London 1978

Peter MARSHALL


River Thames, Mortlake, Richmond, 1978
15a33: River Thames, Brewery, river,

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A little mist - or perhaps rain - over the Thames at Mortlake, close to where the annual University Boat Race between teams representing Oxford and Cambridge finishes, an event which doubtless gave plenty of extra sales for the products of Mortlake Brewery, founded in the 15th century and acquired by James Watney & Co in 1889. The brewery, which latterly produced Budweiser pale lager (a pale imitation of beer) for Anheuser-Busch InBev, finally closed in 2015 and the Singapore-based company that owns the site has plans for 850 apartments.
 
The picture was taken on a family outing to Chiswick Park, when we walked back over Chiswick Bridge and along the towpath on a roundabout walk to Mortlake Station. The Thames looks fairly calm, though it can get pretty choppy, and years later I watched as the Head of the River race (which rows the boat race same course but in the opposite direction and involves large numbers of boats dispatched at intervals) had to be abandoned as some boats sank a short distance behind where I took this picture going under Barnes Bridge.
 
The Boat Race is a curiously English event, showcasing some of the least healthy aspects of our class system, and one of the few moments of interest came in 2012 when Trenton Oldfield made his "protest against inequalities in British society, government cuts, reductions in civil liberties and a culture of elitism" swimming into the path of the race a mile or so downstream near Chiswick Eyot.
 
For which he got six months, a sentence many felt disproportionate, but which resulted in him publishing 'The Queen Vs Trenton Oldfield: A Prison Diary', sold to cover his court costs of 750 and described as "an insightful critique of the prison industrial complex at the the outset of the privatisation of prisons in Britain. Importantly, it also considers the criminalisation of dissent and reductions in civil liberties." And it is still worth reading, although our prison system has sadly deteriorated since his stay in it.