Exhibitions: Monet's London: Artists' Reflections on the Thames, 1859–1914

The Geography of London
The Thames flows through London in a serpentine course from west to east, dividing the city into distinct districts. The greater portion of the city lies on the north bank of the Thames and itself separates into two halves, the East End and West End, with a small district at the center known as the City of London.

The East End begins to the east of the Blackfriars Bridge and contains working-class residential neighborhoods and the Southwark and Tower Bridges. In the nineteenth century it included London Bridge, the fish market at Billingsgate, and the then industrial districts of Wapping and Limehouse, which were centers of warehouses, wharves, and shipbuilding.

The West End encompasses the Houses of Parliament, commercial districts, residential neighborhoods of aristocrats and the wealthy, and the Waterloo, Charing Cross, Westminster, and Lambeth Bridges. Chelsea and Westminster, once villages distinct from the city, were absorbed in the early nineteenth century by the ever-expanding metropolis.

In their efforts to depict "modern life" nineteenth-century artists were drawn to the south bank, or Surrey side, of the Thames, which contained its industrial and maritime industries. To the west, the districts of Battersea, Lambeth, and the borough of Southwark housed factories, glassworks, potteries, and breweries. Tanneries, glue factories, and wool warehouses occupied the east, while sailors, bargemen, and shipwrights frequented the docks of Rotherhithe.

Large ships delivering goods from around the globe could travel up the Thames only as far as the deepwater area known as the Pool of London, to the east of London Bridge. There, goods would be off-loaded to warehouses or onto smaller barges for passage farther up the river.

Next: The Thames in Stereographs
Previous: The River Thames


Exhibition Highlights

Winslow Homer: The Houses of Parliament James Tissot: The Thames