The Thames River is an essential geographical feature of London stretching 215 miles and defines London through the success and pleasure it enables. The Thames plays a central role in seemingly all aspects of the capital; economic, political, cultural and social. It has been described as “liquid history” since it is such a key part of the history of London.[i] The river provides a physical frame for London, making it an integral aspect of the city and arguably the reason for London’s existence and successes.
The Thames is more than simply a river, it is a symbol of London. Without the Thames, the city arguably would not have existed. London, or Londinium as it was called at the time was a small settlement by the river which the Romans developed in 43 AD to capitalize on the trade and travel the river enabled at this location. The river, then referred to as “Tamesis,” was a source of drinking water, food, transportation and trade. This led to the city becoming a thriving trading location. The iconic London Bridge was first built using oak in 50 AD and was one of the first fixed crossings. Similarly, many common London buildings and structures are based on the Romans initial plans such as using “weirs” to use water to power mills. Without the existence of the river it is easy to assume the Romans would have made a settlement elsewhere, leading one to believe that the river is the reason for the grand city.[ii]
To this day, the Thames brings fame and fortune to London. It has been a popular subject for artists such as Monet, Whistler and Turner and continues to be and inspiration for many more.[iii] The Thames also continues to be a source of food and water, along with a commercial waterway that brings international trade to London. This proves that regardless of the time, the Thames is an essential aspect of the city and of England itself.
The river is an aspect of London that suggests a very strong and dynamic city. It enables a strong cultural sense for the community but also keeps the foggy city vibrant with the idea of fresh water flowing down the center. Similar to how the Statue of Liberty symbolizes New York and the United States of America, the Thames achieves the same standing as a strong sense of hope and a symbol for London and England.
[i] “Liquid History: Excavating London’s Great River, The Thames.” Current Archaeology. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2012.
[ii] Sinclair, Mick. The Thames: A Cultural History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.
[iii] “Thames Discovery Programme – Art and the Thames.” Thames Discovery Programme – Art and the Thames. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2012.