ments of war, its factories and its repositories, is in truth one of the great sights of England. It is said that when the Allied Sovereigns and their generals were in this country in 1814, this Arsenal with its contents astonished them beyond almost anything else: and when a few hours have been spent in its survey, the bewildered visitant will hardly wonder that such should have been the case. The long reach of marsh beyond is employed for the proving of cannon, and for artillery practice. But it is proposed to remove the long-range practice to the more extensive waste by Shoebury Ness at the mouth of the Thames, as well on account of the greater safety as of the ampler space. For some half-dozen miles the marshes extend on both sides of the river, without offering the slightest variety—but here, as all down the stream, the continual passage of vessels of all kinds sufficiently prevents any monotony. Along the Kentish shore the Government powder-magazines are indeed the only buildings until Erith is approached, when, at some distance from the village, the little ivy-covered church is seen lying at the foot of the wooded hill whose summit is crowned by the prospect-tower of Belvidere House. Erith itself was a rude, dirty, odd, out-of-the-way village, having, till within these dozen years, a good deal of a peculiar kind of traffic in consequence of the East India ships lying off here in order to discharge part of their cargo. But of late Erith has grown poor and genteel; and what Thomas Fuller happily calls "the plague of building" has lighted upon it, so that it is just in that awkward, unformed, transition state which renders men and matter alike ill-looking and unendurable. No great way below Erith the Darent slips so quietly into the Thames that very few mid-river passengers would notice its influx if it were not pointed out. The Darent is an exceedingly pretty river in much of its early course —and the same may be said of the Cray, which falls into it in the marshes a couple of miles before its confluence with the Thames. Both rivers are famous for their trout: that of the Cray is sometimes affirmed to be the finest in Kent.

On the Essex side the only noteworthy spot before Tilbury is arrived at, is Barking Creek, the mouth of the Roding—a river which traverses Essex, and yet is but a trifling stream till it meets the tide at Barking, two or three miles from its junction with the Thames. Barking is a place full of interest—but it is not possible to turn aside to it. About a mile and a half below Barking Creek is Rainham Creek, the mouth of the Rainham river, or, as it is called above Rainham, the Ingrebourne, or Bourne brook—a stream which also has a rather long course, but is of little size or importance. Rounding Cold-Harbour point (which is opposite Erith) we next notice the curious walls of chalk and sand which serve to distinguish Purfleet, which lies nearly opposite the mouth of the Darent. Purfleet is rather a populous little place. Here are extensive ordnance stores and powdermagazines. The only remarkable objects are the chalk cliffs, and some caverns which are traditionally spoken of as " the gold-mines," from a vague notion of Purfleet having been at some very distant day a sort of lesser California. The Beacon Cliff serves as a landmark to mariners; while from its summit there is a very extensive prospect along the river and over a part of Kent,

On the Kentish side, Stone Church, which will be observed on the heights, shortly before reaching Greenhithe, is a superior example of a village church of the early English style and date. Greenhithe stretches for some distance along the riverside opposite Stone Ness, in the hollow of a great bend of the river; but it has little to distinguish it from ordinary river-side villages. In the neighbourhood are extensive chalk-pits, and consequently considerable wharf traffic is carried on here. Just below Greenhithe is Ingress Abbey, the seat of Mr. Harmer, which, from its pleasant situation and extent, is sure to attract the eye; it is said to have been partly built of the stone of the Old London Bridge. The Kentish shore is here a good deal diversified, and has a cheerful pleasant aspect. Again the river makes a bold curve round Broad Ness, opposite which, on the Essex side, is Gray's Thurrock, which consists merely of a long irregular street; the inhabitants are largely engaged in brickmaking. Belmont House, from standing on a cliff which rises sharply from the river, is rather a noticeable feature.

Northfleet will be known by its vast excavations in the chalk cliffs and the smoke of its lime-kilns. There was at one time an extensive ship-building yard here, and many mercantile vessels of the first class, as well as some naval frigates, were built in it. Now Northfleet proper, though still a place of considerable trade, is somewhat obscured by the smartness of a neighbour that has sprung up within these few years on the outskirt of the town. This is a collection of pretentious and unhappy looking dwellings, with hotels, pleasure-gardens, pier, baths, and all the paraphernalia of a river-side watering place of the showiest class, and, in accordance with the anti-vernacular dialect proper to such places, it has assumed the name of Kosher Ville.

Adjoining Northfleet is Gravesend, probably the best known, and certainly the most visited place on the lower part of the Thames. Before the construction of the different wet-docks in London, outwardbound vessels found it convenient to take in their sea-stores at Gravesend; and long after the docks were formed, it was necessary for ships to anchor off here, and wait for the Custom-house " clearances." Gravesend in consequence had a very large trade in shipping-stores. By degrees the Custom-house regulations were altered, and the trade of Gravesend seemed in a course of inevitable decay. When the clearances were granted to ships in the docks, it became unnecessary for outward-bound vessels to stay at Gravesend at all, and probably the town would have been in a great measure ruined, but that an entirely new source of prosperity had sprung up, owing to the introduction of steam-vessels upon the river. Heretofore the passenger traffic had been almost wholly dependent on the decked sailing vessels, which had succeeded the old well-known Gravesend tilt-boats, in which, if there were baffling winds or a calm, passengers were commonly kept on the river all night, " with straw for a bed and a tilt for a covering." The Gravesend sailing-boats were very much superior to the old tilt-boats, but still few holiday folks thought of a sail to Gravesend as a matter of pleasure. "When steamers were introduced, Gravesend soon became a popular resort; and now every season above half a million passengers land at the Town and Terrace Piers. A railway is in course of construction, and will probably be opened to Gravesend during this summer. It will no doubt considerably affect the traffic, but the trip on the river is so considerable a part of the pleasure of a day at Gravesend, that it is not likely the railway will in this instance so materially injure the old system of conveyance as it ordinarily does. Gravesend is, by water, 26 miles from London Bridge: by the railway to Blackwall, and thence by steamer, the distance is usually performed in about two hours. For the convenience of landing steam-boat passengers, there are a couple of piers; both are excellent, but the new one,' Terrace Pier,' is one of the most substantial structures of the kind that has yet been erected.

Gravesend has thoroughly conformed to its changed circumstances. It is quite a pleasure town now; and the change is strikingly manifest in its appearance. Gravesend proper, despite the various improvements it has had to endure, is yet a rude, irregular, uneven place; while the new part, or Milton, is laid out in the most regular and rectilinear style. The streets are wide and straight; the houses uniform. But I cannot describe Gravesend nor tell its history. Happily it has found a zealous native historian in Mr. Cruden, who has caught up and preserved whatever is curious in the antiquities of the town, and carefully chronicled the several stages of its transitionary condition.* The increase in the population of

* And I gladly add, that the reader who desires to obtain information respecting the Thames below bridge, will find a great deal that is both curious and valuable in Ouden's 'History of Gravesend.'

« 上一页继续 »