If you are interested in London’s “grandest street”, including its position as a stage for royal, national and civic ceremony and celebration, then you may like to take a closer look at the Archives Centre’s Book of the Month for August.
Royal River: Power, Pageantry & the Thames is a lavishly illustrated catalogue, published to accompany the current exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Edited by Susan Doran, it tells the story of London’s great thoroughfare over the last five hundred years through an array of fascinating and rarely-seen artefacts. Each section of the book is prefaced by an informative essay by one of the country’s leading historians, which sets the exhibition’s objects in the context of the various periods in its history. The result is a fascinating insight into the cultural, political and economic importance of the river to London and its people.
As well as the Thames’s royal connections, the book explores the river’s significance to Londoners. We learn about the diverse ways in which the river has served our city as a bustling, working river, and also as a playground, during the great Frost Fairs that took place when waters froze over. Another theme, extensively explored in this catalogue, is the way in which the Thames has inspired some of the world’s greatest artists. Westminster’s riverside landmarks were famously captured by Canaletto in the mid-eighteenth century. His exquisite paintings of Westminster Bridge with the Lord Mayor’s procession (1746) and The Thames from Somerset House towards Westminster (c.1750) are just a couple of the evocative images beautifully reproduced for this book.
Royal River: Power, Pageantry & the Thames brings together rare and important objects, images and manuscripts from museums, libraries and archives across the world, to tell the Thames’s history in spectacular style.
Two images from the City of Westminster Archives Centre play a part in this impressive narrative: a fine 17th century view of Whitehall by Knyff (above), and this poster issued by St James’s Westminster in 1853, communicating measures to prevent the spread of cholera.
There is still chance to catch these and the other exhibits at the Royal River exhibition, which runs at the National Maritime Museum until 9 September 2012. Alternatively, pop along to the Archives Centre, and discover London’s waterside heritage through our historic maps, images and books.