Decline of the watermen

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Due to the proximity of these places to the riverside, the watermen were rarely in want of a fare in those days; but very hard times were on the horizon.

Hackney coaches perhaps were the first threat. Then came the new bridges over the river. First, Westminster, then Blackfriars, and afterwards Waterloo, Hungerford, and Vauxhall, and as a final coup de grace, came the steamboats, the first of which appeared in 1819.

For several years they plied only below bridge, but in 1830 the Endeavour began to run up to Richmond, and soon a swarm began to ply between the bridges. This led to the gradual removal of the various stairs.

In looking at old maps one sees how very numerous they were, and at what a number of places, both above and below bridge, one could land.

Besides those which were public stairs, many of the old riverside taverns had their private stairs, which added much to their picturesque appearance from the river.

Some of the old views of the taverns in Wapping show them, often depicting the smuggling which took place on dark and foggy nights from the ships moored in the upper and lower Pool.

Next page: Public stairs on the Thames