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:  http://www.nationalhistoricships.org.uk/register/7/alaska. 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

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