Mary Boyle, in "Her Book," speaking of the time when her father had an appointment at the Navy Board and a residence in Somerset House, says, "It was our great delight to go by water on Sunday afternoon to Westminster Abbey, and there is no doubt we occasionally cut a grand figure on the river; for when my father went out he had a splendid barge, rowed by boatmen clad entirely in scarlet, with black jockey caps, such as in those picturesque old days formed part of that beautiful river procession in honour of the Lord Mayor, on the 9th of November, over the disappearance of which pageant I have often mourned."

It was not until the early days of the present reign that neglect and dirt spoiled our river as an almost Royal waterway; and we believe that as late as the days of Archbishop Tait the Primate's State barge used to convey him from Lambeth Palace to the House of Lords opposite. State barges and river processions were the standing examples of State pageantry, thoroughly popular and remembered by the intensely conservative people of London; and it is a tribute to the feeling that the use of the river was a necessary part of London life, that the Lord Mayor and his suite on the 9th of November used to take boat at Blackfriars Bridge, and went thence by water to Westminster Hall, returning in their State barges to the bridge, where their coaches were waiting for them. We may credit the founders of the earliest illustrated paper with a knowledge of the popular sentiment of the day. When the Illustrated London News was established the title-page of that paper showed the Thames, with the procession of State barges in the foreground, and the then new and popular river steamers passing by them.

In addition to cleanliness something in the form of a restoration of old conditions of water-level and other improvements by modern engineering will also be required if the river is to become a popular waterway. Among the main drawbacks to its present use is the great difference in level between high and low water. The old London Bridge, with its multiplied arches and pillars, acted as a lock. It admitted the flood tide more easily than it released the ebb. The consequence was that when the tide began to fall the waters above were pent in by the bridge, and the river was kept at a level of three feet higher than it was below the obstruction. Even now at flood tide it is a splendid and imposing river. But the very improvements which add to its dignity when the tide is flowing, have caused it to remain almost waterless for a longer period during each day. The dredging and deepening of the channel forces the waterway to contract its flow, while the embanking of its sides enables the tide to slip down at great speed. For four hours in each tide the Thames is not so much a river as a half-empty conduit. It is not in the least probable that this will be allowed to continue. The success of the half-tide lock at Richmond has been beyond all expectation. It has secured a perpetual river, whether on the ebb or flow, with a mean level suited for boating and traffic at all hours. A scheme for another lock of the same kind at Wandsworth is now accepted in principle and nearly completed in detail. When this is built the long stretch of river from Wandsworth, past Putney, Ranelagh, Hammersmith, Barnes, and Kew, will retain a permanent and constant supply, augmented at the flood tide, but never falling below a certain level at the ebb. Then must follow the final and complete measure for making the London river the greatest natural amenity in the Metropolis, a half-tide lock at London Bridge, to hold up the water opposite the historic and magnificent frontage of St. Paul's, the Temple, Westminster and Lambeth, and upwards to above the embankments at Chelsea. The result would be an immense fresh-water lake, with an ebb and flow to keep it sweet and pure, but remaining for the greater part of the twenty-four hours at a fixed level, and during this period of rest only moved by a very gentle downward stream, or else practically still when the water sank level with the sills of the lock. This would make it not only easy for boats propelled by steam, sail, or oars to move on it at all hours, without hindrance from the present strong up or down currents, but also absolutely safe. Any craft, from the outrigger and Canada canoe, to the improved river steamers which would at once be launched upon its waters, could float with ease and safety on the London Thames.

The scene in the near future can be imagined from the analogy of Henley, though the larger scale of the London river makes the forecast more difficult to bring into proportion. The intentionally decorative side, given on the upper river by the houseboats, will doubtless be supplied by a new service of public or municipal passenger steamers, able to ply continuously at all hours, independently of the tide, as fast as safety permits, and absolutely punctual because the stream will be under control. These should be as brilliantly carved, gilded, coloured, and furnished as possible, surplus profits only going to the municipal coffers after the boats have been repaired yearly and thoroughly redecorated. The scheme is not in the least visionary. The Chairman of one of the tramway companies obtained recently complete estimates for a fast, luxurious, and beautiful service of Thames passenger boats, which he was convinced would pay even now; and though he did not succeed in inducing the shareholders to accept the idea of this alternative investment, there is no doubt that on the improved river the improved steamers would pay. A simultaneous and necessary addition would be the building of numerous broad, accessible, and beautiful stairs and landing places. Instead of the narrow gangway through which files of passengers slowly creep there must be long platforms, on to which the crowds on board the vessels step, as from a train, all along the length of the ships, so that the touch and departure may be rapid. The decline of traffic on the river is largely due to the narrowness and fewness of these points of access, which were gradually closed as the river was deserted for the road, while their blocking or neglect discouraged efforts to improve or multiply boats and steamers.

In 1543 there were twelve large and handsome flights of stairs down to the river between Blackfriars and Westminster. In 1600, besides these there were public and private gateways of large size, covered docks for State and private barges, and every convenience for access to the water. There were stairs and stages at Essex House, Arundel House, Somerset House, York House (the water-gate of which still remains, with a frontage of embankment and garden between it and the river of to-day), Bedford House, Durham House, Whitehall, and Westminster. The latter were "the King's Stairs." There are few constructions which lend themselves better to architectural treatment than water-gates and stairways. They would become one of the features of the Embankment. On the river itself the City Companies would once more launch their State barges, and the Houses of Parliament would have a flotilla of decorative steam or electric launches. Permanent moorings, now difficult to maintain near the bank on account of the runaway tide, would hold boats, launches, and single-handed sailing yachts. No one will grudge the County Council a State barge; while the new municipalities which border on the river - Westminster, Southwark, Fulham, Kensington, and the rest - will endeavour to interest their members in the great waterway by following the example of the Thames Conservancy and sending their representatives for official voyages to survey its banks and note suggestions for improvements in their actual setting and surroundings. No doubt in winter all the minor pleasure traffic would cease. But there is no reason whatever why a service of ornamental and well-equipped screw steamers plying at very short intervals, and with absolute punctuality, should not continue all the winter through. They would be entirely unlike the "penny boat." Double-storied deckhouses, glazed and warmed, would afford the passengers more room, purer air, and a more rapid means of transport than the omnibus, and a far more agreeable mode of crossing from one side of the river to the other than by railway bridges, tunnels, or the architecturally beautiful, but crowded, stone bridges used for ordinary traffic.