At 215 miles the River Thames is the longest river entirely in England, and mightily lovely it looks in parts. But there’s another…
Yes, London’s famous river has an American cousin, but with one difference, just like Americans inexplicably call a pavement a ‘sidewalk’ this is the Thames River, not the River Thames, but it turns out not everything in America is bigger.
A mere 15 miles in length from its mouth to the shores of Norwich, the Thames River is an estuary, a span of brackish water that ebbs and flows with the tides, and has on its bank New London. Until 1658 when they named New London the river has had many titles, originally known as the Pequot River after the Pequot Indians who dominated the area, other early names include Frisius, Great, Great River of Pequot, Little Fresh, Mohegan, New London, and Pequod, then the river was rebranded Thames River after the River Thames.
Apart from nomenclature, it has some remarkable similarities with its larger namesake. They once had an ice fair on the Thames River, around the winter of 1903-4, something not seen in London since the Victorians narrowed the river.
London had Deptford Dockyard and along its banks saw the building and launching a slew of behemoth ships, including, of course, Brunel’s SS Great Eastern.
New London’s answer to Deptford is the world’s first submarine base, which, in 1954, was the launch site of the Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine.
But my favourite connection is the university boat races. We have the annual between Oxford and Cambridge universities, while Americans gather on the banks of the Thames River each summer, to cheer on competitors in the annual Harvard-Yale Regatta. A lovely little coincidence.
Unfortunately, the way you pronounce the two rivers’ names is different, yes we’re back to the potato/tomato discussion. Our transatlantic cousins for reasons best only known to themselves pronounce the Thames to rhyme it with ‘James’, and I suppose any footpath alongside is a sidewalk.