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Steam tug on the Thames

Ancient and modern – steam tug on the Thames with Tower backdrop

Date sent: 29 JANUARY 1917

Sender: N/A 

Recipient: Miss Gibson, 27 Dagmar Road, Stroud Green, N 


Muswell Hill 


Dear Flora 

If fine on Wednesday I expect I shall walk to Crouch End, so do not expect me at the station but come straight to the hall.  I shall be there about 7. If wet I shall go by train & will be at Crouch End Station at 7-6. 

With love / Gertie/ 

A postcard painting of a sailboat infront of the Tower

The death of 87-year-old King Christian IX of Denmark was probably of little interest to Gertie busily arranging to meet Flora on Wednesday evening. Her tasteful Hildesheimer & Co picture postcard of the Tower covered all eventualities, but sadly, we’ll never know how the evening went. 

Siegmund Hildesheimer, like his compatriot and postcard rival Raphael Tuck, moved to England from Germany in the 1870s, but chose Manchester to establish his publishing company.  A London office followed, producing Christmas cards, advertising cards and then picture postcards. As you will notice, this card was printed in Bavaria, so Siegmund had not totally abandoned his homeland. He died in 1896, but the firm continued until the 1920s. 

Postcard message

Gertie’s card is an artist’s view of the Tower from the Thames looking up from the Middle Drawbridge at the south face of the White Tower. Hildesheimer’s use of painted views was a sound business move – as art, anachronistic views enjoyed a longer life. The boats are of little help in dating the image – steam tugs first appeared on the Thames in 1816, and Thames sailing barges are long before that.  The changing buildings of the Tower suggests it was painted after the reconstruction of the inner ward defences (1879-1888) and before remodelling of the Main Guard to the west of the White Tower in 1898. 

Anyone wanting to follow in Gertie’s footsteps today, will have to hope that it stays dry. Crouch End Station, built in 1867, survived the Second World War, but was finally closed 3 July 1954. The line it served remained in use by goods trains and later underground stock until October 1970. The track was removed and buildings demolished in 1972, but the platforms remain, and now form part of the Parkland Walk opened in 1984.  

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