Esoteric London

No. 117: Queenhithe, EC4

Posted in London Labour, London Types, The Thames and its Tributaries by esotericlondon on August 10, 2010

The North Bank of the Thames at Queenhithe, London, EC4. Photo © Roger Dean 2010

Curiosities of London Life – Charles Manby Smith, 1853:

Armed with a stout stick, she goes forth to her labour so soon as the tide is half run out, and commences her miscellaneous collection amidst the ooze and slime of the river. She walks ankle deep in the mire, and occasionally omitting to feel her way with the stick, is seen to flounder in up to her knees, when she scrambles out again, and coolly taking off her boots, will rinse them in the stream before proceeding with her work. The wealth which she rescues, half-digested, from the maw of Father Thames, is of a various and rather equivocal description, and consists of more items than we can here specify. We can, however, from actual observation, testify to a portion of them: these are, firewood in very small fragments, with now and then, by way of a prize, a stave of an old cask; broken glass, and bottles either of glass or stone unbroken; bones, principally of drowned animals, washed into skeletons; ropes, and fragments of ropes, which will pick into tow; old iron or lead, or metal of any sort which may have dropped overboard from passing vessels; and last, but by no means least, coal from the coal barges, which, as they are passing up and down all day long, and all the year round, cannot fail of dropping a pretty generous tribute to the toils of the tide-waitress.

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