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Rivers of Romance and Commerce page 2


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What Liverpool is, Chester might have been. When Liverpool was still an unconsidered village, three or four centuries ago, Chester was the port for Ireland. But the Dee opened out into a tideway below the town only to make new lands. The silting up of the estuary robbed Chester of depth of water for her ships. She established outports without success ; the river went on filling in the inlet between the Wirral Peninsula and the Flint coast. And from Chester to the sea the Dee now takes a new course, which explains why there is a little bit of Wales on the right bank where formerly the river, was the boundary between the two countries. The boundary remains where it was, on the old and lost course of the Dee, and the river has worked away to the left, to be wholly within Wales after entering England in Cheshire; and Chester counts no longer as a port, because of the inconstant mouth of her river.

If Chester failed to keep the Dee navigable for bigger ships, Newcastle was far more successful with the Tyne. Even after the collier-brigs had been sailing out of the river for hundreds of years down the East Coast to give London sea-coal there was little depth of water at Newcastle. Ships could take in only part cargoes there, and had to complete their loading at Shields. But since about 1850 the last fourteen miles of the Tyne have been practically remade. The banks about the deepened channel have been wholly industrialised. Works and shipyards are everywhere. In less than fifty years the shallow river, with a dangerous entrance, was made into a safe and ample port. The Tyne is, of course, one of the great shipbuilding rivers of the world. It has not had so many big liners to its credit as has the Clyde, but twenty years ago it built the Maure-tania, still the fastest ship crossing the Atlantic, and the Tyne has always been an inventive river, evolving new types of craft, from the little tug to the big oil-tanker.

The Tyne has but a narrow mouth, and goes out to sea between piers. The Clyde has its Firth, which thrusts back long lochs into the mountains of Western Scotland. But the Clyde of the shipyards is a made river just as the Tyne is. Glasgow, to remain a port, had to deepen the channel and even remove whole islands from it. How well her efforts have been repaid is told by the fact that she is Scotland's biggest port and the biggest ship-building centre in the world.

Leith, the port of Edinburgh, wrote an interesting chapter in the story of our seas. Famous among the coasters of the eighteenth century were the Leith smacks. Vessels of about 170 tons, they did the bulk of the trade between Scotland and England. For vessels of their size they were somewhat luxuriously fitted up for passengers. Before they gave place to steamers they advertised that they carried pianos, and no doubt the company on board was as merry as the sea permitted.

Leith knows these smacks no more, but sees large steamers that trade to all parts of the world. The Forth, a more important estuary than river, carries the water of the North Sea almost to the back door of Glasgow at Grangemouth. In common with others of our big estuaries the Forth has its crossing where the waters are wide. The bridge that has carried the railway over since the 'nineties of the past century is two miles long, and one of the wonder structures of the world. How big the spans of the bridge are you may judge by the headroom; I have seen a cruiser tow a "blimp" balloon through them. That was during the War, and I was at the time leading a somewhat cloistered life as a gunner in a little fort under the northern end. For five months the bridge was my close companion. At first it fascinated me, and then it began to bore me, and I was glad when at last I got away from it. Some things grow much too big when they are always in the view.

The Tay was bridged before the Forth, and the crossing here was the scene of a great tragedy when the first bridge was blown down in 1879 and a train hurled into the river. Nearly a hundred people were drowned. But it is better to remember that the Tay is the river of Perth, the gate to the Highlands, and of busy, industrial Dundee, with its docks and factories. England shares few rivers with Scotland; and only one of renown. Even after England and Scotland had come under one king armies passed across the Tweed. And to-day the Border Bridge at Berwick is still the chief gate into Scotland. In the past Berwick changed hands so often that it seems now to wish to stand neutral for safety. It is said that you may find proclamations that read as addressed to the peoples of "England, Scotland and Berwick-on-Tweed."

Another of our old towns at a crossing over a river is Nottingham. The road out of the Midlands to the North sought the sandstone ridge beyond the Trent because the stone made the way comparatively dry in the winter. And where the hills came nearest to the river on the north bank there arose the city. It fell to the Danes in the ninth century, and it was the river that let the enemy in. But to-day the Trent makes Nottingham something of a seaport by way of the Humber, and the history of the town is richer in tales of the triumphs of industry than in tales of the "derring-do" of war.

If the Danes came up our rivers, so, too, did the Dutch much later. In Charles II's reign they sailed into the Medway, and had Chatham at their mercy. Such of our ships as were there and the guns of Upnor castle could not stop them. And so the Medway enjoyed-or, rather, suffered - the most remarkable battle ever fought in any of our rivers.

Rochester spells to most of us Dickens Land. The marshlands of "Great Expectations" are those of the Isle of Grain, which hinders the Medway's passing into the Thames. And this is a pretty river that certainly is worthy of the garden of England.

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Pictures for Rivers of Romance and Commerce page 2

RUSSET WINGS OF A THAMES BARGE
RUSSET WINGS OF A THAMES BARGE >>>>
WHERE ROCHESTER STANDS ON THE MEDWAY, LARGEST TRIBUTARY OF THE THAMES
WHERE ROCHESTER STANDS ON THE MEDWAY, LARGEST TRIBUTARY OF THE THAMES >>>>
THE THAMES, CHIEF ARTERY OF COMMERCE AT THE HEART OF AN EMPIRE
THE THAMES, CHIEF ARTERY OF COMMERCE AT THE HEART OF AN EMPIRE >>>>
THE WYE FROM SYMONDS YAT AND THE THAMES FROM AN AEROPLANE
THE WYE FROM SYMONDS YAT AND THE THAMES FROM AN AEROPLANE >>>>
THE WYE BRIDGE OF HEREFORD AND THE OLD CATHEDRAL
THE WYE BRIDGE OF HEREFORD AND THE OLD CATHEDRAL >>>>
RIVER SEVERN SWEEPS ROUND TO FLOW BY THE ANCIENT CITY OF GLOUCESTER
RIVER SEVERN SWEEPS ROUND TO FLOW BY THE ANCIENT CITY OF GLOUCESTER >>>>
LOOKING DOWNSTREAM THROUGH THE GORGE CUT BY THE AVON ON ITS WAY FROM BRISTOL TO THE SEA
LOOKING DOWNSTREAM THROUGH THE GORGE CUT BY THE AVON ON ITS WAY FROM BRISTOL TO THE SEA >>>>
BY THE BANKS OF THE TRENT NEAR NEWARK: THE SEVERN FROM WORCESTER'S CATHEDRAL TOWER
BY THE BANKS OF THE TRENT NEAR NEWARK: THE SEVERN FROM WORCESTER'S CATHEDRAL TOWER >>>>
TYNE, CLYDE AND MERSEY, WHOSE MOUTHS MAKE THREE OF BRITAIN'S GREATEST PORTS
TYNE, CLYDE AND MERSEY, WHOSE MOUTHS MAKE THREE OF BRITAIN'S GREATEST PORTS >>>>
BESIDE THE WATERS OF TWEED THAT WIND AMONG THE WOODED PEEBLESSHIRE HILLS
BESIDE THE WATERS OF TWEED THAT WIND AMONG THE WOODED PEEBLESSHIRE HILLS >>>>
AT DUNDEE, WHERE THE TAY IS BRIDGED BY A STRUCTURE OVER TWO MILES LONG
AT DUNDEE, WHERE THE TAY IS BRIDGED BY A STRUCTURE OVER TWO MILES LONG >>>>
BRITAIN'S GREATEST ENGINEERING WONDER, THE FORTH BRIDGE FROM THE SOUTH
BRITAIN'S GREATEST ENGINEERING WONDER, THE FORTH BRIDGE FROM THE SOUTH >>>>

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