The Thames Wherry. 1859. From The Book of the Thames from its Rise to its Fall, p. 391.

The Thames watermen have long been celebrated for their superior style of rowing; in all their matches with foreign competitors they have invariably been successful; and, indeed, until the last few years, no other English watermen stood the smallest chance when contending against them. It was only after repeated unsuccessful contests that the Tyne watermen proved victorious, and this result was only obtained after acquiring the Thames style of rowing. Latterly, the Manchester and Liverpool watermen have greatly improved; but the Thames men may still be considered the best in the world.

The boat which is universally used by the above-bridge watermen is known as the Thames Wherry. The peculiarities of this boat are, its shallowness (which is compensated for by its spreading in the centre), and its sharpness at the head and stern — the head, or bow, tapering gradually from the rullocks (row-locks), and from the keel, until it ends in a sharp point, which is cased in iron; the stern also tapers off, but ends with a stern-post, rising perpendicularly from the keel, to Avhich a rudder can be attached at pleasure.

The boat represented is what is technically termed a ran-dan wherry — that is to say, it has three sets of rullocks, so that three persons can row at the same time in it (but this is not compulsory, as the watermen generally row single-handed): when this is the case, the men fore and aft each row an oar, and the one in the centre rows a pair of sculls — on him also devolves the task of steering the boat.

The waterman's wherry is built heavy enough to bear the weight of six or eight passengers besides the rower, but as this kind of boat is particularly adapted for speed, much lighter ones of the same construction have been built for amateur pleasure-boats, and for rowing purposes. [391-92]

Other rowing and racing boats on the Thames

Text and formatting by George P. Landow. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the University of Pittsburgh and the Internet Archive and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Hall, Samuel Carter, and A. M. Hall. The Book of the Thames from its Rise to its Fall. London: Arthur Hall, Virtue, and Co., 1859. Internet Archive version of a copy in the William and Mary Darlington Memorial Libray, the University of Pittsburgh. Web. 10 March 2012.

Last modified 11 April 2012