Occasional posts on subjects including field recording, London history and literature, other websites worth looking at, articles in the press, and news of sound-related events.

18 June 2011

Sounds of the Thames estuary remembered

AN EMAIL OF the kind I very much like to get has just arrived from Martin Tanton, who was present at the Sonic Art Research Unit’s seminar last Thursday. I hope you don’t mind me quoting from it at length, Martin:

I’ve just been looking at the site and listening to some of the sounds. The river at Erith and Dartford scrambler bikes were sounds I recognised right away [. . .] I also used to cycle along the Thames up to Cliffe and out to Hoo, Upnor, the Isles of Grain and Sheppey, just looking and listening.

There are sounds I remember that have gone for good, trolley buses, trams, the Woolwich paddle steamer ferries, newspaper sellers, horse-drawn bread vans. When I was a kid there were a lot of iron barges on the Thames, and when it was windy they banged together like giant gongs, you could hear them several miles away in Welling, where I lived, if the wind was in the right direction. There wasn’t the constant car noise we have today to block them out. There was a lot of traffic on the river in the 1950’s, and when it was foggy at night I lay in bed listening to the ships’ horns in the distance. It would be great if someone had recorded these sounds.

From the way you’ve described them, I wish those sounds had been recorded too.