At the lower right corner of this painting, well-dressed ladies and gentlemen wait for a boat on a jetty, on the bank of the River Thames. Spanning the Thames in the distance is the original Westminster Bridge.
In 1738 engineer Charles Labelye was appointed to construct a bridge across the River Thames at Westminster. Westminster Bridge opened in 1750 and was, after London Bridge, only the second masonry structure to cross the Thames. (The present cast-iron bridge was constructed between 1854 and 1862.)
It is not known when the ferry was established at Lambeth, but the earliest reference to it dates from 1513. In 1656 a ferry holding Oliver Cromwell’s coach, horses and servants sank while crossing the Thames. It was suggested that this was a bad omen. The right to collect tolls from the crossing belonged to the Archbishop of Canterbury. This entitlement was confiscated during the Civil War but returned to the Archbishop after the Restoration. However, in 1750 the Archbishop was paid compensation when the first Westminster Bridge opened. It would eventually replace the ferry.
Other views of the horseferry were painted by Jan Griffier the Elder (1706-10; Museum of London) and drawn by Johannes Kip (published 1697).
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