The Forgotten Highway
THE INSTITUTION OF CIVIL ENGINEERS.
(Paper No. 1622.')“ The Thames Steam Ferry between Wapping and
Rotherhithe.”By Frederic Eliot Duckham, M. Inst. C.E.
In olden times, when the Wapping district was submerged, and the river Thames between Ratcliff and Rotherhithe was broad and shallow, a ford existed there; but upon the Wapping marsh being reclaimed, the river deepened, fording became inconvenient, and the “ancient horse ferry,” referred to in the Thames Archway Company’s Act as occupying the site of their intended tunnel and as to which Lord Tavistock and others obtained an Act of Parliament in 1755, is supposed to have been established as a substitute for this more ancient causeway. This ferry was within a few hundred yards of the new ferry about to be described During the Roman occupation of Britain, a horse ferry existed between Dowgate and Southwark, and a similar ferry near where Lambeth Bridge has within late years been built. The former was on the main line of the Watling Street, and the latter on a loop diverging from the main road near Hampstead, and rejoining it at Newington Butts. The priory of St. Mary Overie (St. Mary of the Ferry) was founded by the daughter and heiress of a Dowgate ferryman. This ferry existed until the Priors built the first London Bridge. The Lambeth and Westminster ferry was used until the opening of Westminster Bridge, in 1750, at which time it was one of the most frequented passages over the Thames. This ferry was from time immemorial the property of the Archbishops of Canterbury, who received £20 per annum rental there-
In 1821 The Poplar and Greenwich Ferry Company was incorporated, to make and maintain roads between the then recently opened City canal and North Greenwich, and ferry-
The Author knows of no record of the employment of a ferryboat before the year 1023, B.C.; but, cattle ferries were doubtless in use during previous ages, and they are now to be found in all parts of the world, much to the profit and convenience of most of the great communities which are divided by rivers or waterways. The astonishing exception is London, with nearly half its enormous population, all its docks, most of its heavy trade and commerce, east of the Monument. Until now it has been without any efficient means of conveying vehicles across the Thames below London Bridge.
Several Papers have been read at the Institution on steam ferries: notably that on the Torpoint floating bridge, by Mr. Rendel, in 1838, which bridge was, in 1878, replaced by a similar vessel of iron, instead of wood, but in its dimensions and working gear almost identical with its predecessor ; that on the Kaffre Azzayat ferry, by Mr. Sopwith, in 1857 ; and that on the Granton, and the Port-
The Thames Steam Ferry Company was incorporated in 1874, with a nominal capital of £100,000, and limited liability. The site selected for the ferry was directly over the Thames tunnel, one and a half miles east of London Bridge, the intended landing places being near the London docks on the Middlesex shore, and the Commercial docks on the Surrey shore. A special advantage of this site is, that no vessels are allowed to moor within a certain distance of the line of the tunnel, which gives the ferry-
When the Author was asked to design appliances for working this ferry, the data before him were :
1. A tidal river, 320 yards wide, with a range of 20 feet 6 inches
at spring tides.
2. The Tunnel wharf at Wapping, with low-
from the quay line, and Church Stairs wharf at Rotherhithe, with low-
3. The instructions were that the ferry should be equal to
convey twelve two-
4. A concession from the Thames Conservancy allowing landing
stages within certain limits ; but insisting that any gangways connecting the stages with the shore should be fixed at a height of 8 feet above Trinity high-
The Author looked to prior examples for aid in solving the problem before him; but in its necessities and surroundings the Thames Steam Ferry scheme differed materially from its predecessors, and required machinery and working arrangements of a special character. Several designs were submitted and considered ; and the following was decided upon as best fulfilling the requirements of the undertaking :
Plate 14, Fig. 1 is a side elevation, Fig. 2 a plan, and Fig. 3 the end
elevation of one of the landing places, showing a ferry-
The boats are 82 feet in length, 42 feet in extreme width, 9 feet deep and draw 5 feet of water when laden. They are fitted with disconnected low-
The dolphins are cylinders of cast iron, 5 feet 0 inches in diameter, about 50 feet long, sunk 20 feet into the bed of the river; the upper portion is 2 inches thick; the castings are in lengths of 9 feet, with internal flanges faced and bolted together. In the centre of each dolphin there is a stout balk of timber, imbedded in cement concrete, with which the columns are filled. The dolphins terminate at 4 feet above Trinity high-
The lift platform, or stage, with which the traffic is exchanged by the boats, is 70 feet long by 35 feet wide. It is composed of two single-
A jetty to connect the lift with the shore is necessary at Wapping only. It is 100 feet long by 19 feet 6 inches wide for 60 feet, and spreads out like a fan in the remaining 40 feet to the width of the lift platform. The girders and joists are of wrought iron. The floor resembles that of the lift platform ; the shore end is carried by the wharf, the outer end by two of the lift columns, and intermediate there are two 3-
The hydraulic power is produced by engines of the type introduced by Sir W. G. Armstrong, V.-
The machinery already described has been found to give great security to the lift platform; but, to make the lift quite safe, the special “grabs” shown in Figs. 4 and 5 have been added. A wrought-
The hydraulic machinery was supplied under contract by the East Ferry Road Engineering Works Company of Millwall. The other portions of the works were carried out by Mr. John Gibson.
The method of working the ferry is briefly as follows: the lift platform is ordinarily at a level with the wharf or jetty, and temporarily forms a continuation of the roadway; it is wide enough for four ranks of vehicles; the outgoing traffic usually occupies the two outer ranks and the pedestrians pass on to the raised pathway on the top of the side girders. As the boat approaches, the platform is lowered to the level of the deck, the boat’s prow is dropped, the incoming freight is moved on to the left and the outgoing on to the boat. The boat leaves for the other shore while the platform is raised to the upper level. The load moves off, and the operation is repeated. The time usually occupied in raising the platform from its lowest to its highest level is two minutes; in crossing the river, four minutes. Near high water, however, vehicles have been transferred between Wapping High Street and Rotherhithe church within seven minutes. The ferry is at work from 6 a.m to 8 p.m. The tariff for vehicles with goods varies from 1s. to 2s. 6d.; empties, half price. Cabs, 8d.; returning empty, free. Omnibuses, 1s. Foot-
Such is The Thames Steam Ferry as constructed and at work. The Author recognises as objectionable features in the scheme: 1st. The large area of the lift platform; 2nd. The use of chains ; 3rd. The employment of balance weights. The large lift area was necessary to deal with the estimated amount of traffic. Chains were employed because the Author failed to find any other means than those he has adopted by which a platform of such magnitude could be speedily raised and lowered with ensured horizontality and safety. The balance weights did not exist in the original design; a second accumulator was therein proposed, with presses at R2 and It4 freely connected therewith, while It1 and R3 were in communication with the working valve and hydraulic main; but this arrangement was discarded because of its greater cost. The lift chains are inch, with ordinary pattern short and long links alternately. The counterweight chains are of steel plates, viz., four plates, 3 inches by half an inch, alternating with sets of three half inch and two one quarter inch thick ; giving a net sectional area of 6 inches in each set.
Ferrying cattle and vehicles was the primary object of The Thames Steam Ferry Company, and obtained for the undertaking the favourable recognition and co-
This communication is accompanied by several diagrams, from which Plate 14 has been compiled.
From the London Illustrated News 16 October 1875