Above: View looking north towards Lambeth Bridge.
The image was found by the sharp eye of Dave Allen. It was taken on 22 August 1935 and shows a cart almost in the middle of the Thames at a point south of Lambeth Bridge which is to be seen in the background. A new Lambeth Bridge, the second one on almost the same site, had been newly opened in 1932 so the new bridge in the picture was a novelty for Londoners to see. In case you may think that the Thames would be too deep for a horse and cart to be in such a position, it should be pointed out that the river is particularly shallow at low tide, even today, at this point on the river.
However, health and safety or some similar official body would probably frown on such an activity in these ‘enlightened’ days. In 1935 there were far less restrictions on what the public could and could not do. The real question to answer is ‘What was the cart doing in the middle of the river anyway?’. It would seem on the face of it that the whole purpose was so that the young lad could have a swim. If so, where was the photographer? Since telephoto lenses were not so advanced in 1935 as they are today, it seems highly likely that the photographer was in a boat not far away from the cart. This leads on to the next question which is ‘Was the whole thing being specially staged for a strange photo-shoot or even for an advert?’. It may be that the picture was taken just to show the public how shallow the Thames is on a low tide at this point in the river.
Whatever the circumstances, it is certainly a photo with a difference. Having seen many pictures of life on the Thames, in books and in museums, I have never seen a picture like this before.
Interestingly, there is still a ramp on the Vauxhall side of the river, allowing vehicle access to the Thames. It is now used by the amphibious tourist vehicle, known as ‘The Duck’ which, as well as taking tourists on a tour of the streets of London, also takes the passengers for a short trip on the water.
Above: View in 2003 from the Albert Embankment, looking at almost the same point in the river, but looking SW towards Vauxhall Bridge.
Finally, returning to the point about the River Thames being shallow at low tide, the lower picture shows a small ‘island’ of sand and gravel which was exposed on a very low tide in 2003. Such shallow water is not common but it is to be seen now and then on this reach which lies between Lambeth Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge.