Victorian London - Directories - Dickens's Dictionary of London, by Charles Dickens, Jr., 1879 - "Thames (The)"

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Thames (The).—The regulation of the Thames and its traffic is vested in the Conservancy Board (Tower-hill). Strict rules are issued as to in any way impeding any fairway of the river; the harbour master being empowered summarily to remove any vessel so offending, charging the owner with all costs. The by-laws for the navigation of the Lower Thames are too elaborate to be given here in detail; but every yachtsman entering the river should supply himself with a copy. The “rule of the road” is at present the same as that for vessels on the open sea; but this obvious absurdity seems likely before long to be removed. On the Upper Thames no steamer is allowed, between Teddington Lock and Cricklade to run at such a speed as to endanger any other boat, or injure the river bank. No one is allowed to ride or drive on the towing-path, to unload anything upon it, to place any vessel on the shore in front of it, or to take any stones, &c., from the banks. No vessel must remain in any lock longer than time enough to pass through, and if she pass without paying toll, the amount due can be demanded at any other lock before admitting her. No vessel—unless in case of necessity, through strength of current—is to be towed from the bank otherwise than from a mast of sufficient height to protect the banks, gates, &c., from injury. The lock tolls for pleasure boats are
For every steam pleasure-boat, not exceeding 35 ft. in length -/9
For every pleasure steamboat, exceeding 35 ft. in length, for every additional 5 ft. of length -/3 Class 1—For every pair-oared rowboat, skiff, outrigger, and company boat, and for every randan, canoe, punt, and dingey -/3
Class 2—For every four-oared row-boat -/6
Class 3.—For every row-boat, shallop, and company boat over four ours -/9
For every house-boat 2/6
The above charges to be for passing once through the lock and returning in the same day.
In lieu of the above tolls, pleasure steamboats or rowboats may be registered on the annual payment to the Conservators of the undermentioned sums, and pass free of any other charge
Per ann.
For every steam pleasure-boat not exceeding 35 ft. in length 40s.
For every additional number  of 5ft. 5s.
For every row-boat of Class 1 20s.
For every row-boat of Class 2 30s.
For every row-boat of Class 3 40s.
For every house-boat 100s.
In computing the tolls every number less than the entire numbers above stated is to be charged as the entire number.
Persons using any boat registered on an annual payment shall, at all times when required by any lock-keeper, produce the certificate of such registration, or pay the toll authorised to be taken from persons passing through locks in an unregistered boat ; and every boat registered for an annual payment shall have attached to it in some conspicuous place, and securely fixed to the satisfaction of the Conservators, a metal ticket to be issued by the Conservators, containing the number of such registration, and on the expiration of such registration the said ticket shall be returned to the Conservators.
Any person committing any breach of, or in any way infringing any of these by-laws, is liable to a penalty of  £5.
The tolls for the Conservators’ ferry-boats above Teddington-lock are:
For every horse not engaged in towing, taken across by ferry-boat, the sum of ....3d
For every carriage, waggon, cart, or other vehicle, in addition to the toll on the horse 3d
For every foot passenger 1d
THE FISHERY LAWS for the Lower Thames and Medway are highly elaborate, and on the whole, perhaps, somewhat obsolete; the only alteration apparently made in them since 1785 being the repeal, in 186o, of the sixteenth clause, forbidding “beating of the bush.” The previous clause appears to be still in force, and absolutely prohibits the taking at any time of the year “any sort of fish usually called whitebait!”
THE FISHERY LAWS for the Upper Thames were issued in 1869, and are to the following effect
Every net or engine is prohibited except—
1. A cast net not exceeding five yards in circumference, for obtaining bait only for angling, the sack or purse not more than 14 in. in depth.
2. The common drop round minnow net not exceeding 3 ft. in diameter.
3. A small landing net for securing fish taken in angling.
4. A hand net for removing fish from the well of a boat, or carrying fish after capture.
The fence seasons in the Upper River are
1. For salmon, salmon trout, and trout, from 10th September to the 31st March, both inclusive.
2, For pike, jack, perch, roach, rudd, barbel, bream, chubb, carp, tench, grayling, gudgeon, pope, dace, crayfish, bleak, minnow, and every kind of river fish, from 14th February to 31st May, both inclusive.
It shall not be lawful as regards the Upper River to use or have while on the Upper River, or near thereto, a prohibited net. To fish with unbaited hooks, or wire, or snare. To fish except between the beginning of the last hour before sunrise and the end of the first hour after sunset. To fish for or have in possession any fish within the fence season. To buy or sell any such fish. To fish for or wilfully disturb any fish when spawning. To wilfully take, destroy, or spoil any spawn, fry, or brood of fish. Penalty £5. And finally it is not lawful to take or kill any fish of the following kinds of less than the undermentioned sizes, measuring from the eye to the end of the tail: Pike, 12in. ; tench, 8in. barbel, 12 in. grayling, 9 in.; perch, 6 in., or any salmon of less than 4 lbs. or any salmon trout or trout of less than 1 lb. Penalty not exceeding £5.  
BOAT RACES, &c.—The rules for these, though differently worded, are practically the same for both portions of the river, and are to the effect that any vessel on the river on the occasion of any boat-race, &c., shall not pass thereon so as to impede or interfere with it, or endanger the safety of persons assembling on the river, or prevent the maintenance of order thereon; and the master of every such vessel shall observe the directions of the officer of the Conservators under a penalty not exceeding £5.
One of the pleasantest excursions from London is to Oxford, and thence back by the river, for which trip convenient boats can be hired at Salter’s boat-yard at Oxford, at Clasper’s at Wandsworth, or at Messenger’s Island at Kingston. The most convenient towns and villages on the river at which to put up when en route are Abingdon, Wallingford, Pangbourne, Caversham, Sonning, Wargrave, Henley, Medmenham, Marlow, Cookham, Taplow (Maidenhead), Windsor, Bells of Ouseley, Staines, Kingston, and Richmond. At Henley, Marlow, Taplow, Windsor, and Richmond there are several first-class hotels. At the other places named the accommodation is on a simpler scale; but visitors can make themselves sufficiently comfortable. The excursion may take from three days to a week in a rowing boat, but much less time of course is occupied if the steam launch, which plies between Kingston and Oxford, be taken. Naturally, however, this is not so pleasant a way of making the journey. The prettiest scenery on the river lies between Henley and Taplow. The “Rowing Almanack” may be referred to as an excellent guide to the Thames.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879