NEW Thames Tales NEW

Major work on Swiftstone underway!

The annual Barge Driving Race from Greenwich - to  Westminster - is normally held in June/July.

"2016 Barge Driving Race will be held on 9th July

The race starts from Greenwich Pier at 12:00 (tbc) but there will be lots to see before that as barges, tugs and pleasure craft fill the river for this unique event.

("what IS Barge Driving?" see the article below...)

You can watch the barges pass from many vantage points along the river... including a number of riverside pubs... or from a Thames pleasure boat see the map below for more details... or call Transport on Water on 020 7476 2424 for information and programmes


Once the race is finished the spectacle is not over - the attending tugs bring the barges, each one weighing around 30 tons, and their teams, in relative comfort, back to Greenwich for the prize giving ceremonies. At no other time is the river so full of craft in modern times.

Below is a short history & explanation of barge driving reproduced from an earlier Race Leaflet:

"Barge Driving has a long history, which goes back to the times when the river Thames, London's main thoroughfare, was used most economically for transporting the City's merchandise.

Barges were used to carry goods from the main docks below Tower Bridge to warehouses and distribution points along the river. Before the introduction of tugs, barges had to (and still have to !) be man handled by Lightermen, using long 'sweeps'... 26feet long 'oars'.

Lightermen and Watermen have to be licensed to work on the river and must be well skilled in all aspects of safety when moving vessels. Having an extremely good knowledge of the river and its tides and currents are essential skills. They still obtain their skills and knowledge today by the time honoured, traditional apprenticeship, one of the few organisations still to use this well-proven method of training.

The Barge Driving Race, apart from being an annual spectacle, demonstrates the skills and strengths needed in handling these large steel barges. Together with the fact that London's River Thames can still be effectively used for cargo transport."

The Swiftstone Trust supports The Barge Race... Swifty will be there this year ... and asks why the potential of the river to transport our goods - off road - is being ignored by those in power. Join us now.


© we remind you that all text, images and sounds on this site are copyright
please contact us before using them for any purpose

The Swiftstone Trust is a Registered Charity no.1083837

Swiftstone works closely with the Massey Shaw Marine Vessels Preservation Trust

Site design/creation by

hosting by