Chris Livett is no stranger to talking about the River Thames on television, but his latest appearance is a little different from the rest.
The Hairy Bikers are currently on a tour around the country discovering the Pubs That Built Britain on BBC 2, and one of their stop-offs included the capital.
The duo’s tour took them to inns that witnessed the Great Fire of London and pubs that watered the workers during the city’s subsequent 50-year rebuild. As part of their investigating, they discovered that tens of thousands of people fleeing the fire headed straight for the river.
To learn more about what the Thames was like at that time, they turned to fifth generation Waterman – and Livett’s Director – Chris Livett.
“It [the Thames] was the natural way to evacuate,” says Chris. “Bearing in mind there was a lot of exposed forshore at certain stages of the tide, they would’ve used that to clamber down in the mud, sand and water.”
Asked what the river would’ve been like around the time of the Fire in 1666, Chris explains, “Amazing – an absolute contrast to what we see today. It would’ve been a lot wider, and London Bridge of old would have had many, many, many arches, acting as a weir. It would have been heavily congested – it would’ve been more like the M25 is today on a bad day.
It was the centrepiece of London. Without the river, London wouldn’t exist. It was the major highway through London – the Thames was the main artery in and out and had so much activity.”
Watch Chris’ appearance on the show right here: