It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for London's modern inhabitants - let alone those countless visitors from overseas - to try and image the bustling activity which characterised the city's main artery during Britain's imperial heyday. A century ago, in the Edwardian era, the British Empire stood at its zenith and the docks at the heart of the mother-country's capital were the busiest in the world. With raw materials pouring in from every corner of the globe and manufactured goods filling the holds of every out-bound ship, London was also the main terminal for the inumerable passenger lines which serviced every continent save North America. With no highway but the sea to transport those travellers and all that priceless cargo, it is small wonder that any accurate snapshot of London's river during that period invariably reveals a scene far removed from today. Whilst the docks themselves were further down-river, below Tower Bridge, the upper pool was nevertheless filled with lighters, barges and tugs on a daily basis, as cargoes large and small made their way to the wharves of the city's great trading companies.
Less frenetic and crowded than his London dock scenes, Dixon has still managed to capture all this hustle and bustle yet, at the same time and perhaps due to the brooding dominance of St. Paul's, has given the river a sense of permanence and quiet prosperity which all but disappeared within fifty years.