Photo: Hydar Dewachi

Watermen of the Thames Today

Jobs on the Thames today are different to that of the past, but no less important. People continue to use the river to travel, and vessels are steered by men and women who have completed apprenticeships and obtained their Boatmaster’s Licence. Crown River Cruises and Livett’s Group are two examples of successful businesses currently operating on the river.

Brothers Bobby and Paul Prentice were born in Wapping and are the fourth generation of watermen in their family. Both were apprenticed to their father Robert and worked on London’s docks. Bobby won Doggett’s Coat and Badge in 1973, along with races at Henley and in the National Championships. Paul then became Doggett’s champion in 1976.

As the docks closed, the Prentice family changed direction and in 1986 established Crown River Cruises along with Chas Newens. Starting with just one boat, the company now have five vessels and offer scheduled services between Westminster and Tower Bridge. The company also offer luxury cruises for private events.


Brothers Bob & Paul Prentice. Courtesy of Bob & Paul Prentice

  • Olympic Opening Ceremony 2012. Courtesy of Livett's Launches
  • The 'Thomas Doggett' vessel established by the Prentice Family under Crown River Cruises. Courtesy of Crown River Cruises


Chris Livett © Hydar Dewachi

Chris Livett is a seventh-generation waterman. He was the youngest Master of the Watermen’s Company, and is now a shipwright and liveryman, as well as one of the Directors of Livett’s Group. In 2018 Chris was appointed Bargemaster to Her Majesty The Queen, a highly prestigious role.

Livett’s Group has been operating on the Thames for over 40 years and now own one of the largest fleets of boats on the river. Their business is diverse, including spectacular PR and film work. Livett’s supported the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee pageant and David Beckham’s stunt for the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. Their success illustrates the continued importance of the river globally.