May 012012

There had been a huge increase in boat-building throughout the mid-Eighteenth Century. My ancestor Richard Hall does not mention whether his trip was to Chatham to see a Royal Navy ship launched, or whether this was a commercial vessel constructed in one of the many boatyards which lined the Thames.

It is apparent from this engraving (actually from one of Richard’s books on Amsterdam) that the construction of the vessel would have been  like a conveyor belt – all the pieces of timber already cut to length, and then assembled on site like a kit.

Life at One London Bridge would have been inseparable from life on the Thames – the thudding water wheel which was used to pump water to the wealthy houses of London was situated a few yards from the shop where Richard lived for nearly twenty years. The bridge itself must have been the source of a constant cacophony of noise as tens of thousands of people – and their animals – poured in and out of the city by day and by night. The cries of the boatmen plying their trade, the noise of unloading cargoes, the extraordinary sights as produce from all over the globe was disgorged from the hulls of the merchant ships, would all have been familiar to Richard. Besides, there is every likelihood that he would have known many of the sea captains – after all, they brought him much of the fine silks, the damasks and the lace which he sold in his shop. In addition, there is every possibility that some of the sixteen beds which were shown on the house inventory (remember: it only had four bedrooms) were let out to lodgers connected with the activities of the Port, such as tally men, customs officials, agents and so on.


One of the family’s paper cut-outs – the only one not on plain paper. For that reason I suspect it was made at a later date, probably by another member of the family and quite possibly in the Victorian era. It is however very similar to Richard’s own ships and may have been copied by his grand-daughter Lucy, who I know was nifty with a pair of scissors.