Today it’s mostly regarded as a tourist attraction, but the river Thames has played a vital part in the development of London; simply put, without it, there would be no city. Despite how synonymous it is with the capital, its course through London is actually pretty short. The water rises at Thames Head in Gloucestershire, running through Oxford, Reading, London, and finally ending at the Thames Estuary beyond Southend-on-Sea. It’s also had an extremely colourful history, filled with conflict and erm, sewage.
A new route for commerce
Named Tamesis by the Romans, the river was used as a thoroughfare to transport goods backwards and forwards between Europe and Britain. The trade resulted in settlements springing up on either side of the river – in fact, old Londinium was merely a small settlement the Romans established as a port before it became a great capital city. Commerce prospered and by the 16th century London was the world’s busiest port. But of course, growth this tremendous would attract many problems, most of which sprang up in the 19th century, coinciding with the massive expansion of the city.