Drawing of Gravesend, London accross the Thames

Ferry

The most notable of the public barge services was the Long Ferry which plied between Gravesend and Billingsgate. The Gravesend, or Long Ferry, left twice-daily on the turn of the tide from The Pool of London. The Pool of London is the historic port of London situated between London Bridge and a short distance downstream from Tower Bridge. Since Roman times it had been an important dock area, the larder of London. The ferry was a larger open vessel capable of carrying as many as twenty passengers and even a little cargo if necessary. Gravesend, the port at the mouth of the Thames estuary, was the point of debarkation for passengers and goods on the Long Ferry. From there passengers could take ship for an ocean voyage. There incoming passengers and cargo were transferred to smaller boats for the trip up the Thames to Billingsgate. Billingsgate with its great fish market was the wharf where travelers and goods were unloaded from the barges come upriver from Gravesend. During the seventeenth century the old open barges were replaced by tilt-boats, boats having a 'tilt' or awning so that passengers could travel in greater comfort. The Long Ferry, if full, allowed a Shallop (light river boat with sail and oars) to take the excess passengers.

Besides the long ferry 'great boats' were available twice-weekly at Queenhythe for Kingston, Windsor and other upriver destinations, while the Reading boat called weekly at Bull Wharf near Queenhythe. The ferries had their designated routes and termini. In less busy areas, a bargemaster would wait until he had enough passengers booked to make a journey profitable.

NAME / Location of Some Ferries
Gravesend ferry   Greenwich ferry
Eirth ferry   Limehouse ferry
Queenhythe ferry   Reading ferry
Woolwich ferry    


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