The Pleasures of a Cruise on the Thames: The Salter Family (Totally Thames Festival Blog Part 3)

Those of you who enjoyed our look at the Eagle Steamers may be interested to know that Guildhall Library also holds 20th century guides and timetables for another company offering pleasure cruises on the Thames.

The Salter Family have been building and hiring boats and offering boat trips for pleasure since 1858. Their first passenger vessel was named ‘Alaska’ and offered a steamer service between Oxford and Kingston. The ‘Alaska’ is still operational and can be found on the Historic Ships Register: All of the guides highlighted below described and offered cruises between Oxford and Kingston/Richmond.

Salter’s Guides offered details of places to visit along the Thames, as well as advertisements for hotels offering passengers luncheon, tea or accommodation for boating and fishing parties. Salter’s Timetables gave details of the passenger trips available, of boat hire as well as rail connections for their cruises as shown in this 1932 publication.

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Oxford & Kingston River Thames Steamers: Illustrated Time Table (above)
Salter, John Henry & J A Salter Published Oxford: Salter Bros, (1932)
Order using reference SL 87

In 1932 one could get a weekly ‘holiday season ticket’ between Kingston and Oxford for 27 shillings (£1.35 in new money). A combined (3rd class) rail & steamer trip from Manchester to Oxford would cost you 44 shillings and nine pence (£2.24).

The Salters’ Guide below, from 1949, includes several advertisements for hotels along the Thames including the Caversham Bridge Hotel at Reading (below) where you could enjoy the luxury of ‘running water in all bedrooms’ – which sounds rather alarming in 2015!

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Salters’ guide to the Thames (above)
Salter, John Henry & J A Salter 47th ed.
Published Oxford: Salter Bros, (1949)
Order using reference SL 87

The Salters’ Guide for 1968 contained no advertisements for hotels or tea rooms but it did offer a series of maps of the route and photographs of each stretch of the River. Prospective passengers were able to book ahead or just hop aboard without prior arrangement on the next ‘hot, sunny morning when the river beckons compellingly’. Customers were also encouraged not to bother preparing food to take with them but to enjoy teas, light refreshments and their licensed bar whilst aboard. The company advertised ‘first class accommodation at the least possible cost to passengers’.

The guide shares the delights of taking a cruise in September…

“…those who know the Thames best will choose September. The freshness of an awakening season, the long lingering days of early summer are lost, but in their place are the wonderful atmospheric effects that no other month can offer. The golden morning haze adds distance to every perspective; and gives a touch of mystery to familiar scenes; and then, while slowly dispersing before the later sun, still mellows the colours and softens the outline of every landscape.”

…now where is that timetable?

Jeanie Smith
Assistant Librarian & Keeper of the Lloyd’s Marine Collection

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Salters’ Guide to the Thames (above)
Salter, John Henry & J A Salter 57th ed. (revised and abridged).
Published Folly Bridge, Oxford: Salter Bros, (1968)
Order using reference Pam 10636

Loveday’s London Waterside Surveys of 1857: The Second in a Series Celebrating the Totally Thames Festival



James Thomas Loveday, of the Phoenix Fire Office spent two and a half years creating and compiling these plans of wharves and granaries along the Thames to assess fire risk for insurance purposes. The plans he produced for business purposes are now invaluable to London historians and genealogists.

This volume held at Guildhall Library, covers an area on the south bank of the Thames from London Bridge to the Globe Granary at Rotherhithe and on the north bank from London Bridge to Tower Dock.

Although Loveday was the “Surveyor of Risks” for the Phoenix Fire Office, he seems to have published the volume himself. The names of the twenty eight subscribers to the volume are listed including those of several other fire insurers e.g. The Sun Fire Office & the Unity Fire Insurance Association. The volume was priced ten pounds and ten shillings to subscribers and twelve pounds and twelve shillings to other purchasers.

The title page of the volume tells us that the plans show wharves and granaries “with the buildings connected therewith…with a description of their occupancy, construction, use and internal and external risk, each accompanied with a plan and report sufficient for an immediate adjustment of rate and preceded by …copious indexes” (Loveday, 1857, preface)

Historians and genealogists alike will find these ‘copious indexes’ very useful. Loveday indexed by occupier, granary keeper (business name), granary title, wharf and quay and by ‘street and stairs’ i.e. Seven Star Alley.

This is Loveday’s plan of Butler’s Wharf showing Mr J Knight’s Granary, brick built and on four floors.  Offices and warehouses are plotted and annotated as is the position of the George Public House, the wash houses, shops and private dwellings.


This plan of Dock Head Wharf/St Saviour’s Dock shows a cooperage at the centre marked with the extent of the timber within.  Around the cooperage stands a ‘lofty, ground floor hoop store’, the saw pit, other stores, a dwelling and an office, the Crown and Sceptre public house and the workshops.


Guildhall Library is a public reference library and you are welcome to visit to view this volume and others on London’s history and the history of the docks. More details and a link to our catalogue can be found on our website

Written by: Jeanie Smith – Assistant Librarian and Keeper of the Lloyd’s Marine Collection
Photographs by: Elisabeth Dew – Library Assistant

Magna Carta in the Guildhall Library

The City of London has a special relationship with Magna Carta, one of the most celebrated documents in history. The City is the only place to be named in the charter and the Corporation has two Magna Cartas the most impressive one being the 1297 version, which is presently on display in the Heritage Gallery in the Guildhall until 1 October 2015.

Magna Carta of 1297 Retro

Guildhall Library holds a host of material that represents how the Magna Carta has been used throughout history, some of which are currently on display in a short exhibition. This post will look at some of the material in the exhibition.

There are two, small, hand sized books from the sixteenth century that were possibly used for reference on legal purposes. One dating from 1542 is The great charter called in latyn Magna Carta, with diuers olde statutes whose titles appere in the next leafe newly corrected Imprynted at Londo[n] Paules church yerde at the signe of the Maydens heed: Thomas Petyt.

This work is one of the first editions printed in English. It is the final, corrected edition of George Ferrer’s translation of the Magna Carta.  The first edition in English was printed by Robert Redman, The boke of Magna Carta, 1534, but it contained many errors. This edition was printed by Thomas Petyt in 1542, who announced that ‘a great deal of care’ had been taken to correct the text. Ferrers’s corrected English translation of Magna Carta ran to many editions in the 16th and 17th centuries.

George Ferrers (c. 1500 – 1579) was a writer and a Member of Parliament.  In 1542, he played a key role in the development of parliamentary privilege. Ferrers was arrested for a debt whilst on his way to the House of Commons, but was saved by fellow MPs who ordered his release and summoned the arresting sheriffs. The sheriffs were subsequently charged with breach of parliamentary privilege and committed to the Tower for two days. The incident established the immunity of members of the Commons from civil arrest while the House was in session.

A Latin edition from 1556 is Magna Charta, cum statutis quæ antiqua vocantur iam recens excusa, & summa fide emendata, iuxta vetusta exemplaria ad Parliamenti rotulos examinata: quibus accesserunt nonnulla nunc primum typis edita: apud Richardum Totelum. It was published in London by Richard Tottel. As well as containing a Latin edition of Magna Carta, it also constitutes the first published version of the Statutes of the Realm. The signature of the title page identifies it as having belonged to William Fleetwood (born c. 1525-1594), MP and Recorder of London, 1571-1591.

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Fleetwood’s marginal annotations and underlinings suggest this was a well-used working copy, but he also used this book to record notable events in the life of Henry VIII including details of his wives, the coronation of Elizabeth I and the death of Thomas More. More personally, he also recorded the birth of his daughter, Cordelia at Bacon House, Foster Lane, London on 20 August 1579.

In the seventeenth-century Magna Carta took a central role in the political conflict between king and Parliament as a defence against the Stuart kings’ assertion of the royal prerogative. The champion for the revival of the Magna Carta was Sir Edward Coke (1552- 1634), judge and, later, opposition politician. Coke viewed the Great Charter as a reaffirmation of liberties enjoyed by the English people from time immemorial. Coke repeatedly used Magna Carta to oppose the early Stuarts, in particular James I. Coke declared that ‘Magna Carta is such a fellow, that he will have no sovereign’.

Coke’s wrote the Institutes of laws in England, or The second part of the Institutes of the laws of England. Containing the exposition of many ancient and other statutes … by Edward Coke London : printed for E. and R. Brooke, Bell-Yard, Near Temple-Bar, 1797. It was a pioneering four-volume treatise on English common law. The first volume was published in 1628, the final three volumes after Coke’s death. Coke’s manuscripts were confiscated on the orders of Charles I. The confiscation was prompted by Coke’s Second Institute which included an extensive analysis of Magna Carta. Charles I’s efforts to suppress the work proved short-lived.  Parliament ordered in 1640 that Coke’s papers be recovered and published. Coke’s Second Institute was finally printed in 1642 on the eve of the English Civil Wars.

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In the eighteenth century the political narrative continued with books telling the stories of John Lilburne (1614-57) a Civil War officer and Leveller, and John Wilkes (1725 – 1797) repeatedly invoked Magna Carta as a symbol of the fundamental laws of England, which were threatened by tyrannical government.

The nineteenth century saw the Magna Carta appear in many satirical representations and history books displaying King John “signing” the charter. Good examples on display are from Punch, 1848 displaying a parody of the events at Magna Carta and The comic history of England by A Beckett, 1897.

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Finally, from the 20th century there are reviews and a programme from the play the Left Handed Liberty by John Arden. Arden was commissioned by the City of London Corporation to write a play for the 1965 commemorations of Magna Carta. Performances were in front of the Queen visiting dignitaries and schoolchildren at the Mermaid Theatre.

The Magna Carta exhibition runs from 17 to 25 September at Guildhall Library. A Magna Carta Son et Lumiere took place in Guildhall Yard on the evening of 19 September.

Here is a 7 minute edited version: Magna Carta Son et Lumiere

By: Howard Benge, Events and Development Manager

The Pleasures of a Cruise on the Thames

Guildhall Library’s London Collection includes several histories and guides covering pleasure trips on the Thames.  These three gems from our collections offer a glimpse of a taste of the high life offered by “Eagle Steamers” which could be experienced during the 1930s to the 1960s.

Through London’s Great Waterway: The Sunshine Route to the Coast: The Eagle Steamer Handbook on the River Thames and South-East Coast Resorts (1933) 


(Order this item using reference Pam 19475)

This delightful booklet opens with “Eastward to the Sun: The Romance of the River” and we are told that “Every summer morning – except Fridays – the General Steam Navigation Company’s “Eagle” steamers cast off from Tower Pier, pass under the bascules of Tower Bridge, and head down the river on their ninety mile journey to the coasts of Essex and Kent.”

Their vessels are described as “fast, roomy and comfortable” and the booklet offers a guide to the sights that can be seen on the voyage. In this particular booklet, a brief description is given of Deptford, Greenwich, Erith Reach and Purfleet etc. before we pass Gravesend, which is described as the “Clapham Junction of the river”. After sighting the Three Daws pub “we tie up at Tilbury…for a few moments…to glimpse the docks with a water area of over 100 acres”. We are told that the great new floating landing stage at Tilbury is only three years old and “one of the longest and finest landing-stages in the country.” Beyond Tilbury the “mushroom like” tanks of Thames Haven are noted as well as the Chapman light off Canvey Island.

The destinations are described in more detail, for example Southend is said to be famed for its long spells of sunny weather and its pier. Delightfully, we are told that “The people who run Southend have set themselves out to make their visitors happy”. The pleasures of the Kursaal are listed and in the early 1930s included Bostock’s Wonder Zoo, Eric the Whale and the Twelve Foot Octopus!

The Eagle vessels all had nicknames. The paddle steamer “Royal Eagle” was styled “London’s Own Luxury Liner” and offered a one day cruise from Tower Pier to Margate and “Radiant Ramsgate”. On this trip passengers could enjoy sitting in the glass enclosed lounge, or on the sun deck listening to “music provided by the latest type of relay equipment”.

The “Crested Eagle” was a few years older and dubbed “The Greyhound of the River”. In 1933 the brochure informs us that you could go aboard for a cruise to “Sunny Clacton” with its “champagne air”, riding “the waters as proudly as a swan”.

Their third vessel “Golden Eagle” seems to have specialised in offering games and competitions on board as well as regular visits by “King Neptune”. This was called “The Happy Ship” by the company.

The Royal Thames: A Pageant in Pictures of London’s Gateway to the Sea from 1066 to 1937 by A G Thompson and Helen McKie


(Order this item using reference SL 87)

This booklet, published by the company at Trinity Square, was presented to Guildhall Library by Eagle and Queen Line Steamers in 1937.

Using a series of partly coloured drawings, the guide offers a history of Thames landmarks on the route as well as pointers to what to see on arrival at Southend, Margate, Ramsgate and Clacton. There are also informative aerial photographs of the River and docks, images which have increased in interest with the passing of time. We are also shown pictures from the sun deck and main dining saloon of the “Royal Eagle”

The serious traveller may have felt the need of even further education whilst aboard, and in 1965, for the sum of two shillings (ten pence), they could purchase:

What’s What in Shipping and On Either Bank: A Souvenir Guide to the River Thames and to Places Served by Eagle Steamers (1965)


(Order this item using reference Pam 21889)

Our copy contains two stamps, one showing “At Sea, MV Royal Sovereign, 21 July 1965” and another inscribed “To Robert” wishing him a happy trip from the Purser.

The booklet gives explanations of shipping terms, maps of the route and colour illustrations of signal codes, national flags etc.

One of the most enjoyable features of this booklet are the many adverts for beer and spirits telling us to “get on the trail of the hoppiest ale!” or for “the beer the men drink”. My own favourite is this one…


The General Steam Navigation Company who owned the fleet became part of the P & O group in the 1960s. Sadly, Eagle and Queen Line Steamers ceased trading by 1966. Thames cruisers tend to be motor powered these days but the restored paddle steamer “Waverley” still ploughs the Thames & Medway for part of her annual itinerary giving us a glimpse of a day out on the river our forebears may have enjoyed.

Written by: Jeanie Smith – Assistant Librarian and Keeper of the Lloyd’s Marine Collection

(The first in a series of three blogs to celebrate the Totally Thames Festival 1st – 30th September)
Photographs by: Elisabeth Dew – Library Assistant




London’s Dreadful Visitation: The Great Plague, 1665

The Great Plague was a devastating event in the City of London, wiping out almost 100,000 people. Whether young or old, man or woman, saint or sinner, it killed mercilessly and changed London forever. To commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Great Plague in London we are currently staging the exhibition London’s Dreadful Visitation: Exploring the Great Plague through Guildhall Library’s Collections. Come along to learn more about the pestilence, including the remedies people used; their thoughts on the cause; and what the authorities did in response to the outbreak.

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To put the exhibition together, I researched the topic using the mass of information available at Guildhall Library, from books and broadsides to manuscript records of the numbers of the dead. A lot of the texts available at Guildhall Library are unique, and we hold the fullest set of Bills of Mortality in the world, dating from 1532-1858. The Parish Clerks’ Bills are the closest things we have to accurate statistics about disease. Recording causes of death and numbers of burials parish by parish, week by week, they help us understand the spread of plague across the City. They also acted as an early warning system for outbreaks of plague in 1665. A lot of these items are currently available to view in the exhibition, and there are lots more on the open shelves that you can read at the library, without an appointment!

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While reading these fascinating texts, I came across many interesting stories and accounts of the plague written by eye-witnesses. As well as the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, we also have texts by doctors and clergymen. One of the most distressing things I read was the minister Thomas Vincent’s account of “a woman…weeping by the door where I lived…with a little Coffin under her arm…; I did judge that it was the mother of the childe, and that all the family besides was dead, and she was forced to coffin up and bury with her own hands this her last dead childe.”

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To accompany the exhibition a launch event was held on Thursday 16 July, as well as a series of upcoming family workshops with Assistant Librarian Isabelle Chevallot. There will be an opportunity to explore a variety of the original sources as well as being treated to an atmospheric plague storytelling session. Please check for more information and to book. Also, don’t forget to look out for forthcoming plague merchandise, including posters and tea towels.

Want to find out more? Our exhibition is free and open until 11 September. After this date, the banners from the exhibition will be available to hire for display in museums and schools. If you are interested please get in touch at

Amy Randall
Events and Exhibitions Officer




A Very Modern Tradition – Livery Companies in the 21st Century

The City of London’s 110 Livery Companies are unique institutions that blend civic pride, charitable commitment, training and education, industry, profession and military connections, with fellowship and religious roots. Each Company brings these aspects to life in different ways and to varying degrees depending on its size, history, finances and the make up of its membership – some companies still have regulatory, inspection, enforcement, examination or qualification awarding roles.

Contrary to widely held perception the Livery Companies are in rude health, growing both in number and in membership such that there are now more Livery Companies and more members of those companies than at any time in the past. Considering the earliest of the companies predate the Norman Conquest – that’s no mean feat. Their role and impact in modern times is as diverse as it is vast, this presentation (view link below) explores just some of the ways in which Livery Companies are active in the 21st Century:

Paul D Jagger, Court Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists

Author of “The City of London Freeman’s Guide”

Livery Companies Book

Convoy Web – an Invaluable Resource at Guildhall Library

Convoy Web is a searchable database of Second World War Convoys (and a rapidly developing resource for First World War Convoys) available in the reading room of Guildhall Library.

To demonstrate the power and versatility of this resource I thought I would show you an example from the Second World War.

Convoy Web is searchable by convoy name, vessel name, escort vessel name and port.

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If one wished to know which ships were in Convoy PQ16 for example, we could search on that number and instantly we see that Convoy PQ 16 departed Reykjavik on the 21st May 1942 and arrived at Murmansk on the 30th May 1942.

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There follows on from this a list of all of the Merchant Vessels, escorts etc. in the Convoy, together with the dates they were part of Convoy PQ16 as well as the date they arrived at their destination port.

Sadly many of the vessels did not reach their destination; such were the dangers of serving on the convoys! Brief details are given of losses with dates which will aid further research.

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You will note that all the vessels shown offer links and if for example we selected the “Empire Lawrence” we would be taken to the convoy entries for that vessel up until the time she was bombed and sunk by a German aircraft on 27th May 1942 off the North Cape on a voyage from Reykjavik to Murmansk.

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We can see that she served in other convoys and dates and ports of call are given if you click on the relevant link.
The Arctic Convoys were particularly dangerous – as evidenced by the PQ17 disaster in July 1942, in which 24 out of 35 merchant ships were lost, albeit after the convoy was dispersed. Its predecessor, PQ16, was considered a success with only 8 ships sunk in enemy air and submarine attacks.
Guildhall Library has been providing ports of call for our users for many years, especially from our Voyage Record Card (VRC) collection as they can contribute toward the proof required for medal claims like the Arctic Star award for service in these Arctic Convoys.

Volunteers have been entering detail from the VRCs and many other sources including the Lloyd’s Confidential Sheets to create this useful database. Their invaluable work has only been accessible to staff members in the past but has now been converted into this web site making it far easier to access the treasure of information it stores.

We are very grateful for the generosity of the web master and researchers past and present who have willingly donated time and expertise in making this invaluable and accessible resource. Access to this resource is available in Guildhall Library only. The site is regularly updated and additions made so do revisit the site when you come to the library.

Jeanie Smith, Assistant Librarian and Keeper of the Lloyd’s Marine Collection