16 April 2009

Thames Crossings 1: Ham Ferry

Downriver from Teddington Footbridge, the first cycle crossing of the Thames is Hammertons (or Ham) Ferry, which connects Marble Hill Park and Ham House. It's a tiny, on-demand shuttle boat that runs February-October, 10am-6pm.

It costs £1 per adult plus 50p per bike. That works out as something like £30 per mile, which is more expensive than the Orient Express, so go on and treat yourself.

You ride a bit of history here as you cross to the north bank. Hammertons Ferry was set up as a rival to the nearby Twickenham Ferry in 1908. A legal battle established the right of Hammertons Ferry to operate (more detail in the comments below).

Its victory was celebrated in a song that was published called 'Ferry to fairyland', which seems to us a rather ambitious description of Marble Hill. Still, the Twickenham Ferry's chief claim to fame hitherto seems to have been a tedious mention in Dickens's Little Dorrit, which clearly couldn't compete with a comic music-hall ditty.

Continue a mile or so past all the smart moored boats along the towpath on the north bank to Richmond Bridge.


  1. £30 a mile? That's even more expensive than taking the Picadilly Line from Leicester Square to Covent Garden, which if you (unwisely) pay in cash is £4 for 0.161 miles, £24.84 per mile. Though I have to admit the view from the ferry is rather better. And of course they take bikes.

  2. There's an amusing article in the Sun on the 'world's most expensive train journey':
    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article6681.eceGood to see the Sun's reputation for factual accuracy is preserved. The hackette writes "As I descended to the chilly Piccadilly line platform via escalator at Covent Garden..."

    Covent Garden doesn't have any escalators. It only has lifts or stairs.

  3. That Twickenham ferry dispute clearly caught the public imagination at the time. Below is what the Times said about Ham Ferry on Mon 26 Jul 1915.

    To put it all in context, the price of a pint of beer in a pub in 1915 was threepence. So the ferry-to-beer ratio of 1915 compares almost identically to that of today (£1 per adult crossing, with a short pint of fizzy London bilge water costing about £3).

    By that reckoning, Mr Hammerton's legal bills had left him 24,000 pints out of pocket, or about £72,000 in today's beer money.

    Anyway, here's the Times story:

    The verdict of the House of Lords upholding the new Twickenham Ferry against the claim that it is an infringement of the rights of the old, was applauded yesterday by thousands of visitors to the Thames. As each excursion steamer passed the landing-stage of the new ferry at Marble Hill loud cheers were raised, and the successful waterman, Mr. Walter Hammeron, had to appear and bow.

    The legal victory is all the more popular because it leaves untouched the ancient ferry of poetry and romance; and there is no reason to fear that the competition of the new will ever bush the old cry of "Ferry ahoy" from wayfarers on the Surrey side who want to cross direct to Twickenham. At both passages yesterday the boatmen were very busy, for both afford the means of most conveniently reaching two points on the Middlesex side of equal picturesque and historic interest; and moreover one penny fare is charged by both.

    About 8,000 passengers are carried by yearly by Hammerton's ferry. But so protracted has been the litigation that the owners, despite their success in the final appeal, are out of pocket by about £300. It is hoped that part of this sum will be raised by the sale of an illustrated pamphlet telling the story of the ferry, and the words and music of a song celebrating its beauties.

    1. I used to take the row boat ferry across from Ham to go to school in Twickenham in the 1970s. You'd stand on the bank where the car park is and give the guy a wave. Hammerton's was a bit inconvenient, crossing the river from Marble Hill park or thereabouts, but I did used to take it sometimes. I have to say I did prefer the row boat ferry.

  4. hello
    Im thinking of moving....anyone know how long it takes to bike from saint margarets near twickenham to canary wharf?

  5. It's just under 16 miles (about 25km's), via A316, continuing on to A4 then follow embankment etc.

    I'm a female rider and it takes me anywhere between 70 and 80 minutes depending on how I'm feeling.
    All depends on your fitness too, I'm averagely fit and I don't do it everyday. I also don't race myself - I'm sure someone else could do it faster.
    I like cycling in on a Monday morning, train home Tues.
    Train in Wed morning. Cycle back to St Mags on Wed night.
    Day off on Thursday. Then depending on social arrangements I do both legs on Friday.