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What is the longest river in England?

Updated on September 4, 2009

What is the longest river in England?  There are many rivers in England but which is the longest?  This article gives an answer to these two questions, along with lists of the top 10 longest rivers in England, along with their length.  

There is a problem with these questions though; namely that they are quite ambiguous - England shares a land border with both Wales and Scotland.  As such it needs to be determined whether these questions are asking 'What is the longest river just in England?' or 'What is the longest river which is at least partly within England?'.  This may seem like nit-picking but depending on which option is asked affects the answer, as shown below.  

A picture of the upper reaches of the River Severn - the longest river to pass through England.  This photo was taken in Wales.
A picture of the upper reaches of the River Severn - the longest river to pass through England. This photo was taken in Wales.

What is the longest river with at least part in England?

The first question which can be answered is 'What is the largest river which has at least part in England?'.  The answer to this question is the River Severn, which in addition to being the longest river which passes through England, is also the longest river in the UK.  The length of the River Severn is generally taken to be 220 miles (354km), although there is some debate as to it's exact length.

The River starts in the Cambrian Mountains of central Wales.  From here it travels in a north-eastern direction past the Welsh settlements of Newry and Welshpool, before entering England.  It continues in this direction through England until it reaches Shrewsbury.  From here it travels roughly south, first through the historic Ironbridge Gorge, before passing through the historic English settlements of Worcester, Tewkesbury and Gloucester.  After passing through Gloucester the River Severn flows approximately towards the south-west.  The river discharges into the Severn Estuary somewhere around the present Severn Crossing.  However, There is some disagreement as to where exactly the Severn River becomes the Severn Estuary and this is what accounts for the uncertainty in exact length mentioned above.  However, what is without debate is that the River Severn is the longest river which flows through England.

A picture of the River Thames at night as it flows through the English capital, London.  The River Thames is the longest river completely in England.
A picture of the River Thames at night as it flows through the English capital, London. The River Thames is the longest river completely in England.

What is the longest river solely in England?

The second question which is sometimes asked is 'What is the longest river which is completely in England?'.  It makes sense that this will not be the longest river that flows through England, since it has already been proven that this was the River Severn, which is the longest river in the UK but has a portion within the country of Wales.  The longest river solely in England is therefore the River Thames.  The length of the River Thames is 215 miles, or 346 kilometres for those who prefer metric.  As can be seen, this is only slightly shorter than the length of the River Severn.  

There is some dispute as to the exact source of the River Thames.  However, it is somewhere within a small part of the English county of Gloucestershire.  The River Thames flow approximately east through a number of English counties.  After leaving Gloucestershire the River Thames flows through Wiltshire for a while, before entering the county of Oxfordshire.  The River Thames flows through the historic city of Oxford, before continuing through Oxfordshire and into Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.  Here it passes through the towns of Reading, Henley-on-Thames and Windsor.  The river then flows into Surrey where it flows through the capital city, London.  The River Thames then continues eastwards through Essex and Kent, before discharging into the Thames Estuary.  

What is the longest river in England?: A table of the top ten longest rivers in England

River
Length (Miles)
Length (Kilometres)
Severn
220
354
Thames
215
346
Trent
185
297
Great Ouse
143
230
Wye
135
215
Ure/Ouse
129
208
Tweed
96
155
Avon
96
154
Nene
91
148
Eden
90
145
This table gives a list of the top 10 longest rivers which flow at least partly through England.

Photo Credits

The photo of the River Severn was taken by kasperbs and is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution license.

 The photo of the River Thames is by Peter Pearson and is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike.  

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    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 7 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      Surfing on the River Severn, the bore that runs down the Severn is pretty famous as well and results from the tidal nature of the river. As the tide moves from the estuary up into the narrow section of the river it creates a wave that can actually be surfed depending on the strength of the tide which is much stronger on some occasions than others, probably as a result of the relationship between the Earth and the Moon.

    • BristolBoy profile image
      Author

      BristolBoy 7 years ago from Bristol

      That is very true BrianS. Some people manage to surf a wave on the Severn for hours. There are many videos on the internet of people surfing the Severn bore. It truly is an amazing natural sight to behold.

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

      Hi Bristol Boy, when I saw your title question pop up in hubtivity, I thought to myself, Aha, at last a question I know the answer to! I spent many hours pouring over books and the internet with my ten-year old researching the River Severn for a school project this summer. He could tackle the subject of rivers from any angle, and an in-depth look at the river Severn seemed a logical way forward! We both enjoyed working on it, and one of the facts he gleaned was the remarkable length of this river. But as you point out, it isn't necessarily the longest in England, although it is the longest in the UK.

    • BristolBoy profile image
      Author

      BristolBoy 7 years ago from Bristol

      Thanks for the kind words Amanda. The River Severn is very impressive and rivers/geography in general is one thing I think often if ovelooked in schooling!

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

      I agree, although there's a lot more to rivers than just geography. The Severn has been a boundary, a transportation route, a food source (i.e. fish), an irrigator, and a water source. All that and surfing as well! We chose it for the project because of the link to the family name, but actually it made a really interesting topic to study, especially as we were able to include Ironbridge Gorge.

    • BristolBoy profile image
      Author

      BristolBoy 7 years ago from Bristol

      Yeah guess there is a lot to it! There is also the option for power generation using hydropower, or if the estuary is included using tidal power. The Severn certainly is a very important resource for the regions through which it passes!

    • shamelabboush profile image

      shamelabboush 7 years ago

      Nice hub Bristol.

    • BristolBoy profile image
      Author

      BristolBoy 7 years ago from Bristol

      Thanks for the compliment shamelabboush!

    • profile image

      ryankett 7 years ago

      Good hub, I didn't know which was the longest before reading. I would have guessed Thames, so you learn something new everyday ;)

    • BristolBoy profile image
      Author

      BristolBoy 7 years ago from Bristol

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Ryankett! I guess the Thames is the longest river in England - but only if you are interested in what the longest river in England is that isn't in any other countries!

    • H P Roychoudhury profile image

      H P Roychoudhury 7 years ago from Guwahati, India

      Hi Bristol Roy,

      The very name of the hub is very attractive to me. It is quite interesting to know that Severn is the longest river in UK but Thames is the longest in England. After the entire entire world is familiar with the word England, London and Thames; the greatness of River Thames may not be in the vibrant tidal waves like Severn or in the coverage length but it is in other aspects by dint of which it has created the greatest of great City LONDON.

    • Porshadoxus profile image

      Porshadoxus 7 years ago from the straight and narrow way

      Thanx for making me nostalgic. I spent 2 years in England and saw the Thames a few times. Great info.

    • BristolBoy profile image
      Author

      BristolBoy 7 years ago from Bristol

      Thanks for taking the time to comment H P Roychoudhury and Porshadoxus!

    • hypnosis4u2 profile image

      hypnosis4u2 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Nice job BristolBoy - According to the Monty Python crew the source of the Thames is a water tap coming out of the ground somewhere in Gloucestershire. It's probably as good a guess as anything else if a bit silly :)

    • BristolBoy profile image
      Author

      BristolBoy 7 years ago from Bristol

      Thanks for commenting hypnosis4u2. Never heard of that about Monty Python and the source of the Thames - but reminds me of Only Fools and Horses and Peckham Spring water!

    • profile image

      j Rowe 7 years ago

      thanx for that we have always debated between thames and severn

    • BristolBoy profile image
      Author

      BristolBoy 7 years ago from Bristol

      j Rowe i am happy that you found this page to give an answer to your debate on what is the longest river in england!

    • MAMBORD profile image

      MAMBORD 6 years ago from spain

      Very interesting BristolBoy. Thames is a mythical river to me, and magical. Have you tried to have a walk at the right time with the right girl along its bank? Thank you.

    • BristolBoy profile image
      Author

      BristolBoy 6 years ago from Bristol

      Indeed I have had a night time walk along the bank of the Thames with a girl (although it was the section by Westminster!). Thanks for the compliment and for taking the time to comment MAMBORD.

    • profile image

      mfgnfgn 6 years ago

      i didn't know this but woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow

    • BristolBoy profile image
      Author

      BristolBoy 6 years ago from Bristol

      mfgnfgn thanks for taking the time to comment - I am glad you found it to be useful!

    • profile image

      evita 6 years ago

      thx!

    • BristolBoy profile image
      Author

      BristolBoy 6 years ago from Bristol

      You're welcome evita!

    • BristolBoy profile image
      Author

      BristolBoy 5 years ago from Bristol

      Toddwestz I am glad you found this hub on the longest river in england to be useful!

    • profile image

      geoff fletcher 5 years ago

      ended long standing arugument thanks

    • BristolBoy profile image
      Author

      BristolBoy 5 years ago from Bristol

      You are welcome Geoff Fletcher!

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