During the last week of September 2023, many in the Thames River community were saddened to discover that Bateaux London, who operated restaurant vessel M.V. SYMPHONY, had ceased trading. A stark notice read that they were not “currently operating any sailings, no further bookings would be taken, and no more sailings are scheduled to take place”.
Over the last few years I have taken pictures of her on various stretches along the central London Thames, and here below, beginning with SYMPHONY heading towards Tower Bridge, are a few images from 2019 to 2023, covering this period in her life.
SYMPHONY’s usual route was from her mooring at Embankment Pier on the Victoria Embankment, cruising roughly, depending on the tides, between Albert Bridge at Chelsea, and Canary Wharf, serving lunches, teas, or dinners, taking in all the riverside sights of central London.
Doubtless many have personal stories to tell about special occasions that took place on board SYMPHONY, as must have the crews who operated her. And some might even remember a dinner cruise on October 4, 1999, when she collided with Lambeth Bridge after a steering failure. A government report states: “As the flood tide had started to swing the vessel, the passengers were moved to the port side in case the collision caused any glass panels on the starboard side to shatter.” SYMPHONY was damaged but the Master managed to regain control and to steer her to the Lambeth Fire Brigade pier. Though there must have been anxious moments, luckily no-one was injured.
The following pictures were taken on September 29, 2023, after Bateaux London had announced that they had ceased trading, and as SYMPHONY arrived on this stretch of Lambeth Reach it seemed clear that some kind of trial, or testing was going on. Turning, almost pirouetting, she was putting on a show.
In 1997 SYMPHONY, was brought over to London, having operated in Paris on the Seine, named Le Cristal. She replaced an earlier, smaller vessel on the central London Thames, also named SYMPHONY, which had been working on the Thames from 1994 to 1997. The smaller vessel was returned to Paris to work on the Seine as Le Symphonie.
At the time of writing, I haven’t heard what the next stage of SYMPHONY’s life will be but I’m sure her journey is as yet *unfinished* and, as such a lovely elegant boat, she has a good future ahead of her.
Notes and further information
*The above article has been concerned with M.V. SYMPHONY but the future of her sister ship M.V. HARMONY, also owned and operated by Bateaux London, is in question as well.
**Wishing all the crews and staff who worked on both boats, the best of luck on whatever paths they follow.
***With thanks to Ben, a Thames Waterman & Lighterman, who keeps me in touch with events on the river. See his articles at Liquid highway and follow him on Twitter -X @liquid_highway1
**** And thanks to Wal Daly-Smith who, working on board, made sure I had a great birthday cruise back in 2019.