Overlooking the Thames at Night

Overlooking the Thames at Night--South to Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, London.
The first penny steamer that plied between the Old Swan Stairs, London Bridge and Chelsea sounded the death-knell of the artistic Thames, says Sala. Before the introduction of steam navigation the river here before us was often the scene of the most gorgeous water-pageants, when the stately barge of the Lord Mayor of London, accompanied by the barges of the great City Companies, made its way from London Bridge to Westminster on the ninth of November; when the King and his royal galley manned by the scarlet clad rowers, with silken banners flung to the breeze, accompanied by barges, barques, and wherries, floated in state on the clear surface of the water.

In those days many town mansions of the nobility were built near the river with their gardens leading down by flights of steps to the barge landings. Steam navigation, with its dirt and soot and clamor, soon put an end to this picturesque state of things. The river grew fouler. The mansions on its banks changed to warehouses and dingy tenements. The river became a disgrace. Permission was finally given by the parliament for the building of the embankment, which took six years (1864-70) and is considered to be a monument of engineering skill.

We are standing by the Charing Cross railway bridge, with Westminster bridge in the distance. The illuminated clock of the Houses of Parliament is visible and next at the right is Westminster Abbey.

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