Henry Pether, often known as 'Moonlight Pether' because of his fondness for nocturnal subjects, here paints his beloved Thames in serene sunlight. The picture dates from the mid-1850s and the view is taken from the jetty at Lambeth, with Lambeth Palace and the church of St. Mary-at-Lambeth on the right. The figures seem to be waiting for a boat to take them across the river, but there had been no regular ferry at Lambeth since Westminster Bridge was opened in 1750, and the first bridge on the site, a lattice-stiffened suspension bridge of three spans designed by P.W. Barlow, was not built until 1861.
In the distance on the left can be seen the still unfinished Palace of Westminster, with the wharf and stone yards specially built for the purpose (most of the materials were delivered by water) on the side nearest to us, and Westminster Abbey beyond. The old Palace had been burnt down on the night of 16 October 1834, and work on its successor, designed by Sir Charles Barry and A.W.N. Pugin, started three years later. The House of Commons was completed by 1847, but the Clock Tower, encasing 'Big Ben', was not finished until 1858, and the Victoria Tower, the Sovereign's state entrance to the House of Lords, until 1860. In our picture the Victoria Tower (facing us at the north-western corner of the building) and the Clock Tower (at the far end) are both incomplete, each being topped with the masssive cranes involved in their construction. A similar but nearer view of the Palace, 'sketched on the spot' about 1855 by J.W.Carmichael, is illustrated in M.H. Port (ed.), The Houses of Parliament, 1976, p.215.