A History of Salter Bros – Book Review by Keith French

Pleasure Boating on the Thames

A History of Salter Bros

1858 – Present Day

By – Simon Wenham


Published by – The History Press

ISBN 978 0 7509 5833 2


Whenever I have travelled around the country and mentioned to people that I come from the River Thames I have been more often than not met by the response ‘ I went there once, for trip on the black passenger steamers, Salters I think they were called ‘.  It always made me think that there couldn’t have been a school child, factory worker or tourist who hadn’t at one time or other travelled on the iconic Thames passenger boats and enjoyed what the firm declared was a  ‘Cruise Through 90 miles of Glorious Scenery’.


Now Simon Wenham has documented the history of this famous Thames business. The fascinating story is comprehensively covered in this excellent book, which is a must for any Thames or boating enthusiast. The family firm, which was started in 1858 and still operates today, is documented from its origins in London and its move to Oxford, to the present day. Readers will no doubt be surprised to learn of the extent of the its business activities, the range of boating activities in which the company was involved and how the family played an important role not only in the industrial life of the city but also in politics and religion.


Simon must be complemented on the level of detail he has researched and documented. So often the archives of family companies are lost over time, here  however the author has had access to the documents and records and conducted interviews with family members and staff.  He explains the transition that the company has gone through over almost 160 years.


The book details, the building of large range of craft, from, liferafts, racing boats and rowing dinghies to passenger steamers and barges. It also explains the operation of the famous Oxford to Kingston service, the hire cruiser fleet and the property portfolio. Most importantly it gives an insight into the lives of a family who played such an important part in the history of the River Thames


Keith French MBE

President, Passenger Boat Association

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