London Barge Race
Why not join us for the Annual Thames Barge Race onboard the MV Pearl of London on Saturday 6th July 2019. This is a must do family day out that shouldn't be missed!
MV Pearl of London boasts one of the largest open decks on the River Thames. The only floating 360 degree bar in London, all guests on the top deck have easy access to purchase ice cold drinks with breathtaking unrestricted views of London.
Or if you want to stay away from the sunshine... then head indoors to our spacious middle deck saloon and catch the highlights of the race from the comfort of your very own booth (seating is offered on a first come first serve basis). The middle deck also offers its very own bar and dance floor so you can get in the party spirit!
Help us cheer on the racing barges on this amazing vessel!
Departing from Greenwich Pier at 11:45 and returning back at 16:15 we will be following the race up river to Westminster Bridge taking in all the Race Action and all the sights of London along the way
£26 per person
*Family Ticket Offer*
£90 for 2 adults and 2 children (under 12 years)
Ticket includes BBQ Buffet
The History of Barge Race
The Thames Barge Driving Race has been held each year since 1974 as a celebration and demonstration of traditional Thames skills. The race took on its present form in 1975 - starting at Greenwich and finishing at the Houses of Parliament, about seven miles further up river. Barges are sponsored by local businesses and are decorated in bright colours. The crews are in fancy dress reflecting the current year’s race theme.
The race consists of about 11 Barges of which have a crew of between 5 and 6 crew members consisting of Lightermen and Waterman. They steer and row a 30 ton barge over a seven mile course for about 90 minutes from Greenwich to Westminster Bridge.
Lightermen were workers who transferred goods between ships and quays, aboard flat-bottomed barges called Lighters. They were one of the most characteristic groups of workers in London Docklands during the heyday of the Port of London, but their trade was eventually rendered largely obsolete by changes in shipping technology. The event commemorates the skills of Lightermen who moved freight this way along the Thames up until the 1930's and in a wider context it encourages ongoing interest in moving cargo via water and as a way to recruit younger people back into river trades. The teams are normally made up of employees of Thames Passenger Boats and Lighterage companies, and are sponsored by local businesses.
For centuries, Thames watermen provided a vital service in transporting passengers to their places of work and leisure, or simply carrying them across to the other riverbank.
London Bridge, first built by the Romans, was the only bridge spanning the Thames in London until Westminster Bridge was built in 1750. The watermen did all they could to ensure that their boats remained the only practical means of getting about.
By Elizabethan times Thames watermen had become some of the most important tradesmen in London. But work on the river could be dangerous for poorly qualified men in unsuitable boats. Accidents were frequent, and passengers were often overcharged.
In 1514, in Henry VIII’s reign, Parliament found it necessary to introduce an Act to regulate watermen’s fares. A further Act of 1555 led to the foundation of the Company of Watermen and the introduction of apprenticeships on the river. The original one-year waterman’s apprenticeship became seven years in 1603.
In 1585 Elizabeth I granted the Company its own coat of arms showing the tools of the watermen’s trade, and soon afterwards their first Hall was built. Then in 1700, another group of river workers, the lightermen, who carried goods rather than passengers, joined with the Company. It became the Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames, a title it still holds. The Company moved to its present Hall in 1780.
The Company was responsible throughout the 19th century for regulating watermen and lightermen and their fees, and for registering their boats. Later, the Thames Conservancy and the Port of London Authority took over most of these duties. However, the Company continued to be responsible for apprenticeships and the granting of Freedoms.
Today, the principal activities of the Company are the training of apprentices and the charitable support of watermen and their families. The Watermen’s Company also continues to encourage an interest in rowing and the use of the Thames, as well as traditional City of London ceremonial river events.
The earliest formal rowing race on the Thames was started by Thomas Doggett in 1715. Since then many other rowing races and regattas have taken place on the river.
Following the same idea as Doggett’s race, some of these offered a waterman’s coat with a decorative silver arm badge as the prize. Others had prize cups, medals or skiff backboards specially painted to commemorate the event.
Often, watermen passed down their skills from father to son for generations, so that particular families became well known on the Thames for their rowing prowess. Freemen of the Watermen’s Company have gone on to become champion sportsmen, Trade Union leaders, Lord Mayors of London and Members of Parliament.
Vessel: MV Pearl of London
Boarding: Greenwich Pier 11:30
All vessels will start boarding 15 minutes before departure time for a prompt departure. No return for late passengers. Please be aware tickets are non-refundable.