The River Thames

'The Thames is liquid history’

John Burns MP

The Royal Berkshire Archives holds many documents that relate to the great river that historically defined Berkshire’s northern boundary. Of particular importance are the collections of the Thames Conservancy and the Treacher papers. Take a look at the information on this page to find out more.

Highlights: February 2011: Maidenhead Bridge

September 2012: A new toll collector for Cookham Bridge

The Thames Conservancy Archive

The Thames Conservancy was responsible for the management of the Upper Thames from its source in Gloucestershire to Teddington, Middlesex, where the river becomes tidal.

The archive of the Thames Conservancy for the Upper River includes its own records from 1866-1974 as well as those of its predecessor body, the Thames Navigation Commissioners from 1771-1866. It also contains the records of the Thames Valley Drainage Commissioners. You can search the Thames Conservancy collection on our online.

The Conservancy had far-reaching powers concerning the navigation of the river. It undertook dredging; built and maintained locks and weirs; was responsible for water supplies taken from the river; and licensed various activities undertaken on the river.

A free online exhibition marking the 250th anniversary of the Thames Commission is also available. Entitled "Where Smooth Waters Glide", you can view it online.

Related content 

Highlights June 2014: For the Thames Conservancy Launch Owner

October 2011: A Berkshire Ferry

The Treacher Papers

John Treacher (1736-1802) was the first General Surveyor for the Upper District of the Thames Navigation Commission, and later General Engineer for the whole Navigation.

He was succeeded in similar roles by his son John, and then by John’s son George. The three generations held senior positions in the Navigation from 1791-1863.

All three Treachers kept detailed records of their work to improve the Thames. The Treacher Papers include many notes and drawings of works undertaken for the Thames Navigation Commission, and similar papers for other clients such as the Berkshire Quarter Sessions, for whom John Treacher junior was also surveyor of bridges. These records are often hugely detailed, and provide a hidden history of the work that built the modern River. You can search the Treacher collection on our online catalogue.