The Songs

This category is dominated by Music Hall songs published in London. By 1850 the steamboat was part of everyday life for people living beside major rivers and the boats are the setting of the song rather than the subject. Most of the songs are set on the Thames.

Main Themes and Motifs

  • Amorous incidents aboard steamers
  • The threat to steamer trade posed by the railways


1850-59    426; 738
1860-69    008; 105; 584, 634; 754

Historical Background

As more Bridges were built across the Thames to replace the ferries - cab, coach and omnibus competition was gradually increasing. From 1851 onwards it was no longer quicker and safer to go by water. As the railways spread, they captured the commuter traffic which the steamboats had created and nurtured. Steamers were still packed on summer holidays and at weekends, (see Ships & Boats>Holidays and Excursions by Boat) but the money earned was not sufficient to maintain the large number of vessels. The mid-week and out-of-season services began to run at a loss. [i] The same fate befell steamers on the River Shannon (see bar105~Elwy Steamer) and the impact of railways had been seen before 1850 on the Tyne (see bar564~ Newcastle & North Shields Railway)

References and Notes

[i] Dix, Frank L. - Royal River Highway: A History of the passenger boats and services on the river Thames (London, David & Charles, 1985) p86

3 across Articles in this Category: click a link

Elwy Steamer

bar105: Dates 1867~1867|

Celebration of steamboat operating on Shannon estuary.

Are You Good Natured Dear

bar008: Dates 1861~1861|

A newcomer to London is duped by a prostitute.

Johnny Met Her on a Steamer

bar200: Dates 1896~1896|

Johnny flirts with woman on a steamer and on reaching shore is confronted by angry husband.

Sunday Steamer Emperor

bar426: Dates 1853~1853|

Objectors to pleasure trips running on Sundays attempt to stop day trippers landing at a beauty spot and a fight ensues.

Wreck Off London Bridge

bar584: Dates 1867~1867|

Comic tale of shipwreck.

Isabella the Barber's Daughter

bar634: Dates ----~1865|

The hero is jilted by a femme fatale he meets on a steam boat.

Husbands Boat

bar754: Dates ----~1869|

Extramarital flirtation aboard the commuter boat to Margate

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