Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Peter Ackroyd's Thames

I'm currently reading Peter Ackroyd's Thames.

It is an amazing book, packed full with the history and stories of this great river. Like a magpie he has gone through entire libraries of books looking for every possible link or quote that refers to the Thames over the past centuries and millenniums.

His style is very rich and very colourful - prose as purple and rich as a bucket of port. And sometimes his love of the mystical and theatrical overflows, threatening to overwhelm the more practical and mundane.

For example he says that the great palaces were built by the river to be "near the ultimate source of power .... the river that blessed the monarch". But surely the motivation for their location is more likely the benefits of river transport, access to water, a place to dump waste, and proximity to the industry that springs up along it banks (and of course those river views)?

And I'm not sure he's always right - for example his claim the increase in tidal range around London Bridge from 3 m during Roman times to the current 6 m is "simple" - its the sinking of the south-east of England. But that would only effect the relative level not range - which I always understood was due to the constriction of the river as the embankments were built on either side.

But I'm certainly enjoying it and would unhesitatingly recommend it to anyone interested in the story of this sacred river.


Anonymous said...

Damn I missed it for Christmas. I will have to buy it myself now! Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

Speaking of mansions by the river, I've discovered that my great, great grandfather owned 'Formosa Place' (near Cookham, Berkshire) and am wondering if you know whether it's still entact/ have seen it? (All I have is a reprint of a very old black and white photo taken in 1860)

JP said...

Kat, that is so cool! Will email you!

Adam, recommend, absolutely packed with river anecdotes etc.

Anonymous said...

(Thanks heaps for the email and info on Formosa Place!! :)