Saturday, 7 January 2012

London Museum Docklands

Thinking about State Barges recalled my visit to the Museum of London Docklands last year. The museum has several models and pictures of the barges of the Guilds or Livery Companies, and the shallops operated by the rich and powerful.
Picture quality is fairly rubbish, I'm afraid, due to everything being behind glass. If you want to see better, go and see them! Now!
The model to the right is the barge of the Company of Fishmongers, built in 1773. It was 75m long and had gilded figures of St Peter and various mercreatures including mermaids, mermen, boys riding on dolphins, and merhorses or hippocampi.
Shallops were smaller and plainer, operated by the livery companies to attend their ceremonial barges on big occasions such as the Lord Mayor's Show, and by aristocrats as water carriages.
Watermen were dressed in the uniform that is still familiar from the Doggett's Coat and Badge prize. The scarlet cap, tunic and knee breeches must have made a splendid sight. I think the outfit ought to be compulsory for all oarsmen at the Olympics this year.

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