diamond geezer

 Monday, December 09, 2013

Only in Central London is the Thames easy to cross. Head upstream past Chelsea and the bridges space out. Venture beyond Hammersmith and the crossings spread further apart. But once you pass Richmond, then any bridges become genuinely far between. Traffic can't drive across for three whole miles between Richmond and Kingston, while pedestrians get only a single bridge, at Teddington. But there is another means of passage, a water-borne means of transport that harks back to an earlier age. It's Hammerton's Ferry. And it's an absolute bargain. [website] [twitter] [history] [map]

The Thames above Richmond is a place of beauty. Stand on Richmond Hill, as hundreds of artists have done over the years, and the river meanders round a sharp curve through verdant meadows. Nobody lives down there, bar the Petersham herd of cows, though there are two impressive mansions hidden in the trees. On the south bank is Ham House, now a National Trust jewel, for three centuries home to the Earls of Dysart. Their private estate covered many acres, hence there was no need for the hoi polloi to ever cross the river here. For them there were ferries at Richmond and upstream at Twickenham... at least until the turn of the 20th century. In 1901 Marble Hill House, a Palladian mansion on the opposite bank, entered public ownership. Local resident Walter Hammerton opened a boathouse close by and began hiring out boats to daytrippers, some of whom pleaded for a ferry across the river, and so Hammerton's Ferry was born.

The owners of the Twickenham Ferry weren't best pleased, so started legal action to shut their competitor down. The case eventually advanced to the House of Lords, who ruled in Hammerton's favour, and his 12 seat clinker-built skiff continued to ply back and forth. Walter finally retired in 1947, passing on ownership to a boy called Sandy Scott. Both ferries survived in competition until 1985 when the Twickenham Ferry faded away, but Hammerton's is still going strong and is claimed to be the last privately-owned ferry on the London stretch of the Thames. The latest pilots are a father and son team, Francis and Andrew Spencer, and if you turn up at the right time they'll chug you cheaply across the river.

A jetty stretches out from the edge of Orleans Gardens, with no obvious place to stand if the ferry's not in. To the left is a big barge with a disguised portakabin on top, used by the ferrymen as a comfort stop and hideaway. To the right are the boats and kayaks for hire, not really a goer in December, nor are the 60p cans of soft drink currently a big seller. But continue ahead to the end of the jetty, at this time of year weekends only, and the ferry should be returning soon.

The latest iteration is an aluminium hulled boat, shallower than previous because the river's rarely dredged, but still with seats for 12 to get across. She's called the Peace Of Mind, a very simple beast with a throttle at the back and three lifebelts perched on the front. Yesterday it was Andrew on duty, wrapped up warmly in blue jacket and grey beanie, running a slimmed-down service 'til three. Fine weather had lured many families, walkers and dog walkers out, so the crossing service was surprisingly well patronised.

The fare to cross is £1 single - up from 60p ten years ago, and one penny when the ferry opened in 1909. Pay up and sit down, taking care not to sit in the muddy patch left by a recently disembarked dog. Once everyone's stepped aboard, then the journey can begin. There's quite a view as the crossing progresses, notably towards Petersham Meadow and Richmond where the Star and Garter Home looks down from the hillside. All around are some post-autumnal trees, upstream that's the tip of Eel Pie Island, and across the water is the splendid frontage of Ham House. Breathe it all in quickly because the crossing's only brief - I timed it at two minutes flat.

These are the final miles of the tidal Thames so the height of the river varies. Stepping off at the other side might therefore deposit you on the riverbank, or might leave you having to ascend a set of damp stone steps to reach grass level. A bench and a muddy patch mark the point of departure for those returning the other way, and then Andrew's off on his endless shuttle again. Make sure you're back in time before he shuts down for the afternoon, else it's a bloody long walk around.

Fare check  Ferry   Cablecar 
Single cash fare£1£4.20
Time taken2 min5 min
Cost per minute50p84p
Distance120m1100m
Metres per pound 120m260m
Elevation0m90m
Bikes allowed?

Nearby...
» Ham House:
Georgian villa, owned by the National Trust, house reopens February
» Marble Hill House: Palladian Villa, owned by English Heritage, house reopens April
» Orleans House Gallery: Palladian villa, owned by Richmond Council, open afternoons (not Mondays)
» Eel Pie Island: Open two weekends a year, which you just missed because it was yesterday, but I thoroughly enjoyed a second look around the artists studios. [previous report] [new photo] [new photo]


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Sun 4 December (8am-10pm)
Tower Bridge fully closed
For one day only, cross the river by free passenger ferry!

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
scaryduck
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
onionbagblog
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
penelope
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv