The Government and Misgovernment of London

By William A. Robson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII THE PORT OF LONDON AND RIVER AUTHORITIES

The handling of the various administrative functions connected with the river to which London owes so much of her commercial supremacy provides a further illustration of the piece-meal manner in which the government of the metropolis has been fashioned.

Conservancy functions over the Thames between Staines in Middlesex and the sea were said to have been exercised from time immemorial by the City Corporation. The upper fiver was placed in charge of a body of commissioners in the 18th century. The Thames Commission was large, unincorporate and inefficient.1 In 1857, after a prolonged dispute between the Crown and the City Corporation over the latter's claim to ownership of the bed and soil of the river, the Thames Conservancy Act2 was passed constituting a body of conservators consisting of the Lord Mayor, 2 City aldermen and 4 common councilmen, together with 5 representatives of the Admiralty, Board of Trade and Trinity House. The estate of both the Crown and the City Corporation in the bed and soil of the river was vested in the new body, which was charged with maintaining the Thames in a navigable condition, preventing pollution and ensuring land drainage.

In 1866 the Conservancy was reconstituted on an enlarged basis to take over from the Thames Commissioners the upper reaches of the river.3 In the following year another Act was passed to extend from Staines to the metropolis the existing provisions against pollution, and gave to the Conservators an exclusive right to dredge the river while prohibiting others from doing so. Large sums were expended on this work. This body controlled the whole navigable river to Yantlet Creek.

The composition of the Thames Conservancy has been

____________________
1
Fred S. Thacker: The Thames Highway ( 1914, privately printed), p. 123.
2
20 & 21 Vic., e. cxlvii.
3
Thames Navigation Act, 1866; Fred S. Thacker: op. cit., p. 239.

-131-

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