Ferries can be found all over England and Wales both as actual operations still running and as memories of what once was. From Cornwall to the Scottish border and all along the rivers leading into the English Channel, the Irish Sea and the North Sea, ferries have carried people, livestock, vehicles and cargo across rivers and lakes and harbours.

Most of the vehicles used as ferries were normal vessels powered by oars, steam, sail or internal combustion engines. Some, however, were chain or cable ferries. Rope, steel-link chains or cables were stretched from shore to shore underwater and the boat was pulled along the cable by muscle, whether human or animal, or by an engine of some type. These types of ferries were also called punts or floating bridges. The person responsible for the first wooden-hulled versions of chain ferries that appeared in England from the 1830s on was a civil engineer from Devon, James Meadows Rendel, best known as a harbour architect.

Before we get to the chain ferries, though, we will mention two major ferries in England outside Scotland and the Thames: the Mersey Ferry in Liverpool and the Gosport Ferry in Portsmouth. The detail and history of each of these ferry services could fill volumes, if only for the innumerable ferry routes that sprang up over the centuries to serve each of these busy port cities. As for the smaller ferries and lesser known routes, in this section we intend to take a look at ferry crossings such as Dartmouth and Torpoint, plus floating bridge ferries such as Cowes and Woolston and a range of the lesser know ferry routes around England.