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River Thames

The Thames (pronounced "temz") is a river flowing through southern England and connecting London with the sea. It has a length of 346 kilometres (215 statute miles) with its source in the Cotswolds; it then flows through Oxford (where it is called the Isis), Maidenhead, Windsor, London proper, Greenwich, and then Dartford[?] before entering the sea. Part of the area west of London is sometimes termed the Thames Valley[?] whilst east of Tower Bridge development agencies and Ministers have taken to using the term "Thames Gateway".

About 90 kilometres from the sea, upstream of London, the river begins to exhibit signs of tidal activity as the North Sea begins to affect it. London was reputedly made capital of Roman Britain at the spot where the tides reached in 43 AD, but a variety of factors have pushed this spot up river in the 2000 years since then. The Romans called the river Thamesis. At London, the water is slightly brackish with sea salt.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, during the period now referred to as the Little Ice Age, the Thames often froze over in the winter. This led to the first "Frost Fair" in 1607, complete with a tent city set up on the river itself and offering a number of odd amusements, including ice bowling. After temperatures began to rise again, starting in 1814, the river never again froze over completely.

By the 18th century, the Thames was one of the world's busiest waterways, as London became the centre of the vast, mercantile British Empire. The coming of rail and road transportation, and the decline of the Empire in the years following 1914, have reduced the prominence of the river. London itself is no longer a port of any note, and the Port of London has moved downstream to Tilbury[?]. In return, the Thames has undergone a massive clean-up from the filthy days of the late 19th and early- to mid-20th centuries, and life has returned to its formerly dead waters.

In the early 1980s, a massive flood control device, the Thames Barrier, was opened. It is utilised several times a year to prevent water damage to London's low lying areas upstream.

There are many bridges and tunnels crossing the Thames, including Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Lambeth Bridge[?], and the Dartford Crossing.

Londoners rarely use the word 'Thames', it is simply referred to as 'the river'.

Photograph of the Thames taken from London Bridge looking towards Tower Bridge. (Photo taken by D. Alston.)

Crossings of the Thames The crossings are listed in upstream order.


There are also many tunnels used by "tube" trains as part of the London Underground network or (at Greenwich), the Docklands Light Railway, and a free ferry for vehicles, cycles and people on foot during daylight hours at Woolwich. A further tunnel is under construction as part of a high speed international railway line between Ebbsfleet in Kent and Stratford in Newham[?]. It is due to be completed in 2007 and will be downstream of all older crossings.

Islands in the Thames Listed in upstream order.

  • Canvey Island[?]
  • Isle of Grain[?]
  • Frog Island, Rainham
  • Isle of Dogs
  • Chiswick Eyot
  • Oliver's Island, Kew
  • Brentford Ait
  • Lot's Ait
  • Isleworth Ait
  • Corporation Island, Twickenham
  • Glover's Island, Twickenham
  • Eel Pie Island, Twickenham
  • Trowlock Island, Teddington
  • Steven's Eyot
  • Raven's Ait, Hampton Court
  • Boyle Farm Island
  • Thames Ditton Island
  • Ash Island, East Molesey
  • Tagg's Island, Hampton Court
  • Garrick's Ait
  • Platt's Eyot
  • Sunbury Court Island, Sunbury
  • Swan's Rest Island, Sunbury
  • Rivermead Island, Sunbury
  • Sunbury Lock Ait
  • Wheatley's Ait
  • Desborough Island, Shepperton
  • D'Oyly Carte Island
  • Lock Island
  • Hamhaugh Island
  • Pharaoh's Island
  • Penton Hook Island
  • Truss's Island
  • Church Island, Staines
  • Hollyhock Island, Staines
  • Holm Island, Staines
  • The Island, Hythe End
  • Magna Carta Island, Runnymede
  • Pats Croft Eyot

Other rivers with the same name include:

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