As a further installment of our feature on unusual and lesser known ferry crossings in the UK, this time we focus on the Thames and London area. There are plenty of boats and ferries to be found up and down the Thames, of course. So we thought we would take a look at a few of the most interesting crossings, one of which can be found further along the Tgames from the busy city of London.

Toward the seaward side of the Thames river, the ferry route between Gravesend and Tilbury is the last public access point east of London on the Thames before the sea. There are maps from 1571 that show the jetties on the riverbanks of land then owned by the Lord of the Manor of Parrock, Milton-next-Gravesend. Given that there is ample evidence that the land on both sides of the river there were used for grazing sheep, it is highly likely the first ferries there carried not only sheep, shepherds and their herding dogs, but also bundles of wool for market at Gravesend. The boat used was likely the hoy, a small early sail-powered river barge. At that time, the fort at Tilbury was also the terminus of a ferry route for moving soldiers and equipment across the river as needed. The town council of Gravesend officially took control of the ferry routes in 1694. For the next century and a half, sailboats and rowboats carried people, animals and cargo back and forth between Gravesend and Tilbury. A private ferry route between Tilbury and Higham was also run at the same time under the ownership of the Lord of South Hall, East Tilbury.

The 1850s and the 1860s were a time of change for the Gravesend/Tilbury ferry routes. The London, Tilbury and Southend (LTS) Railway began operating a ferry across the Thames for its passengers in 1852. A steam ferry was put into service in 1855. In 1862, the LTS Railway took ownership of both the public ferry route that had been owned by the Gravesend Town Council and the military ferry owned by the Board of Ordinance run. The LTS Railway and its successors ran these ferries until 1984.

A car ferry between Gravesend and Tilbury was introduced in 1927 and ran until 1964 when the Dartford Tunnel opened. Passenger service has continued right up to the present day. Currently, the Lower Thames and Medway Passenger Boat Company runs the ferries every half-hour from 6 AM to 7 PM every day except Sunday. One difference from the past is that the Town Pier is used as a terminus rather than the original West Street Terminal.