The Forgotten Highway
The London County Council River Boat Service
A service was established in 1905 after nearly a decade of research by the Rivers Committee of the LCC.
Research papers on this subject have pointed the finger at the progressive socialists on the LCC for the way the river service came into being, but this is not the whole truth.
The LCC wanted to put a bill to Parliament to take over all the piers and landing stages and run a riverboat service. The bill was put to a select committee who rejected it. A further Bill was put to Parliament, together with one by the Thames Steamboat Company.
It proposed a Thames Steamboat Trust with members coming from the City of London, the LCC, the Thames Conservancy and the Thames Steamboat Company. The Select Committee rejected the Bills in May 1903.
Because there was now no service on the Thames, matters needed to be resolved. Another Bill was introduced a year later. This recommended that the LCC take over the piers and the boats of the Thames Steamboat Company by arbitration. The Thames Company re-
A Lords select committee negated the clauses about taking over the Thames boats, but allowed negotiation for purchase of the piers.
The Thames River Steamboat Service Act was passed on 15th August 1904. So the situation ended up where the LCC was to run a riverboat service, the Thames Company being left in existence as a rival, sharing piers.
Negotiations with the Thames Steamboat Company was acrimonious. They, of course, had wanted the LCC to buy them out.
The LCC however now wanted to share pier staffing to reduce costs, but be independent of the Steamboat Company and not have to spend public money buying them out,
The original LCC plan was for a five-
After another re-
Suggested fares of 1d for any distance on the central London stretch and 1d or 2d according to distance on the two extensions. Inquiries of local officials of labour societies had suggested that 15,400 workingmen would become daily travellers before 8am, returning after 4pm and paying 1d each way.
Regarding loadings for winter traffic, no guidance was available from London experience, so they could only take the ratio of the lowest month's traffic on Paris river boats to the highest month's traffic, namely 3:5, and apply this ratio to estimated monthly summer receipts, though allowing rather more than a 5% deduction to allow for stoppages and other effects of bad weather in winter.
Set up costs were £210,000 for the boats, £7,000 for the piers. Annual running costs were estimated at £98,000 Total revenue was estimated at £147,000
Mr Maurice Fitzmaurice, the Councils chief engineer, supervised the construction.
There was a lot of criticism of the type of boats that were proposed to be used on the Thames. Why not similar boats as on the Seine? was the cry. Unlike the Seine the Thames is tidal with a strong current (4mph) and at high tide there is a small headway under some bridges; it also has a shallow depths at low water, just 3ft in some places.
Various builders of the LCC Riverboats.
Napier and Miller built at Yoker, Scotland (£5950 each)
Rennie built at Greenwich, as subcontractor to J I Thornycroft of Southampton (£5,950 each)
Thames Iron Works built at East London (£6,500 each)
J I Thornycroft built at Southampton (£5,950 each)
All engines were Compound Diagonal by Scott of Greenock fed by two boilers. Because of low bridges the funnels had to facilitate lowering.
Other engines provided for steam steering, condenser pumping, reversing, and feed and bilge pumping.
All the riverboats were designed to be a length of 130 feet and 120 Gross Registered Tonnes. There were however small variances between builders.
List of the Boats and their builders.
Vessels built by Napier and Miller at Yoker, Glasgow and engineered by Scott
Caxton Charles Lamb Chaucer Colechurch Earl Godwin
Edmund Ironside Fitzailwin Olaf Turner Whittington
Chaucer on trials in the Clyde
Vessels built by Rennie at Greenwich (as subcontractor to Thornycroft) and engineered by Scott
Christopher Wren Marlowe Pepys Rennie
Vessels built and engineered by the Thames Iron Works
Alleyn Boydell Brunel Carlyle Gibbon King Alfred Purcell Sloane Vanbrugh Morris
Vessels built by J I Thornycroft at Southampton and engineered
by Scotts at Greenock
Ben Jonson Francis Drake Gresham Raleigh Shakespeare Thomas More
It is worth noting that the Thames Iron Works built 10 boats, more expensive than the others. The Chairman of the Iron Works was Arnold F Hills who owned the Thames Steamboat Company and had 36 boats of his own, which were to run in competition with the LCC.