (and check the yarn I'm spinning), to:

3. The Founders Arms Hopton Street (Youngs)
A location and a half, this one, and soon to be more so. Standing almost opposite St. Pauls and near to the planned Tate gallery extension it is a fine place to sink a pint of Special or Ordinary and admire the crystal clear waters of the Thames and the multitude of cranes in the City.

A bit of a walk to the fourth pub but a pleasant one...the planned Tate gallery extension (ex-Bankside power station) followed by the Globe theatre. A bridge to link St. Pauls and the Globe, designed by Norman Foster and described, by him, as "an elegant, razor-sharp blade, a minimalist intervention" (say, whaaat?!) is currently being constructed. The bridge will have a central span of 785 feet, possibly the longest for any pedestrian bridge in the world. As we pass the Globe and enter the foot tunnel, marvel at the wit and originality of the name 'Riverside House' before we reach

4. The Anchor Bankside (freehouse?)
A multi-levelled, tourist-friendly pub with a distinguished past. There has been a tavern on the site for about 1000 years (the present building dates from 1770) . Was this really where Samuel Johnson rented a room? And was it where Pepys watched the Great Fire of London from? There are quite a few real ales on here..the usual suspects plus a good range of guests.

Now along Clink Street and past the remains of the Clink prison. From 1107-1626 this area was run by successive Bishops of Winchester who were very powerful. The Clink (which gave rise to the term "in the clink") was particularly nasty. Many of the underground cells were subject to flooding from the Thames. Winchester Wharf on the right is full of art studios including Backspace, an internet arts centre.
Southwark has been a flourishing settlement from Roman times and became a religious centre when the Bishop of Winchester set up a college for priests here in 852. The ruins of the once mighty Winchester Palace can be seen before we reach:

With no cold admiration do I gaze Upon thy pomp of waters, matchless stream! T. N. Talfourd (1795-1854)

5. The Old Thameside Inn (Nicholsons)
Next to the Golden Hinde, a replica of the 16th-century warship in which Sir Francis Drake sailed around the world. the pub was opened in 1985 on the premises of an old spice warehouse. Gaze out at the river, sip Adnams or Pedigree or a guest beer (or a cocktail?) and ponder:

The Thames nocturne of blue and gold Changed to a Harmony in gray: A barge with ochre-colored hay Dropt from the wharf: and chill and cold The yellow fog came creeping down The bridges, till the houses' walls Seemed changed to shadows, and St. Paul's Loomed like a bubble o'er the town. Oscar Wilde, Impression du matin

Or, bearing in mind what you have been drinking, perhaps the following lines are more appropriate:

One may not doubt that, somehow, good Shall come of water and mud: And sure the reverent eye must see A purpose in liquidity. Rupert Brooke

Around the corner the area is dominated by Southwark Cathedral. There are a few good pubs (and one pretty awful one) around here but let's go to:

6. The Barrow Boy and Banker (Fullers)
A good pint of London Pride (or ESB, for the real men) to end up with. This place opened about three to four years ago and caters for all the great and the good of this fine city of ours. It's all over and London Bridge station is just across the road. From here some of us will descend to the underworld that is South East London while others will float to the leafy environs of the North. Wherever we go, it is a fair bet that each of us will have a grin like Boris Yeltsin.

As we move into the next millennium (there, I've said the word), people are searching for a meaning to it all.

I'm sure that you, too, are looking for a guide, a leader to help you to cope with years beginning with '20'.
Why not let millennium man (below) lead you into the 21st century with his motto for life:

Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why: Drink! for you know not why you go nor where
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, 1859

Aidan Laverty, November 1999.