The Tudor Pull

A Thames flotilla viewed from Lambeth Bridge, June 11, 2022

All seemed quiet on the river after a couple of sight-seeing boats passed beneath Lambeth Bridge on their way upstream. Then a flash of gold and a scene reminiscent of Canaletto’s eighteenth century ‘The Thames on Lord Mayor’s Day’ slowly materialised as a flotilla of canopied cutters under oar made their way downstream from Vauxhall Bridge.

The flotilla approaching Lambeth Bridge

Called the ‘The Tudor Pull’ this ceremonial row, dating only from 1987 but steeped in Thames tradition and London history, is said to have been the outcome of a challenge by Prince Philip, quoted by the Thames Festival Trust, who asked the Royal Watermen, often accompanying him on the Thames, “Can you chaps actually row?” They could and certainly still can, “many of them being international oarsmen.” The Tudor Pull, conceived by the Thames Traditional Rowing Association, first took place between Hampton Court and Greenwich but now ends at the Tower of London after a distance of about twenty-five miles.
The star of the Tudor Pull is of course the Queen’s Rowbarge Gloriana.

Looking down on Gloriana emerging from under Lambeth Bridge, rowed by Her Majesty’s Royal Watermen
Royal Rowbarge Gloriana making good speed
Gloriana fully out from under Lambeth Bridge

Inspired by images of past pageants along the central London Thames, a group of people wishing to include and highlight the river as part of the celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2o12, came together. Their discussions led to Lord Sterling’s “initiative to build an elegant rowbarge, large enough to have a visual impact on the Thames and more significantly to be a lasting legacy of the Jubilee.” Lord Sterling generously underwrote more than £1 million of her cost and over-saw and co-ordinated the four-year enterprise from the first designs to the construction. Enthusiasm combined with time pressure resulted in Gloriana being built in just five months.

Rowbarge Gloriana heading for Westminster Bridge

And at the heart of the ceremony is the Stela, a slice through a medieval water pipe, made as they were in those days of hollowed out elm trunks, carried from Hampton Court, where it is usually kept, and delivered to the Governor of the Tower of London.

Lord Sterling holding the Stela in its case, donated by the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators. Image courtesy of @speediemeadie

The timber for the base of the pipe came from the piling of the original Richmond Lock and Weir and was donated by the Port of London Authority. The model of the Watermen’s wherry at the centre of the pipe represents a typical boat available for hire in the past, when for many the Thames was the fastest way to travel in London, or to cross to the other side of the river.

Port Health Authority vessel LONDINIUM III watching over the flotilla
Earlier in the day LONDINIUM III towed upstream two of the cutters that would be taking part in the flotilla
Port of London Authority vessel BARNES on duty with the flotilla
The Company of Goldsmiths’ Thames cutter, their patron saint St. Dunstan looking forward from the prow
The CITO Livery Company’s Thames cutter
The Barbers Livery Company’s Thames cutter
The Founders Livery Company’s Thames cutter
Gloriana with two of her accompanying cutters
Rear safety boat TEDDINGTON with Dave from @PatWalshLtd ready to help in case of any problems
The flotilla approaching Westminster Bridge
The flotilla in the distance

The Thames Traditional Rowing Association explains how the event “supports the apprentices system of the trade of Thames Watermen and Lightermen and draws attention to London’s great under used asset ~ The River Thames.” Using the river for the transfer of all kinds of freight is not only a practical and speedier option than using the road network, it’s also better for the environment.
In 2015 the Livett’s Group launched a “Better By Water” campaign to highlight the commercial advantages of using the Thames. However, Covid disrupted river traffic, apart from the essential Cory waste removal barges and transport of components for the Tideway and other construction sites, and it completely halted the businesses of the pleasure, sightseeing and party boat companies. Happily these seem to be thriving now. Yet there is more to be done to make full use of the river. Earlier this year a TFI report stated that the Thames has untapped potential for handling light freight

Further information
The Building of Gloriana
The Queen’s Rowbarge Gloriana
Discover the types of boats taking part: The Thames Traditional Rowing Association
The Company of Watermen & Lightermen of the River Thames, account, June 29, 2019: The Tudor Pull
The Thames Festival Trust
The Tudor Pull Port of London Authority
Thanks to @speediemeadie for permission to post the image of Lord Sterling with the Stela.
If you would like a copy of any of the other photographs, please let me know via Twitter and I’d be happy to send them on.

Four days in June 2022

A personal view of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations for HM Queen Elizabeth II

So many memorable official images appeared over the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebration weekend that it seems superfluous to add to them with mine but here are a few that won’t have made it to the front pages – some from central London but most from around the Thames.

The Mall decorated with Union flags as it has been for all special national occasions for as long as I can remember. ©Nigel Stoughton
Admiralty Arch flying the White Ensign
One of London’s famous black cabs suitably decorated for the occasion
Crafts market in the Westminster Cathedral Piazza on May 31st. Luckily the rain held off after this throughout the Jubilee weekend
Victoria Tower Gardens filled with picnickers enjoying this precious central London Thames-side space on June 2nd
Crowds on Westminster Bridge and party boats waiting for the Royal Air Force’s Platinum Jubilee fly-past on June 2nd
With impeccable precision and skill the Royal Air Force mark the Queen’s 70th anniversary on the throne as they fly across central London
The Red Arrows flying past The London Eye, June 2nd, 2022
The Red Arrows speed past Victoria Tower and the Palace of Westminster
Afterglow 1
Afterglow II
Decorated motorboat entering into the Platinum Jubilee spirit on June 3rd
SEA SHEPHERD II Not sure if they were celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee on June 3rd but they certainly had a party spirit aboard
M.V. CONNAUGHT moving into position to take part in the Thames Ships Salute in honour of HM
The Queen on June 4th
M.V. CONNAUGT while she joined in – very LOUDLY – with the Thames Ships Salute to the Queen on June 4th
A close up of M.V. CONNAUGHT’s deck decorations
Dunkirk Little Ship AQUABELLE heading back upstream after taking part in the Dunkirk Little Ship Fleet celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in Ramsgate Harbour
Dunkirk Little Ship TOM TIT heading upstream along Lambeth Reach after taking part in the Dunkirk Little Ship Fleet celebrating The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in Ramsgate Harbour
Westminster Bridge one of central London’s nine illuminated bridges lit up in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee colours from June 4 – 6, 2022
Lambeth Bridge illuminated in their normal sequence interspersed with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee colours