Thames Portrait – From Westminster to Southend

Eileen Arbuthnot (aka Arnot) Robertson (1903-1961) was an English novelist, critic and broadcaster.


Among her books was the 1937, “Thames Portrait”, based on a motor-boat trip from Lechdale in Gloucestershire to Southend, in which she tells stories of the places and people along the Thames. Liberally distributed throughout the book are photographs taken by a ‘H. E. Turner’, her husband about whom I can find little information.

The photos from Westminster to Southend are included here. I am thus drifting off my usual subject, the history of the Isle of Dogs, and I don’t usually post an article with only photographs (unless I do so by accident by pressing the ‘Publish’ button instead of ‘Save’ πŸ™‚ ). However, the photos represent so well the hive of marine activity that was the Thames – and just two years before the outbreak of World War II – I could hardly not share them. Hope you enjoy them too….




From Southwark Bridge




‘St. Paul’s broods over the river’


On London Bridge


Dutch eel-boats (on Saturday), at Billingsgate


Tower Bridge


‘Loading in the Pool’


‘Almost dead at low-water’


Two hours before high-water, the Pool wakes up’




‘The past looks at the present’ (is that Deptford Power Station?)


Probably Millwall Docks, complete with Lascars.


‘…an arduous business…’


Woolwich Reach


‘Woolwich Free Ferry Types’


‘Dockland’s Children (“Skinny Liz”)’


‘Brailing the mainsail’


‘Barge menders’


‘First of the ebb’


‘The saddest sight on the Thames: the old men watching the young men work’


‘Southend on Bank Holiday’


‘The loveliest craft in our waters’


‘Salt water’



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9 Responses to Thames Portrait – From Westminster to Southend

  1. Nicholas Sack says:

    Striking photographs. Info here (from Wiki) about the photographer, the author, and their tragic deaths:

    Robertson took her first job, on the London-based magazine Answers, at the age of 19. In that year she also sat anonymously for the painting A Red Haired Girl by James McBey. On 26 February 1927 she was married in Kensington to H. E. (from 1951 Sir Henry) Turner (1891–1961), secretary-general of the Empire Press Union, later the Commonwealth Press Union. They adopted a son, Gordon Turner, in the late 1930s. The Turners moved to Heath Street, Hampstead, in 1946. They were passionate sailors, as the sailing background of Ordinary Families shows. Turner’s death in a boating accident precipitated Robertson’s suicide five months later.

  2. Rich says:

    Great photos of the river Mick
    Certain buildings I recognise along the way.
    Thank s for sharing πŸ‘πŸ‘

  3. Wonderful photos – thank you! I can’t help but notice the young men in the pictures – I wonder what happened to them in the coming few years? And the romantic in me wonders which P&O ship that was, and where it was bound on its next voyage – Bombay, Colombo, Singapore, Hong Kong… perhaps down to Australia? And, wow, Southend Beach! Seems “overtourism” isn’t just a 21st-century phenomenon.

  4. Joyce Calvert says:

    Wonderful photos, loved the one on the shore, was that at the tower? I remember going there with my aunt & cousin one summer after the war and playing on sand.

  5. Kathy Cook says:

    Really enjoyed those photos Mick – thank you.


    Kathy Cook

    MA, BA Hons, DipSW, PGCD, Cert FE,

    Life is short – so, break the rules,forgive quickly,

    kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably and

    never regret anything that made you smile……..

    ……oh! and dance like there is nobody watching!


  6. AlanT says:

    These are great photos, with lots of foreground interest. They include a lot of barges still under sail. Not too easy on a bendy river with a strong tide.

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