For centuries Gravesend watermen guarded their right to run a regular service up and down the river with the tide, known as the Long Ferry. Medieval barges were gradually replaced in the seventeenth century by tiltboats, manned by four oarsmen and a steersman. The first paddle steamer came to Gravesend in 1815 and by 1834 steamers had completely replaced tiltboats on the route between London and Gravesend.
The Cross Ferry
The Cross Ferry still links Gravesend and Tilbury. Originally owned by the Lords of the Manor of Parrock (Milton) and Tilbury, it was taken over by Gravesend Corporation and Tilbury Fort. This ferry was sold to the London, Tilbury and Southend railway in 1852. The new owners introduced paddle steamers and built a new pier, linked to the rail network, at the West Street terminal. The passenger ferry was run by British Rail until it was sold to a private company which still operates a regular service.
References and further information
Christoph Bull “The Gravesham ferries” (Library local history pamphlet) published 1985.