After many decades of service, the old Woolwich Ferries are soon to be decommissioned, and you have just a couple of weeks to take a trip in them.

They are industrial behemoths from a bygone era, plying the narrow stretch of Thames at Woolwich. An upper deck for road vehicles, and vast empty spaces below for the passengers that used to fill the spaces in the days of industrial past and now echo to the rumble of the engines that few come down to hear.

In an era of modern machines, modern fittings and modern engines, these take you back decades to a time when engines growled, seating was hard and the weather cold.

Soon they will be replaced with cleaner, quieter, shinier boats, but the modern will sweep away the heritage.

You have a couple of weeks to ride the past across the Thames, to feel that curious exhilaration as the boat leaves the pier and mighty engines strain to keep a massive ship of steel from being dragged away by the power of the Thames.

The last day is the 5th October, then the Woolwich ferry closes for a few months while the piers are adapted for their replacements.


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Article last updated: 23 September 2021 09:03


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  1. Chris M says:

    I visited on Friday and one of staff said that the old vessels will be scrapped in France.

  2. richard kemp says:

    i’ve just read the old one’s might be used outside parliament, while the refurbishment of the building takes place

  3. Ron says:

    As an employee of the old GLC in the mid 60’s I was allowed by the ferry captain to steer the ferry across the river. At the time the ferries were relatively new and were steered using two small computer like joysticks that controlled two sets of three variable pitch screws.

  4. Diane Waitimas says:

    Why can’t they keep at least one for functions and for teaching children about our local heritage? There are so many things they ould be used for? Keep our local history even if it means making a small charge to view?
    I remember going on these as a treat and watching the old engines pumping up and down! For me it was part of my childhood treats.

  5. Raymond King says:

    As a ex HGV driver I have used the Woolwich Ferry for many years..couldn’t believe it was a free crossing at all times. So it be a sad loss for it to end…Please leave 1 of the boats as a London heritage for all people from old to young and not to scrap them..

  6. Andrew Gwilt says:

    Farewell Woolwich Ferry.

    • Andrew Gwilt says:

      I remembered going on the Woolwich Ferry when I was a young boy and I loved riding on the ferry. So sad that it has to end. RIP Woolwich Ferry.

  7. Simon Booth says:

    I remember these when I lived in south east london, growing up and using these to travel from south to north woolwich during the late 80’s and early 2000’s was certainly best times to remember, and like the old routemaster buses they should be recognised as an icon of historic travel. Least they could keep one for the transport museum?

  8. GT says:

    Who else ( Must be quite a few people? ) remembers their prdecessors, replaced by those that are now going, in 1963?

    • Celia Kappes says:

      I remember them well. You could go down and watch the paddles turning. Magic. I used to go back and forth to north Woolwich just for the ride. I have a feeling one still exists somewhere – does anybody know?

    • David Bingham says:

      The old steam ones were called: Will Crooks, Squire, Gordon and my favourite, John Benn assuming my memory is as good as I think it is.

    • Barbara West-Kelsey (nee Clamp) says:

      Your memory is fine -and you reminded me of the Squire -the one I could not recall!

    • Maurice Reed says:

      I remember those boats from my childhood. It was great going below to see the paddles being driven.

    • Barbara West-Kelsey (nee Clamp) says:

      I remeber with great affection the old boats — Will Crooks, John Benn, which plied all through the war years, and gave immense pleasure to me and my brother in the forties. We often spent almost the whole day aboard during school holidays, riding back and forth, just for the plesure of watching those fantastic old engines endlessly pummping away, and the intoxicating smell of engine oil!Why, why, did they not preserve one as a floating museum, dry docked like the Cutty Sark. Such a great loss.

  9. Chris Midson says:

    As a kid in the 70s I grew up with these ferries and spent most of my summer holidays riding back and fort,it became tradition to always cross via the ferry whenever I came home to Woolwich 😢

  10. Gary says:

    I can just imagine the traffic at Blackwall and Dartford, as if it wasn’t bad already.

  11. sheila says:

    As youngsters growing up in the 50’s We would spend Saturdays going over on the paddlers to north Woolwich and run back through the tunnel ready to go over again.. Happy times.

  12. Cecilia Mckelvey says:

    Spent 20 years using the ferry to work. Just retired like the old ferries. Really appreciated the hard work and often friendly faces of thone who worked on the ferries

  13. Maurice Reed says:

    I just noticed that there will be no service for 3 months while they built new docking points for the new boats. The Blackwell tunnels are going to be totally clogged. Added to that there are new restrictions on the Rotherhithe tunnel now.

  14. Robert Smith says:

    I heard a rumour that the first one is due to be towed to France within the next couple of weeks.

  15. Nic Maennling says:

    So very sorry to read about your site being hacked. What a world we live in.

    • Vernon Wright says:

      I agree with Nic Maennling, Ian. And there’s no need what ever to apologize for being the victim of computer crime: who is not is extremely lucky!

      I hope some-one pays you for all this effort.


  16. Richard Aspden says:

    When I went last year they stopped us going onto the downstairs decks which kind of kills the charm somewhat if you can’t see the interior. After some sweet talking from my septuagenarian father the guy let us have a quick look but presumably many others are being denied a proper last look at these old vessels.

  17. Salty says:

    Is it possible for English Heritage to list a boat? Then TfL would gave to keep it??

  18. Robert Smith says:

    French tug arrived today and is alongside the ferries

  19. Steven Cox says:

    I remember going over from barking on Sundays in the sixties and seventies with my dad just for a treat , great memories of my dad doing this . Loved it the younger generation don’t know what they are losing .

  20. Robert Smith says:

    The first of the new ferries, Ben Woollcott, has left the builders and is due on the river on the 27th October

  21. James a wilson says:

    Me and my girl who now my wife 50 + years used to go to pauls cafe on ferry approach
    In the winter go on the steam ferry tuck our selfes round by the chimney stack. And keep warm back and fourth you wasant supposed to but we where hidden round there. What happen to the steamers were they broke for scrap i wish we was thete now down in engine room it had observation cuold see the twin expansion engines working there was to of them.they worked a paddle each.there was a small steam engine.that would work the main engines back and forth for steering.all of Greenwich charlton Woolwich was full of industry.goid old days.if you want to know anything around this area.just ask.i served my time as a boiler maker old dad was a armera at the arsenal.we had trams and trolley was s great place to live. Take care.

    • Barbara West-Kelsey (nee Clamp) says:

      Hi James, good to see a comment from somebody of my own vintage. Few of us left, and our memories are so precious. Theyounger lots don’t know they are alive really! Best regards

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