The River Thames Path, “from Source to Sea”
is an illustrated map of the River Thames by the artist William Thomas. Following the river from its origins in Cricklade in the Cotswolds to its mouth into the North Sea, the map depicts many famous bridges and landmarks along the way.
THE RIVER THAMES PATH“, by William Thomas
About The River Thames Path

The illustrated map depicts the whole route of the River Thames, from its source near Cirencester to Southend and the North Sea. The map’s various illustrations include historic buildings, royal residences, locks, bridges and islands. The “River Thames Path“, a national trail, follows the river for most of its journey, from the source to the Thames Barrier. This illustrated map will be of real interest to anyone who has ever walked or cycled all or some of the 184 mile route.

At the top of the map the river winds its way through the historic villages and market towns of the Cotswolds. The first illustration, of St John’s church at Lechlade, is as far as you can navigate towards the source by boat. Also in Lechlade is St John’s Lock where you find the statue of Old Father Thames. Carved by Rafaelle Monti and originally made for the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in 1851, he was moved here in 1974.

As you navigate the river away from its source, the Thames winds through Oxford, one of the world’s most famous and longest established cities. The illustration of Oxford shows the dreaming spires at dawn from South Park.

The River is also known as the Isis above Iffley Lock through Oxford. Many believe that the River Thames was correctly named the River Isis from its source until Dorchester-upon-Thames where it meets the River Thame and becomes Thame-Isis.

From Oxford the River Thames continues its journey winding through many water meadows, rural villages and market towns. Goring Lock (shown on the map) is one of the 45 locks that ensures the river remains navigable. Once it was a popular trade route, now the river is just as popular with the leisure industry.

After Goring the next illustration is of the 12th Century town of Henley-on-Thames and its 5-arch bridge built in the 1700s. Home of the world famous Royal Regatta since 1839, the Regatta is held on one of the few stretches of the River that is naturally straight.

East of Henley, the River curves its way to pass beneath one of the most imposing buildings along its path, Windsor Castle. Steeped in history, it dates back 900 years to the time of William the Conqueror and still serves today as one of the Queen’s official residences. This view of the Castle is from Eton (also illustrated).

Eton College was founded by Henry VI in 1440 and has educated 19 British Prime Ministers including the current Prime Minister, David Cameron. During the summer term, the school’s “wet-bobs” row on the River.

Beyond Eton, the River passes Runnymede, the site of King John’s sealing of the Magna Carta. Navigation of this stretch of the River used to prove tricky and was improved in the 1800s by a series of locks. The project has been described as one of the most “oustanding examples of river engineering”.

The next illustration on the map is one of the many stunning views of Hampton Court, one of England’s historic Royal Palaces. Originally built for Cardinal Wolsey it later passed to Henry VIII in 1529. In the 1600s the Palace was enlarged greatly by William III.

From Hampton Court the River Thames builds up pace through central London passing under Richmond Bridge and Chiswick Bridge (illustrated): seen here is the finish of the 2010 Oxford and Cambridge boat race. Held on the Thames since 1829, it became an annual event in 1856, from Putney Bridge, under Hammersmith Bridge to Mortlake. The River winds under Chelsea Bridge and Albert Bridge and past Battersea Power Station before reaching some of the most recognisable of England’s landmarks: the first is of Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament; then the Millennium Bridge and St Pauls, the bridge being one of London’s most recent landmarks. Also shown is Tower Bridge, the only Bascule bridge on the river and an amazing feat of Victorian engineering.

Beyond Tower Bridge are two more modern feats of engineering: the first is the Thames Barrier, the world’s second largest movable flood barrier. Built to protect London from high tides and storms coming in the sea, it is only closed at times of particular vulnerability. To the right of the Barrier is the skyline of Canary Wharf. Built on the site of the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs, many see it as a symbol of the UK’s switch from the old to new industries, from shipping to finance.

As the River approaches the North Sea the landscape is a striking contrast to the rural England further upstream. For Tilbury and Gravesend the River has always been an important their existence, providing a place of work for much of their population.

Where the River becomes the Thames Estuary, changing from fresh to salt water, is hard to define. The town of Southend-On-Sea, the last name of the map, is certainly a seaside town, first visited in the Georgian era by Londoners on holiday.

Also on the map is the River Medway, which rises at Turners Hill in Kent and passes Hever Castle and the Medway Towns before feeding into the Thames Estuary. Illustrated here are Tonbridge Castle, originally a Motte-and-Bailey castle built in 1066 after the Norman Conquest, and Rochester Cathedral and Castle.

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Scroll over the map to see the detail