2014 - London's dark waters - the River Thames

London´s dark water - the River Thames


Every part of the Thames tells a story of
the city's past. The Tudors skated on it.
The Victorians used it as a toilet. And it
was the setting of a James Bond boat chase
— London's famous river, the Thames.
Kings and queens have travelled on it. On
Sunday 3rd June 2012, Queen Elizabeth II
sailed down the River Thames on a luxury
boat, decorated with 10,000 flowers among
a majestic flotilla of 1,000 boats to mark
her 60 years on the British throne.

Today the river is a tourist attraction. Along its banks wonderful old palaces, cathedrals,
glass skyscrapers, trendy restaurants and nightclubs can be seen.
But the Thames is much more than fun and beauty. Without it, London might not even
exist. Some historians believe that the Romans founded Londinium in the year 50 AD be-
cause they thought the river would make trade possible. 

Over the centuries, the Thames has gone through many changes. Between 1400 and 1900,
while Europe was in the grip of a mini ice age, London got so cold that the river froze
over 23 times. In 1536, King Henry VIII went sleigh riding on the ice. Thirty years later,
his daughter Elizabeth I took long walks on the frozen river. Later the river played a more
serious role. In 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed thousands of houses and left
100,000 people homeless. Londoners escaped the fire on the river — many of them sitting
in boats until it was over. 

Less than two centuries later the river became a stink-bomb, caused by flush toilets. During
the Great Stink of 1858, the government fled the Houses of Parliament as the smell became
unbearable during the hot summer. Thousands of people died of disease from the dirty



The name 'Thames' probably comes from a very old word meaning 'dark water' because
of the river's muddy colour. But the Thames is dark in other ways, too. There is a dark,
troubled side that some visitors to London do not know about.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the banks of the river at Wapping were known as Execution
Dock where murderers and robbers were hanged. The bodies of the most notorious
1 pirates
were left hanging in metal cages as a warning to others. Around this time the river got its
own police force to keep it free from pirates. Pirates are not a problem any more, but the
river police still have a hard job fighting crime. 
On your next visit to London, if you take a walk along the Thames, you might see the river
in a new light.
                                                                                                                  (443 words)
Adapted from: "Spot on" (5/2011), Spotlight Verlag, Planegg/München
1 notorious - berüchtigt