From historic boat races to an ice skating rink – and even a man-made beach – the River Thames has been at the centre of London life for generations.
But for many, the true beauty of this natural resource has gone overlooked, mainly as it doesn’t serve the important purposes it once used to.
This stunning collection of historical photos, taken between 1895 and 2000, showcase the former life of the much-loved waterway as a meeting spot for friends, holiday spot for children, and even a drinking spot for horses.
One snap shows spectators gracing its banks for the iconic Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, which it has held annually for over 163 years.
In another picture further downstream, two East End children are spotted playing in the shadow of Tower Bridge on an artificial beach in the 1950s.
And in one moment not seen since the 1960s, the Thames played host to an ice skating rink for three policeman.
A group of small cargo boats huddle around a pier on the southbank of the Thames near Bermondsey as steam-powered boat filled with passengers push past. The photo is believed to have been taken in 1895
London policemen enjoy ice skating on a wide open section of a completely frozen River Thames. The photograph is undated but is believed to come from the very early 1900s. Last time any large section of the Thames froze over was in 1963
One the Thames’ older and more glamorous crossings Tower Bridge at the start of its life, having been completed in 1894 with a central drawbridge raising to allow passing ships
A man is seen rescuing a mother and her child from their home during flooding in Rotherhithe, south London, caused by the Thames bursting its banks
Light water traffic slowly moves down the Thames near Kingston-on-Thames, Surbiton, Surrey in 1910. Before the mass production of the car, London’s central river was a significant mode of transport for people people and cargo
Pupils of the prestigious Westminster School practice rowing on the Thames at Putney, which remains a popular rowing spot to this day
‘The magic of the river is that we don’t take enough notice of it, or think about it enough,’ Alex Werner, Head of History Collections at the Museum of London told the Evening Standard.
‘It’s an amazing resource. It’s always changing. It’s an evocative backdrop.
‘London without the Thames wouldn’t be London.
‘But we’ve turned our backs on it. Commuters today coming over the river on a railway bridge, they’re more likely to be on their phones.
‘These images showcase the river.’
Horses pulling a cart are pictured taking a drink in incredibly shallow waters along the Thames just south of Lambeth Bridge as Westminster can be seen in the distant gloom
Cambridge oarsmen go full steam ahead in 1927 as they practice for the annual Oxford-Cambridge boat race competition which has traditionally taken place on the Thames between Putney and Mortlake
The Twickenham ferry crew prepare a boat upstream in 1931. A sign also points to the Ham and Petersham rifle club ranges, and still operates to this day (and now includes pistols)
The Twickenham Ferry crossing at Twickenham in southwest London on the banks of the River Thames pictured in May 1931. There is a nearby sign for the White Swan pub, and Eel Pie Island sits in the near distance
Port of London Authority (PLA) police clamber out of the Thames after testing the buoyancy of their life jackets with a mock rescue at the West Indian Docks, on the Isle of Dogs in 1935
Tuberculosis patients from St. Thomas’ Hospital rest in their beds in the open air by the River Thames, opposite the Houses of Parliament in May 1936
The Royal Navy submarine ‘HMS Starfish’ passes under Tower Bridge on its way to the marina of St Katharine’s Dock in May 1937
Two boys splash around in the Thames off the Albert Embankment, with Lambeth Bridge visible in the background in March 1938
Two little girls playing in the sand on Tower Beach, an artificial beach near Tower Bridge on the River Thames, London, 31st August 1955. King George V decreed that the beach, constructed from 1,500 barge loads of sand, was to be used by children, who would have ‘free access forever’
An incredible aerial view shot of London in the middle of the 20th century, with the Bankside Power Station (now Tate Modern art gallery) in the foreground, and a flat docklands area lying beyond
A man is spotted fishing from a small boat on the River Thames, as he passes a still working Battersea Power Station in 1972
British Labour Party politician John Prescott comes ashore at Westminster Bridge in 1983, after swimming two miles down the Thames from Chelsea, as part of a protest against the government’s policy of dumping nuclear waste at sea
British windsurfer Tim Batstone is pictured sailing down the River Thames downstream of Tower Bridge during his journey around Britain in May 1984
A couple rest on the banks of the Thames during The Henley Royal Regatta weekend in 1998
The Thames is also home to the iconic ferris wheel the London Eye opposite Westminster and stars in the New Years Eve firework display on the Southbank
A colour photo from the 2000s shows the Palace of Westminster and the Elizabeth Tower in all its unscaffolded glory during a sunset over the capital